Monthly Archives: December 2012

Another #homelab giveaway – This time from Unitrends

Wow!  Lots of New Years and Xmas giveaways happening within the virtualization community this year…and we aren’t talking about books or USB keys this year.  This year we are dealing with complete home labs   So fancy yourself a couple of HP Proliant Servers, a Netgear Ready NAS system, an HP switch and some MS and VMware licenses …well, go and download the latest offering from Unitrends, Unitrends Enterprise Backup and register your software before February 14th to be automatically included in their Dream Home Lab Giveaway.  And don’t worry, you don’t need to purchase the software to register, you can register the free version and still qualify.

Unitrends Enterprise Backup – In the lab!!!

Unitrends has been inside the backup industry for over 20 years!  That’s a long time to be a key player inside of one industry.  How do they do it?  By staying on top of the ever so changing nature of backup.  That’s why I decided to do this sponsored review of Unitrends latest offering, Unitrends Enterprise Backup.   Again, this review is sponsored but it most certainly contains my words and thoughts about the product.  Now that that’s been cleared up let me say that they make it pretty easy for you evaluate the product yourself.  Personally I went and grabbed a free NFR license that they offer to all Microsoft and VMware certificate holders.  Even if you simply belong to a VMUG you can get yourself an NFR license.  While the Unitrends Enterprise Backups deployment route requires Hyper-V or VMware, the appliance itself can backup and protect both your physical and virtual environment, but for the purpose of this review I only tested on a virtual infrastructure.

Installation

This couldn’t have been easier!!!  Unitrends has taken the virtual appliance route when it comes to installation, meaning a simple File->Deploy OVF Template and following a quick step wizard is all you really need to do to get Unitrends into your environment.  This honestly took around 10 minutes from start to finish to deploy into my environment.   Just be sure you meet the minimum system requirements (100GB free space, 2 CPUs, 4GB RAM) and deploy the appliance.  There is one single appliance to deploy whether you plan on using the free, trial, NFR, or complete enterprise solution.

Configuration

Once the appliance has been deployed into your environment it’s now time to get it configured and ready to go.  Like most virtual appliances you must first configure IP and DNS settings inside of the VM console.  Unitrends provides a nifty little console menu to simplify this operation.  Once you have an IP configured the rest of the configuration can be done through the web interface by opening up a browser and pointing to the IP of your Unitrends appliance.  Upon the first login to the appliance Unitrends displays a setup wizard which takes you through most all of the steps that you need to configure to get up and running.  The steps of this process are outlined below

  • Accept EULA
  • Set Date/Time Parameters
  • Configure Hostname
  • Configure SMTP server
  • Change default console authentication (root password)
  • Add any additional administrative users to the system
  • Select an installation type – Just a note here you will have the option to either install as a local backup system or as a vault.  The difference being that vault actually acts as a replication target for a local backup system, giving you the ability to replicate your locally backed up files to another Unitrends installation in an offsite location.
  • Add additional storage to the Unitrends system.  If you left all of the defaults when deploying the defaults you should have roughly 80GB of storage to use as a backup target, here you can add additional storage to the appliance.
  • Install any required agents – If you are solely using this product to backup VMware VMs (or strictly current Windows OSes or Hyper-V) then this step can be skipped, however if you plan to backup any Linux or Mac OS based PHYSICAL systems then you have the option to deploy the agents needed at this time.  As with most settings you can always do this later as well – I skipped this for the time being.
  • Add Client – In Unitrends terms a client is a server/computer that you want to protect.  For the sake of protecting a VMware environment a client will be either your vCenter Server or ESXi host.  Here is where I added my vCenter Server by providing the DNS name as well as credentials then clicking ‘Setup’.  (Shown below)
  • Deduplication Options – You have the option here to disable the Unitrends software deduplication if you happen to be using a deduplication appliance or have deduplication enabled on your underlying storage array.

Honestly at this point you have all the configuration you need to start protecting your virtual environment with Unitrends.  Obviously there are a ton more settings and tweaks you can set in the Settings section of the application but I will concentrate more on the core functionality of the product rather than dive into each and every configuration setting.  Unitrends lays this functionality out in their top navigational menu, thus the rest of this review will follow the same structure.

Status

The status section is there to do just what you would think, display the past, present, and future status of your backup system.  Not a whole lot to say about this section other than there are some really nice visualizations that let you see your future schedule for backups as well as the outcomes from previous backups.

Backup

Ok, here we go now into the meat and potatoes of this product; its’ ability to backup your virtual infrastructure.  First off you will see a couple of tabs along the top after selecting Backup; 1-Time Backup and Schedule Backup.  As you may have guessed one option performs a 1-time backup and the other allows you to assign a schedule.  For the purposes of this review I will only go over the scheduled backup option.
The first step is to setup a schedule or modify an existing one.  In my case I called this RPO 6 hours and set the Incremental Forever options to occur every 6 hours (brilliant eh? 🙂 )  Since I have selected my vCenter Server from the navigational menu i can see a list of potential VMs to protect in the list box to the left.  This list is dependent and will change based on the item you select in the navigational menu, meaning if it was an Exchange server you may see storage groups or databases, SQL you would see databases, etc…  Again in our case we are dealing solely with VMware so I see a list of VMs.  One cool and useful feature is the ‘Auto Include New VMs’ option.  This allows you to automatically include new VMs into a specified schedule as they are created and registered with vCenter without physically configuring the Unitrends appliance.  A very cool feature to be able to protect those VMs that tend to just show up in your environment.
The Schedule column on the right hand side of the screen is where you define how and when you want your backups to occur.  You will see here options around the minimum and maximum number of days to retain your backups as well as the backup strategy you wish to deploy.  This strategy could be one of the following….
  • Incremental Forever – This strategy essentially performs a full backup on the target and then subsequently performs incremental backups from then on.  Periodically (I think once every two weeks) the original full backup is synchronized and brought up to date using the  incremental backups locally and differentials are generated for the retention points leading up to this.  A great strategy to obtain a near continuous data protection strategy and speed up the time it takes to backup a virtual machine.
  • Full with Incrementals – Basically the same as Incremental Forever however giving you the ability to specify when the full backup occurs (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly).  I believe in this option the full backups are performed on your production environment and not generated from incrementals.
  • Full with Differentials – This would be somewhat the reverse of Full with Incrementals meaning you will always have an up to date full backup, with differential files as your restore points.
  • Custom – you guessed it, play with it and tailor it to how you want it to be.

And guess what?  You’re done!  Depending on the configuration you’ve specified your backups and retention policies should kick off immediately and start protecting your VMs.  The process of creating a backup job or schedule inside of Unitrends is very very simple.  What I like most about this process is how it is laid out in the web interface.  With the exception of advanced settings (SMTP and storage) all of the configuration and setup is done on one simple screen (See below).

Restore

So far we have installed, setup, and configured some backups jobs with Unitrends.  Now is the time to put it to the test and do perhaps the most important function that backup solutions provide; the ability to restore.  Unitrends offers a couple type of restores within their product; Restore a computer or Restore a system.  Now these terms sound like they do essentially the same thing but they most certainly do not.  Your most common type of operation and traditional restore is handled through restore a computer.  This will restore a VM from your local backup instance.  The ‘Restore a System’ is actually a DR operation that will restore your system from either an archive or a replicated (vaulted) instance.  I’ve mentioned the vault options earlier in this review and due to limited resources I can’t efficiently test this so for the case of this section I’ll walk through restoring a single VM from Unitrends.
First off if you select your vCenter in the navigation menu while in the restore section you should be presented with a nifty little screen.  What I like most about this is it is very easy to select your targeted restore time through either the visualizations provided or the Recovery Point Times table.  You then have a couple of options on how to restore.
Firstly is the ‘Next (Select Options)’ button.  This is the route to take if your desire is to restore a complete VM.  Once moving into the next screen you simply need to select a desired host and datastore, give your restored VM a name and you are off to the races.  Another noteable and huge feature is Instant Recovery.  This is the ability to publish the backup files directly to an ESX host and run your VM directly from the backup files themselves.  An awesome feature that you may need to use if access is needed immediately.
The second option, ‘Restore Selected Files’  allows you to perform a file level restore.  In order to first do this you must click the ‘Create’ button in order to create an image to restore from.  After this process is complete a network path will be displayed allowing you to connect by a couple of different methods.  Through Windows you could simply browse or map to the selected path.  Unitrends will also prevent this image as an iSCSI target allowing your end users to connect and restore any files they wish to an location they wish.  Once completed be sure to click the ‘Tear Down’ button in order to unmount the image.

Archive

So now we are on to the Archive capabilities of Unitrends.  In order to use the archive features you need to have archive storage attached to your appliance.  I facilitated this by adding a second disk to the VM and configuring it under the Storage and Retention settings however it appears you can also use a NAS or iSCSI type solution as well.  So basically the archive capabilities allow you to take either all or portions of your local backups or local appliance directories and setup different retention schedules on them in order to preserve certain recovery points in a different location.
Again like most configuration that is done within Unitrends all of it is on one screen.  You can see from the screen shot that all that needs to be done is selecting what to archive, the type of backups (a lot of options in here), your archive target and some simple options on whether to compress and encrypt your archived data.  You also have the ability to test your archive settings before submitting the archive job in order to ensure you have enough space remaining on your targets.  Archives can be run both on demand as well as scheduled.  There targets can consist of attached vmdks, iSCSI targets, NAS devices as well as tape drives.

Reports

Although fairly self explanatory I wanted to touch on this section as I found it to be one of the real shining points around Unitrends Enterprise Backup.  As you can see in the screenshot below Unitrends has a ton of predefined reports that you can generate and view dealing with everything from the outcomes of your backup jobs to your deduplication savings to storage utilization to inidividual reports dealing with applications such as SQL server.

Conclusion

So there you have it!  That in a nutshell is Unitrends Enterprise Backup.  I can’t say that I have really truly done this application justice as there are a lot of features that I didn’t get a chance to test.  Outside of this review Unitrends contains many features such as not only backing up your virtual infrastructure but your physical presence as well all from one interface.  They have solutions for full application item recovery such as Exchange mailboxes and SQL databases and tables.  Unitrends has a very solid, scaleable, easy to use system.  One of the biggest high points for me is just the ease of use.  Having most all of the configuration options for setting up backup jobs on one screen is a great feature allowing administrators to see the full scope of options and settings all at once.  Another awesome thing about Unitrends is the free edition.  Although limited to 4 VMs you get a fully functional product – no catch!  Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.   Go grab a fully functional trial at Unitrends.com.

More New Years giveaways – From the gang at Veeam

OK OK OK – I have my little new years giveaway here, so be sure to go comment and tweet to get yourself into the running, but if you unfortunately do not win what I’m giving away you might want to head over to Veeams’ site and sign up for theirs.  Now although they don’t have quite the caliber of prizes compared to mine (***SARCASM***) you do have the chance to pick yourself up what they are calling the Veeam Dream Lab.  This is big and includes the following…

  • TWO HP ProLiant ML 310e G8 Servers
  • NETGEAR ReadyNAS storage system with 4 SSDs drives
  • HP V1410-16G Ethernet switch
  • TechNet Plus subscription for 1 year
  • Online course, books and test from VMware Education Services or Microsoft Learning
  • …and a MICROSOFT SURFACE!

WOWZA!!!  You might want to go sign up for that!  Or don’t, it will just increase my chances at picking up this sweet package!!!  No, for real, go register!!!

Happy New Sphere is back!!! Win a copy of Designing VMware Infrastructure by @TrainSignal and @Scott_lowe

It’s that special time a year again, a time for family, friends, laughter, food, fixing your sister-in-laws friends computer, oh, and giving!  And that’s just what I want to do…GIVE!  Back for a second year (that’s right, I have done something twice on this blog now) is my Happy New Sphere Giveaway!  Last year we handed out a copy of Trainsignals VCP 5 Training and this year we have a copy of TrainSignals Designing VMware Infrastructure to place in somebody’s hands.  If you haven’t already you can check out a previous review of this course that I’ve done.  It’s full of great information that any VMware designer, architect, or even administrator should know.  I thought this course was awesome!   Also, to one lucky runner up we have a copy of “Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0” by Mike Laverick (blog/twitter)  Because what’s a great design with a continuity/disaster recovery plan right?  Actually, it’s because I have one sitting around here from the Toronto VMUG to give away!!!!!!

So, here’s the answer to the question everyone has been asking!  How do I win?  What does it take?  Well, simply leave a comment on this post…Not really concerned about what is in it…leave your best design tip, what type of content you’d like to see on this blog in the coming year, your best #scottlowefact, a comment about either of the sponsors (Trainsignal or VMUG)…whatever you wish…

And wait, OMG a second entry!!!  Yes, just help me spread the word about the contest by sending out the following tweet.  That’s kind of a double edge sword as it actually decreases your chances of winning by the more people that sign up 🙂  Oh well, the price you pay for that precious second ballot!  Honestly, don’t be too concerned, there was only like 60 entries last year…The tweet and hash tag is below!

 

 

I’ll leave the contest open for new entries up to January 4th.  I’ll try to draw a winner sometime around then as well….don’t hold me to it though… 🙂  Either way, good luck and a big huge thanks goes out to Trainsignal and Angelo Luciani of the Toronto VMUG for graciously providing the prizes.  Oh, and Happy New Sphere!!!!!

Designing VMware Infrastructure by @scott_lowe and @trainsignal

Are you ready?  Let’s go!  That seemed to be the catch phrase that presenter Scott Lowe (blog/twitter) rhymed off before starting off the awesomesauce that is each lesson of Trainsignal’s Designing VMware Infrastructure video training.  Now I know the word awesomesauce is overused, I’ve even used it multiple times but in this case there is just no other way to describe the content and how Scott delivers this content throughout this course.  And speaking of content there is a lot of it, over 6 hours of training at your fingertips and in true TrainSignal fashion available in multiple formats (DVD, iPOD/iPAD, Online).  Don’t trust my word that Scott’s presentation and knowledge is awesomesauce?  Check out a little (1 hour) teaser called VMware vSphere Design 101 over on TrainSignals site.  Its a great example (minus the audio) of how well of a speaker and how knowledgeable Scott is in the realm of design.   Below you can see how the course is laid out in the form of lesson content and as you can see it covers a wide variety of details.

Lesson 1 

Getting Started with Designing VMware Infrastructure

Lesson 2 

Designing vSphere Environments in the Real World

Lesson 3 

Understanding vSphere Design Terminology

Lesson 4 

Determining vSphere Design Factors

Lesson 5 

Defining a Logical Design

Lesson 6 

Defining a Logical Compute Design

Lesson 7 

Creating a Logical Network Design

Lesson 8 

Creating a Logical Storage Design

Lesson 9 

Building Security Into the Logical Design

Lesson 10 

Specifying Backup and Availability in the Logical Design

Lesson 11 

Designing the Management Layer

Lesson 12 

Mapping the Logical Design to Actual Solutions

Lesson 13 

Creating a Physical Storage Design

Lesson 14 

Creating a Physical Network Design

Lesson 15 

Sizing Hosts, Clusters, and Resource Pools

Lesson 16 

Defining VM Attributes

Lesson 17 

Incorporating Implementation and Test Plans

Lesson 18 

Bringing It All Together

Lesson 19 

Preparing for Your VCAP-DCD Certification Exam

Lesson 20 

Next Steps

So on to the meat and potatoes.  This course covers everything you need to know about vSphere Design.  Scott described vSphere design as a holistic design, meaning everything is connected and interlinked.  Even the way he delivered the course was holistic, meaning in almost every lesson Scott went back and stressed the importance of how the four main design factors (Requirements, Assumptions, Risks, and Constraints) affect the area being discussed and how they are interlinked to every step of the design process.  Now I can’t go through every single lesson, I’ll let you do that, the outline is listed above but what I can do is highlight some of my favorite items…

  • Throughout the course Scott frequently accesses and references a couple real design documents.  One being the VMware Cloud Infrastructure Case Study (available online), but here’s the exciting part, the other being Scott’s actual design he used during his VCDX defense.  Very cool to have that high level of an example embedded into the course
  • Secondly I love the flow of this course – meaning in a large number of lessons Scott will often reflect on some learning from another lesson and show you how everything is related and how any decisions made in one part of the design phase can most likely affect decisions made in another and inevitably affect your overall design.
  • Scott does an awesome job at explaining the four key factors in vSphere design and repeatedly refers to them and shows how four simple terms basically define your complete design.

In my current role I’m more adapted to a sysadmin, you know, the guy that’s primarily responsible for maintaining and implementing everything…not the architect, not the designer – but – after watching this course I’ve gotten excited about design and excited about architecting solutions.  Heck, I’m now thinking about maybe tackling the VCAP-DCD.  So I’m not going to say that this course is only for the designers and architects because it’s not.  This is a great course for anyone working within a vSphere environment, anyone with passion for VMware’s technology, or how would TrainSignal put it..any vNerd!  As with all of TrainSignal’s VMware Training I thoroughly enjoyed this one and would most certainly recommend this to anyone!

And guess what?!?!  It’s that special time of year again to say Happy New Sphere to everyone and maybe get yourself a copy of this training for yourself complements of Trainsignal!  Watch this space closely for details as mwpreston.net along with Trainsignal will be giving away a copy of this along with a few other prizes (hopefully).  Are you ready, Let’s go!