vSphere Data Protection – VDP

So, one of the items that people tend to overlook with the vSphere suite of software is the vSphere Data Protection appliance that is made available as part of your licensing (this requires vCenter).  I’ve been using this solution for a little while at some of our locations to provide branch office backups which can replicate back to a central Avamar Grid in a different country.

I have been a fan of Veeam for a number of years but can VDP match up to the features that I have come to know and love in Veeam… please note that this is not designed to be a comparison between the products but there will be some areas where a comparison will be made.

For those of you who are unaware of VDP, I’ll try to provide a brief rundown of the solution and how it hangs together.

What is VDP?

VDP is a backup product provided by VMware and is included with your normal licensing.  It is actually written by the EMC Avamar team and is equivalent to the Avamar Virtual Edition product.  By purchasing a license, you can also go through and increase the capabilities of the product by increasing it to VDPA (vSphere Data Protection Advanced) – this has true alignment to the Avamar Virtual Edition.

VDP is provided as a virtual appliance OVF file that can be deployed into an environment running vSphere 5 or above.  In version 5 of the product, you were able to just perform backups, with file level, disk or whole system restores.  In version 5.5, one of the biggest improvements was the capability to also replicate the data to a Data Domain or Avamar Grid.

Under version 5.5 the appliance comes in one size (in version 5, there were different versions to download dependent on the size of the storage required).  For VDP it deploys as either 0.5TiB, 1TiB or 2TiB appliances.  With VDPA there is also the capability of 4TiB and 8TiB appliance.  There are two key things to remember when deploying out the appliance (I’ll upload one of my installation guides for more information):

  1. You must have sufficient disk space available for the whole appliance size (using Thick provisioned disks) when you deploy out the appliance (more info below)
  2. The size of the appliance refers to the amount of data that can be housed on the appliance after compression and deduplication has been applied (VDP uses global deduplication across all of your jobs)

The documentation around VDP says that on 1TB of disk space there is approximately 0.91 tebibytes (TiB) of usable VM capacity but with the storage overhead of the appliance itself, we end up with the following requirements for the appliances:

0.5 TiB 1 TiB 2 TiB
Processors Minimum four 2 Ghz processors Minimum four 2 Ghz processors Minimum four 2 Ghz processors
Memory 4 GB 4 GB 4 GB
Disk Space 873 GB 1,600 GB 3,100 GB

You should also be aware that the following disks are NOT supported by VDP:

  • Independent
  • RDM Independent – Virtual Compatibility Mode
  • RDM Physical Compatibility Mode

The interface for VDP is controlled through the vSphere Web Client, and you should have both your vCenter and your hosts upgraded to 5.5 before deploying out the VDP appliance.


What can VDP do?

So, what can VDP do for you?   Simply put, it can perform backups.  You can restore whole virtual machines, disks, folders and files.  You can also replicate to an Avamar or Data Domain Grid… the key thing to remember with replication is that it will go through and replicate completed backups… this is completely different to how Veeam does replication.  With Veeam, you replicate the virtual machine to another vSphere environment, using Snapshots in a similar way to its backup method.  With VDP, it only replicates completed backups based on your retention schedules.

Restores are performed using a combination of tools… whole VM restores and disk restores can be performed using the vSphere Web Client.  Folders and files within the virtual machine are restored using a web interface from within the virtual machine.  You should also be aware that when it comes to performing a restore of a full VM, that you are restoring it completely from disk – unlike with Veeam where it can power up the VM directly from the backup files using Instant Recovery.


So VDP is a very good backup solution for a smaller location, or maybe a branch office… it does lack some of the features that are available in other backup solutions but when it is included for free within your licensing… you wouldn’t expect to get all of the features.

I’m also sure that the VDP solution will develop more in the future and more of the premium type features may work their way down into the free version.

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