VMware Data Recovery, Why Is It So Cool?

VMware Data Recovery aka VDR is part of the vSphere 4 family.
It is in the Application Services, more precisely in the Availability group.
Other members of that group are vMotion, Storage vMotion, HA and FT.
The product is targeted at SMB’s but strangely, the option is not available in the first level suite aka Essential but in the second level suite aka Essential Plus.
Then it disappears again from the third level aka Standard and back for the 3 last and highest suites. I just don’t understand VMware position here, someone can explain?

What is VDR? The short intro…

-It comes as a Linux-based virtual appliance in OVF format that you import in vCenter.
-It has vCenter plug-in to allow a GUI experience.
-It’s a disk-based backup solution as opposed to file-based one.
-It’s built on the VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection formerly VCB.
-It’s fully integrated with vCenter Server.
-It’s wizard driven and for those who worked (still working!) with VCB that’s a good great feature!
-It provides VSS support and changed block tracking functionality to allow incremental backups.
-And the cherry on top of the cake, backups use deduplicated destination store!

General Sizing Guidelines, other best practices, nice features and gotchas. The long intro…

-You can attach at most 2 dedupe stores to a VDR Appliance and each dedupe store can be at most 1 TB. That’s a total of 2TB of backup storage but see below…

-You are limited to 500GB of dedup data per dedup store.

-It is highly recommend that you allocate at least 25 GB per dedupe store for VDR internal usage.

-AVDR Appliance can protect up to 100 VMs. More than 100 VMs and you VDR appliance freezes, locks up… That should be fixed with the following releases.

-As a general rule-of-thumb, it is recommended that you leave as much space in the dedupe stores as the sum of the amount of space used on all the virtual hard disks of your protected VMs. A tool like RVTools can definitely help you figure out the current disk usage of your virtual environment.

-If you are concerned about over-provisioning your dedupe store you can start with barely sufficient space in your dedupe stores and grow as needed, leveraging the VDR capability to extend the dedupe stores. N.B. VMware does not support shrinking of dedupe stores.

-A VDR dedupe store can reside on either a thin-provisioned or a thick-provisioned disk. There may be performance impact resulting from growing a thin-provisioned disk, that’s why thick-provisioned disk is recommended. Don’t forget that you can extend dedupe stores!

-A dedupe store can be a VMDKs or RDMs disk over iSCSI, FC or NFS, but also it can sit on a CIFS share over the network (NAS). Yes virtual disks and RDMs yield better performance than network-based dedupe stores but with the availability of SMB2 protocol and/or 10GbE network, this performance hit is fading out.

-You can save more space if you put all 100 VMs in one dedupe store of 1 TB than if you put 50 VMs in one 500 GB dedupe store and another 50 in another 500 GB dedupe store.

-Group like VMs onto the same dedupe store to take advantages of dedupe mechanism, for example group Windows VMs on Dedup Store#1 and Linux VMs on Dedup Store#2.

-The backup won’t start if the ESX host’s CPU is >80%

-You must have at least 5GB free space on datastore per VM for the snapshots.

-All VMs should be HW version 7 to use the Block Tracking feature.

-It is not backward compatible with ESX3.5 or earlier hosts.

Some FAQs

-How do I get the backups on Tape?
For the time being VDR natively supports backups to disks. Hopefully there is a workaround, you create a network backup destination on a remote share, share that you backup to tape.

-Is VDR compatible with vCenter Server 4 Linked Mode?
Nope. If anyone has a workaround please feel free to post a comment.

-Hey, off-LAN backups doesn’t work, what’s going wrong here?
That’s a tricky one, your vSphere is not licensed for Hot Add! This is an option available starting with Advanced Suite onwards.  

-Can I perform File Level Backups?
No, it is a Disk-Based Backup solution only but you can perform File Level Restore (FLR) although it is in experimental state.

-What is the maximum number of concurrent backup and restore jobs?
It is set to 8 concurrent VMDK (and not VM) backup or restore jobs.

-Can I  mix different type of Backup Destination?
Yes, you can mix VMDK, RDM or network shares destinations

-Can I backup RDM devices?
Yes, but only if the RDM device is running in virtual compatibility mode, thus allowing snapshots.

-What kind of Deduplication Method is used in VDR?
In-Line Deduplication.  This is the process where the deduplication hash calculations are created on the target device as the data enters the device in real time. If the device spots a block that it already stored on the system it does not store the new block, just references to the existing block. The benefit of in-line deduplication over post-process deduplication is that it requires less storage as data is not duplicated.  Hash calculation can be CPU intensive process, size up the VDR’s CPU appropriately.

-What are the Restore features?
You can restore an individual VMDK, restore to a different name, restore with no network or power…


So yes VDR is cool, mainly because it does what it is supposed to do, that is backups! On top of that you have deduplication functionality WOW.
Ok ok it has some limitations such 100 VMs max, 2 dedup destination stores max, etc… but hey this is version 1.x, give it some time and don’t forget this product is targeted to SMBs and as one of them, I need an application that installs flawlessly and does the job period!


Sources: VMware.com, Wikipedia.org, Vladan.fr and Trainsignal.com


About PiroNet

Didier Pironet is an independent blogger and freelancer with +15 years of IT industry experience. Didier is also a former VMware inc. employee where he specialised in Datacenter and Cloud Infrastructure products as well as Infrastructure, Operations and IT Business Management products. Didier is passionate about technologies and he is found to be a creative and a visionary thinker, expressing with passion and excitement, hopefully inspiring and enrolling people to innovation and change.
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9 Responses to VMware Data Recovery, Why Is It So Cool?

  1. deinoscloud says:

    Check out my new post regarding vDR Quiescing Mechanisms at https://deinoscloud.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/vdr-and-quiescing-mechanisms/

  2. johny_11 says:


    Great article.

    Are you sure about the 500 GB limit for deduplication data?

    I could not find any info about this in the VMware website and documentation.

    • deinoscloud says:

      The info comes from TrainSignal VMware vSphere Training DVDs by David Davis. That doesn’t mean you’re limited to 500GB worth of VMs being backed up, you’re limited to 500GB of data that has been deduplicated… Let say you have 10 Win2k8, vDR will backup only one OS (dedup data) + all differences between Win2k8 VMs

  3. deinoscloud says:


    This white paper introduces VMware Data Recovery (VDR) – VMware’s virtual machine backup product and describes how to move data to tape when backing up to a network share location. Includes automation functionality using Powershell scripts.

  4. johny_11, I am sure about it.. he is right..

  5. Pingback: VMware vSphere Fast Track Day#5 – Lessons Learned « DeinosCloud

  6. Davej says:

    Great article…..one question, while it says “A dedupe store can be a VMDKs or RDMs disk over iSCSI, FC or NFS, but also it can sit on a CIFS share over the network (NAS)” could i theoretically hook up a big USB drive to the backup appliance and store the data there? sorry im a bit new to the backup product.

  7. Pingback: Vmware Data Recovery Backup Rdm

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