New vSphere 5.1 backups: Install and Configure VMware VDP

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With vSphere 5.1, VMware introduced a new backup solution that is included without extra charge for all versions from Essentials Plus and above. vSphere Data Protection (VDP) is not the same as vSphere Data Recovery (VDR). VDP is a new product that has its many advantages and some limitations.

VDP is an appliance base that aims to backup and restore virtual machines. It has the ability to restore a VM to a previous state, restore it completely if the original got lost and even recover individual files inside the VM.

[caption id="attachment_42510" align="aligncenter" width="640"]VDP Appliance diagram Diagram showing the all-new VDP Appliance (Source: VMware)[/caption]

The Virtual Appliance is preconfigured with 4 vCPUs and 4GB of RAM. It comes in a variety of sizes: 512GB, 1TB and 2TB of duplicated backup space.

However you need to allocate extra space as those numbers translate to 850GB, 1.6TB and 3.1TB on disk if thick provisioning is used. The documentation states “the additional disk space required that is above the usable capacity of the appliance is for creating and managing checkpoints.” However choosing an appliance with enough disk space is very important, as you cannot increase its size later.

My recommendation is to go for 2TB appliance and thin provision it, thin provisioning is now a mature technology and you will hardly notice any performance hit while doing backups.

One important thing to also keep in mind is that VDP uses Deduplication to reduce the amount of space consumed by data on the appliance. For example when you backup a number of Windows 2008 R2 servers, it will store the shared data blocks only once, and after backing up the 1st VM only unique data will take up extra space. VDP also tracks changed block on the VM, and only does backup for those in order to save network bandwidth.

Limitations of VDP

Although VDP is a much improved product, it has some limitations:

  • VDP requires vCenter 5.1 and can only be managed from within the new web client. Yet it can backup VMs hosted on ESX(i) 4.0 or higher.
  • Each appliance can only backup up to 100 virtual machines and each vCenter can support up to 10 Appliances. This means 1000 VM per vCenter. But who wants to manage 10 appliances individually and make sure that their schedules do not overlap?
  • Backups can only be stored on the appliance, which means they cannot be taken offsite. This may be what most admins will miss about the VDR as it gave them the option to store backups on external shares where they could be copied to tape or external storage.
  • VDP is also not application-aware. It doesn't really understand what your SQL or Exchange Server is doing, and as a result don't always produce consistent backups for those applications.
  • VMware recently introduced VDP Advanced to overcome most of those limitations as it can store up to 8TB, can backup up to 400 VMs and is application-aware when it comes to SQL and Exchange.

However, VDP Advanced is not free and must be purchased per socket.

VDP Installation

As with all other components in vSphere two things are very important to prepare before the installation. The first thing to take care of is timekeeping, for which I recommend using the Network Time Protocol (NTP). NTP needs to be configured on the vCenter Server and the ESXi host that vSphere Data Protection will be installed on.

The second thing to prepare is proper DNS records. Even deploying the appliance from OVF template has failed when I first tried it because my client machine had some misconfigured DNS settings. A DNS host record for a VDP appliance should be created prior to deploying the VDP appliance and you better have your reverse lookup zone ready.

VDP installation 1

The third thing that I would prepare is a service user for the VDP to be used for accessing the vCenter, and for running the tasks needed to perform the backup jobs.

Even if your environment is small and you may be the only admin with access to your vSphere infrastructure, a separate user for each function helps you read the logs and understand what is happening and why. If you have more than one admin this becomes necessary. I chose to create my VDP user in the vCenter SSO database for this setup.

VDP installation 2

By now, we should be ready to deploy the VDP appliance from an OVF template.

VDP installation 3

Browse for the appliance that you can download from the vSphere download page at The appliance comes in OVA format so do not forget to change the file type while looking for it.

VDP installation 4

As explained earlier the 2TB appliance will take 3.1TB on disk if you go with thick provisioning. Continue to the next step to read the EULA and accept it.

VDP installation 5

Choose a folder to store your new VDP. Since you can have more than one VPD, I created a folder for them because I am planning to have at least one VDP for Windows infrastructure VMs and another for Linux VMs used by the development department.

VDP installation 6

Choose the storage to deploy the appliance to. In this case I chose a thin provisioned 4TB LUN with VAAI support. This means that even my LUN will not take space on my Synology SAN until the data needs it.

VDP installation 7

Select your virtual network port according to your needs and continue to the last, and most important step.

VDP installation 8

Fill in the default gateway, DNS servers, IP address and subnet mask for your soon-to-be VDP appliance.

At this point you can finish the wizard to start deploying the appliance (or click Next to review your configuration before you finish).

VDP installation 9

Once the VDP appliance is ready (with its many virtual hard disk drives) launch the Console to start the actual configuration of the appliance.

VDP installation 10

Configuring the VDP appliance

As you can see in the screen shot, in order to configure the VDP appliance for first use you need to visit this URL: https://VDP-IP-address-or-DNS-name:8543/vdp-configure

VDP configuration 1

You need to use the password "changeme" for your 1st login to the lovely web interface, and skip the even nicer Welcome Screen by clicking next.

VDP configuration 2

Most of the text boxes on the following screen will already be filled, as you already provided this information while deploying the appliance from the template. The only things you may need to add are the host and domain names. Mine were automatically filled for me because the appliance looked them up in the reverse DNS zone.

VDP configuration 3

Choose your time zone and remember that time is a very important thing for a backup appliance.

VDP configuration 4

The hardest thing in deploying the VDP appliance is coming up with a new password that is exactly nine characters (not at least nine characters) and meets the rest of the requirements.

This will be the first password in a while that does not have any special characters!

VDP configuration 5

We're almost done. Fill in the information needed for the VDP appliance to be able to access the vCenter; the vCenter host name must be in FQDN format and we need include the username that we have created for this purpose much earlier.

VDP configuration 6

When you click finish on the final step of the Wizard, you will be prompted to close the screen and reboot your appliance.

VDP configuration 7

Rebooting the appliance can take up to 30 minutes. During that time you can monitor progress on the vSphere Console.

Be patient, as it may look like it's doing nothing at times. Unless something red or an error is displayed, there is no need to wary.

VDP configuration 8

After rebooting the appliance, you need to log out of the web client and log back in to see the new “vSphere Data Protection” available on the web client home screen. From there we can schedule, perform on hock backups and restore VMs.

VDP configuration 9

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Ashraf Al-Dabbas

Ashraf Al-Dabbas is a vExpert, VCP, 3xMCSE, MCITP, CCNP, ITIL v3 Certified and an MBA holder. He has 10+ years of diverse experience working in a large organizations in systems infrastructure support, leading corporate wide IT initiatives, organizing and conduction projects and social activities.

For Ashraf, IT is a passion not a profession. He is self-motivated, persistent and full of positive attitude. Exploring new technologies, learning new knowledge, visiting new places and meeting new people are the things that drive him forward. He likes to write, share ideas and interact with different people. As part of his upbringing in the Jubilee School for gifted students (Amman, Jordan), Ashraf learned to understand, accept then debate all points of view objectively and respectfully.