How to handle VMware Data Recovery?

Some time ago, I was asked to investigate a vSphere cluster at a customer location. It is a small sized cluster, consisting of 3 ESX hosts, approximately 20 VM’s and VMware Data Recovery as backup- and restore solution. The backup target is a dedicated NAS with 2.5 TB capacity. During the implementation, Data Recovery version 1.1 was installed. The VMware Data Recovery was configured to run several backup jobs; a daily job and a few weekly jobs for static or less important VM’s. After several months backups failed, snapshots were not removed and locking problems were reported.

First action was; updating the ESX hosts and replacing the VMware Data Recovery with the 1.2 version. During the configuration of the backup target, I noticed a warning telling me that CIFS network shares larger than 500 GB are not a good idea…

And everything went well for a few days. One day scheduled backup jobs were not executed. The logging showed no errors. The same job could be started manual, ran like a charm, reported no errors and the following night? Nothing again. Checking the size of the backup target, it showed a size of about 350 GB.

So after searching the VMware forum, it was time to study the Administration Guide. VMware Data Recovery System Requirements” in Chapter 2 is a must read. The interesting requirements:

  • Deduplication Store Size. For initial setup, provide storage space equal to the amount of used disk space on all virtual machines being protected.
    A few VM’s have a total of 8 GB, but there are also VM’s with 160 GB or even 220 GB…
  • Deduplication Store Format. All HCL supported storage (VMDKs or RDMs), CIFS shares are also supported, but not highly recommended.
  • Ten Data Recovery backup appliances for each vCenter Server instance.
  • VMDK or RDM based deduplication stores of up to 1TB or CIFS based deduplication stores of up to 500 GB.
  • Up to 2 deduplication stores per backup appliance.
  • This means that using CIFS shares a maximum of 2 x 500 GB = 1 TB per Data recovery backup appliance is the limit!

One reason for using CIFS shares is the ease of copying a Deduplication Store to another location to make a backup. The total amount of used disk space for the total number of VM’s extends 1 TB. On the other hand, a total of 10 Data Recovery backup appliances can run in a vCenter Server. I ended up with this solution:

  • Create an extra Data Recovery backup appliance;
  • Create the maximum of 2 Deduplication stores per appliance;
  • Distribute the existing backup jobs over the Data Recovery backup appliances;
  • Per Data Recovery backup appliances, carefully distribute the backup jobs over the 2 Deduplication stores. Regarding the size of the VM’s disk space compared with the Deduplication store’s limit.

Thank you for reading. I welcome suggestions on this topic.

P.S. A lot has been written about the VMware Data Recovery appliance. It has some nice features, but can also use some improvement.

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