VMware Data Recovery is a new feature introduced with vSphere 4 which attempts to be a full-featured backup solution for the ESX lineup. There are some limitations to the software that limit it more towards small to medium business – not really enterprise customers, however, I’d consider my company a small enterprise user and we plan on implementing the technology when we upgrade to vSphere soon.
Data Recovery, like VCB, is an agentless backup technology used to grab either full VM image or file level backups of virtual machines in ESX. Data Recovery also includes de-duplication technology and backup to disk, where VCB is just a method of obtaining the thin VMDK file to be backed up by a third party solution. Data Recovery also makes use of innovation in the virtual hardware version 7 which allows for block level change tracking. Although, Data Recovery can apparently (not 100% sure) backup earlier versions of virtual hardware, it won’t be nearly as fast because they lack the block level changes.
Data Recovery deploys in two parts – a virtual appliance and a plug-in for vSphere client. The virtual appliance is imported from OVF format and with some basic configuration is ready to begin backups. An IP must be configured and a VMDK must be added to the virtual appliance as a target for the de-duplicated data. You may have two destination storage locations of up to 1TB each for a total of 2TB per virtual appliance.
Creating jobs for back are pretty simple. A nice feature for this is that you may choose folders, hosts or clusters as part of backup jobs – meaning that any new VM’s included in that folder will automatically be backed up in addition to the existing VM’s. This is a nice function for future-proofing your backup strategy.
Backup jobs are scheduled with a backup window to work and there can be up to 8 jobs at a time running, but the virtual appliance does all the scheduling and deciding of when to run the backups. After an initial backup is run with all data, incremental backups are run from that point on – grabbing on change blocks. Retention policies are also set for your backup stores and then enforced to keep a number of versions for your backups so that you can go back to a point in time backup.
Destination storage may be unmounted and exported, backed up or otherwise saved, though this is a manual process.
As another note, this is only available on vSphere hosts and cannot backup ESX 3.5 or vCenter 2.5 infrastructures.