Snapshots preserve the state and data of a virtual machine at the time you take the snapshot. Snapshots are useful when you must revert repeatedly to the same virtual machine state, but you do not want to create multiple virtual machines. Virtual volumes snapshots serve many purposes. You can use them to create a quiesced copy for backup or archival purposes, or to create a test and rollback environment for applications. You can also use them to provision application images instantly.

In Virtual Volumes environment, snapshots are managed by ESXi and vCenter Server, but are performed by the storage array.

Each snapshot creates an extra virtual volume object, a snapshot virtual volume, that holds the contents of virtual machine memory. Original VM data is copied to this object, and it remains read-only, which prevents the guest operating system from writing to snapshot. You cannot resize the snapshot virtual volume. Typically, when you replicate the VM, its snapshot virtual volume is also replicated.

The image shows a base virtual volume and two snapshot virtual volumes. The snapshot virtual volumes are read-only.

The base virtual volume remains active, or read-write. When another snapshot is created, it preserves the new state and data of the virtual machine at the time you take the snapshot.

When you delete snapshots, only the base virtual volume remains, while snapshot virtual volume objects are discarded. The base virtual volume represents the most current state of the virtual machine. Unlike snapshots on the traditional datastores, snapshot virtual volumes do not need to commit their contents to the base virtual volume.

The image shows the base virtual volume that remains after you delete snapshot virtual volumes. The base virtual volume is active, or read-write, and represents the most current state of the virtual machine.

For information about creating and managing snapshots, see the vSphere Virtual Machine Administration documentation.