VMware Data Recovery – Overview (Part 1)

If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to VMware Data Recovery – Backup and Recovery of a Virtual Machine (Part 2).


There is such a tremendous need out there for virtualization-specific backup applications. I know that VDW will be a big hit with VMware admins. Whether you are a new virtualization admin or have years of experience, everyone knows that backup and recovery must be top on the list. If an ESX host fails or a datastore goes down, mission critical VMs that were using those pieces of the virtual infrastructure will need to be restored, quickly. If they cannot be restored, you do not want to be the one who is to blame.

What were our backup options before VMware’s Data Recovery?

Backup and restore of VMware virtual infrastructure, in my opinion, has never been very easy. VMware has never offered its own backup application, and no, VCB is NOT a backup application even though it is called “VMware Consolidated Backup”.  VMware Consolidated Backup actually does not backup or restore anything. All VCB really does is to provide you access to the VMFS file system to allow you to use some other method of backup and restore on your virtual machines.

Prior to Data Recovery, every admin out there either;

  1. Wrote some scripts to use with VCB for backup
  2. Kept their traditional backup application running in each guest
  3. Used some interface where that allowed their traditional backup application to backup VMs using VCB
  4. Bought a virtualization-specific backup application like vRanger, esXpress, or Veeam Backup

None of these options were integrated into Virtual Center / vCenter.

What is VMware Data Recovery?

Data Recovery (or VDR) is the name of VMware’s new backup and recovery application. Contrary to the name, 50% of Data Recovery’s job is the backup of virtual machines (and 50% is “recovery”).  Still, Data Recovery does a lot more than just backup and restore of virtual machines. Let’s look at a feature list:

  • A real backup application with a GUI interface (unlike VCB)
  • Integrated into vCenter
  • Disk based backup and restore of VMware ESX virtual guest machines
  • Easy deployment with initial setup wizard
  • Restore of individual files from a guest VM or the entire image of a guest VM
  • Wizard with workflow to create and schedule backup jobs
  • Multiple restore points are displayed for each VM for easy restore
  • Understands when VM guests are moved from one ESX host to another because of DRS, VMotion, or VMHA
  • Full or incremental backups of guest VMs
  • De-duplication so that only changed data is actually backed up (not duplicate data). This way, you are able to maintain full point in time backups of each VM but only a fraction of the disk space, that would normally be required, is used
  • Compatible with any storage that ESX supports- Fibre, iSCSI, NAS, or local
  • Data Recovery is built on VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) and, with vSphere, there is no more VCB, only Data Recovery

But what does Data Recovery NOT do? It does not have the ability to send backed-up data to tape, like a traditional backup application would. Data Recovery is a disk-based backup application. Still, when compared to the other virtualization-specific backup applications out there (vRanger, esXpress and Veeam Backup), Data Recovery is the same as they are because they don’t send data to tape either.

Keep in mind that Data Recovery is not going to backup anything BUT your virtual machines. It is not going to backup your physical servers.

As for limitations, one of the limitations of Data Recovery is that it is recommended to only backup up to 100 guest VMs with a data recovery appliance. And, you cannot manage multiple data recovery appliances with a single vCenter server. That means that, currently, if you have more than 100 guest VMs or you think that you will, you may want to consider other virtualization backup options.

How does VDR work?

VDR is imported in OVF format as a virtual appliance. It will only work in an ESX 4 / vSphere infrastructure. A plugin is installed with a Windows installer. When you restart the vSphere client, you will see the new plugin. After booting the VDR guest VM, you will see its IP address. To manage it, in the vSphere client, go to Solutions and Applications, into Data Recovery, and tell it the IP address of the new VDR appliance. From there, you will be able to manage VDR.

Let us look at some screenshots…

What does VMware Data Recovery look like?

Here is the VDR appliance running in my virtual infrastructure, after being imported and powered on:

Figure 1: VDR appliance after being imported and powered on

Here is the VDR management plugin for VDR, where VDR is configured and managed:

Figure 2: VDR solutions and applications management plugin for VDR

And here is where you check the current starts of VMware’s Data Recovery;

Figure 3: Status reports of what VDR can do

How do I get VMware Data Recovery?

I would like to tell you the exact cost and that you can buy VMware Data Recovery today. However, that is not the case. I am told that VDR will be made available for sale at the same time that vSphere is. VMware has promised us all that it will be “cost effective”, so we will see.

In the mean time, if you are interested in trying or buying VMware Data Recovery, I recommend you monitor the VMware Data Recovery homepage and talk to your local VMware sales rep.

Where can I get more resources about VMware Data Recovery?

Here is a list of resources to learn more…

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If you would like to read the next part in this article series please go to VMware Data Recovery – Backup and Recovery of a Virtual Machine (Part 2).

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