Believe it or not, this question comes up quite often in VMware Communities, especially in Backup & Recovery Discussions. Experts patiently answer the question, and then the same question comes up again a few weeks later from someone else. There is an FAQ by VMware on VADP but it is targeted more for those who had been familiar with earlier VMware Consolidated Backup framework. This blog is to help those budding VMware administrators who does not need a history lesson from VCB days.
Since you reached here, you already know that VADP has something to do with backup and recovery of vSphere virtual machines.
Backup is like an insurance policy. You don’t want to pay for it, but not having it is the recipe for sleepless nights. You need to protect data on your virtual machines to guard against hardware failures and user errors. You may also have regulatory and compliance requirements to protect data for longer term.
With modern day hardware and cutting edge hypervisors like that from VMware, you can protect data just by running a backup agent within the guest operating system. In fact, for certain workloads; this is still the recommended way.
VMware had made data protection easy for administrators. That is what vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP) is. It available since vSphere 4.0 release. It is a set of APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) made available by VMware for independent backup software vendors. These APIs make it possible for backup software vendors to embed the intelligence needed to protect virtual machines without the need to install a backup agent within the guest operating system. Through these APIs, the backup software can create snapshots of virtual machines and copy those to backup storage.
Okay, now let us come to the point. As a VMware administrator what do I need to do to make use of VADP? Where do I download VADP? The answer is…
- Ensure that you are NOT using hosts with free ESXi licenses.
- Choose a backup product that has support for VADP.
The first one is easy to determine. If you are not paying anything to VMware, the chances are that you are using free ESXi. In that case, the only way to protect data in VMs is to run a backup agent within the VM. No VADP benefits.
Choosing a backup product that supports VADP can be tricky. If your organization is migrating to a virtualized environment, see what backup product is currently in use for protecting physical infrastructure. Most of the leading backup vendors have added support for VADP. Symantec NetBackup, Symantec Backup Exec, IBM TSM, EMC NetWorker, CommVault Simpana are good examples.
If you are not currently invested in a backup product (say, you are working for a start-up), there are a number of things you need to consider. VMware has a free product called VMware Data Recovery (VDR) that supports VADP. It is an easy to use virtual appliance with which you can schedule backups and store it in deduplicated storage. There are also point products (Quest vRanger, Veeam Backup & Replication etc.) which provide additional features. All these products are great for managing and storing backups of virtual machines on disk for shorter retention periods. However, if your business requirements need long term retention, you would need another backup product to protect the backup repositories of these VM only solutions which can be a challenge. Moreover, it is less unlikely to see businesses that are 100% virtualized. You are likely to have those NAS devices for file serving, desktops and laptops for end users and so on. Hence a backup product that supports both physical systems and VADP are ideal in most solutions.
Disclosure: I work for Symantec, but blog here is my own opinion.