Tag Archives: Veeam

The StarWind Cloud VTL for AWS and Veeam

When companies are approaching a data protection strategy something dubbed the “3-2-1 rule” often comes up in conversation.  In its essence, the 3-2-1 rule is designed as a process to ensure that  you always have data availability should you need it.  That’s 3 copies of your data, on 2 different media types/sets,  with one being located offsite.  Now, when looking at taking this rule and applying it to our data protection design the subject of tape is usually discussed as it facilitates that second type of media we need to satisfy the “2” portion.  Tape has had a  play in  data protection for a long time but the mundane tasks of removing a tape and inserting another just doesn’t fit well inside of our modern datacenters.  When its time to restore we are then left with the frustration of finding the proper tapes and then the slow performance of moving data off of that tape back into production.  That’s why companies like StarWind initially built what is called the Virtual Tape Library (VTL).   The StarWind VTL mimics that of a physical tape library, however instead of requiring the manual intervention of removing and loading tapes it simply writes the data to disk.

The StarWind VTL is nothing new – in fact its’ been around since 2009.  But just  this past month at VeeamON StarWind announced yet another version of their  VTL, only this time, instead of just writing the data to local disk they now have  the option additionally sync those virtual tapes to the cloud.  The software, called StarWind Cloud VTL for AWS and Veeam couldn’t come at a more opportune time as only a week before the announcement “WannaCry” was worming its way through Europe, encrypting both production  and  backup data – leaving those companies without some sort of offsite air-gapped backup without a  whole lot of option.

StarWind-Overview

So how does it work?

The StarWind Cloud VTL for AWS and Veeam is 100% software based – therefore no extra hardware or appliances are need to be racked and stacked in your datacenter at all.  In fact, for convenience and cost reasons StarWind Cloud VTL can even be installed  directly along side with your Veeam Backup and Replication Backup server.  If you have ever installed any other StarWind products then the Cloud VTL setup will look very similar, utilizing a very easy to use wizard type installation.

Once installed, the configuration (as shown below) is really just adding our virtual tape device (drive) and however many number of virtual tapes we want.  As we can see, StarWind actually mimics the HPE MSL8096 Tape Library – therefore we may need to pull down any appropriate device drivers in order to support it.  Once installed we are left essentially with an iSCSI target that points to our VTL, which in tern maps to local disk.

Library-Location StarWind-HPEMimic

Cloud-Replication So by now you might be thinking “Hey, these tapes are mapped to disk not cloud” and you  are absolutely correct in that thought.  StarWind Cloud VTL implements what they call a Disk to Disk to Cloud process – meaning data is first copied to disk (StarWind) from disk (Production) and then further replicated to Cloud (Amazon S3/Glacier).  This scenario allows for the actual Veeam tape job to complete much faster as it’s simply streaming to local disk- after which, the data is replicated to Amazon.  To set this up we simply need to click on the ‘Cloud Replication’ option (shown right) within the StarWind management console and provide our access and region information for our S3 bucket.

Above I hinted at yet  another feature of the StarWind  Cloud VTL with the mention of Glacier.  As shown below we can see a few options as it pertains to our retention – the most interesting being the ability to migrate our tape data out of S3 and into the cheaper, more archive suitable Glacier service after a certain period of time.  This tiering feature allows us to keep costs down by essentially staging and de-staging our backup data depending on age to a lower tier, lower performance storage while keeping our most  recent restore points on a more reliable, higher performance cloud storage service.

S3-Glacier

We can also see that we have options surrounding when to purge the local on-site tape data as well as how long to  wait after the virtual tape has been ejected locally before we start the replication to S3.

That’s really it as far as the StarWind setup is concerned.  The only thing left to do now is setup our the VTL as a tape server with  VBR.  Now before we can do this we will first need to establish a connection to our VTL.  This, just as is done through  StarWind Virtual SAN is simply just an iSCSI target that is mounted with the standard Windows iSCSI tools.  As mentioned previously, the VTL mimics a HPE MSL8096 so be sure those drivers are downloaded and installed to ensure the VTL can be discovered.

For the VBR  configuration we simply add our StarWind VTL we have setup into our backup infrastructure as a  “Tape Server”.  After doing so we should be able to see all of our virtual tapes that we have created and can simply setup our tape jobs or File to Tape jobs just as we always have within Veeam – only this time, our tapes are basically being  replicated to S3.

In the end I think StarWind is on to something here!  This is their first go at cloud replication and I’m sure there is much more to come.   In fact we have already seen the addition of Microsoft Azure blob storage into the StarWind Cloud VTL portfolio so things are moving quickly.  The idea of still achieving the ultimate goal of the 3-2-1 rule while not having to physically mess around with tape is appealing – not to mention that by utilizing cloud we can get that offsite scalable storage tier without all the need to manage or update or even procure the hardware.  Personally I can see Veeam shops jumping on this.  It certainly makes that ideal environment of having some uber fast backup repository for your most recent backups on-stie and leaving StarWind and AWS with the job of migrating and managing the more “cold” archival type data up to the cloud.  Remember you  don’t want to be “that” IT shop that can’t recover from the next piece of ransomware that comes down the pipe.  If you would like to give StarWind Cloud VTL for Amazon and  Veeam a shot you  can pick yourself up a  free 30 day trial here.

My Veeam VMCE-A Course and Exam Experience

vmce_a_logoFirst up a bit of a back story – as a Veeam Vanguard I was lucky enough to have received the required training last June in order to qualify for my VMCE exam, which I wrote and passed in August of 2016!  A nice little perk of the program if you ask me!  Anyways, earlier this month a handful of us were again lucky to participate in the next level of training, the VMCE-A Design & Optimization course in an online pilot, thus, qualifying us to write the VMCE-A exam.    Under normal circumstances I would take a lot of time to study up and possibly create guides on this blog for the certifications I write – however, with VeeamON right around the corner and the ability to take advantage of a “Free Second Chance” offer for writing certifications on site my normal study strategies didn’t apply.  I couldn’t pass up the chance of at the very least getting a look at the exam, even if it meant failing – hey, a free second chance!

So with the course fresh on my memory I studied where I could between it and my exam appointment at the conference, be it on the car ride to the airport, at 30,000 feet in the air and during a few meals at the conference.  Anyways, the tl;dr version is I passed the exam….barely – getting only 4% over the pass mark of 70%.  Not a mark I’d certainly be super proud of, but in the end a pass is a pass and I’ll take it!

On to the exam!

exam_multiplechoiceThe VMCE-A D&O exam is 40 randomized questions, all multiple choice.  Some questions have only one answer, while some are in the “Select 2, Select3” format.  As mentioned earlier a passing score is 70% or higher.  As far as the content goes I can’t say a lot as NDA’s are in effect, however what I can say is that all questions I received are fully covered within the VMCE-A D&O course material – and in fact, at the end you get a nice little detailed breakdown on how you scored in the different sections covered in the course (Design & Sizing, Infrastructure, Security, Optimization, Automation & Compliance, and Troubleshooting).  This certainly helps you to nail down where you might want to freshen up in order to improve your skill-sets.

One big thing I will say is that this exam is tough!  For as easy as Veeam can be to simply get up and running there is a lot to know about their complete suite of products – and a lot to cover in order to test on all of the features and benefits of just Veeam Backup & Replication.  Now being a customer I’m not designing these Veeam solutions day in and day out, so I focused a lot of my attention on the design section, as well as other parts of VBR that I don’t use that often.  But just as with the VMCE it’s not enough to solely focus on just VBR – Veeam ONE, Cloud Connect, etc – these are all free game for testing on this exam – so if you don’t use them I would certainly recommend brushing up on them.   I can’t stress enough that all of the content I was tested on in the exam is covered within the course materials (textbook/slides) – so pay attention during the course!  I can say, that if you see something labeled as a best practice or a formula you should remember these – Remember, this is an architect exam based on designing Veeam environments!  Just keep that in the back of your mind while studying!

As far as timing goes you have 1 hour (add another 30 minutes if English isn’t your first language) to complete the 40 questions.  I found this to be more than enough time.  Just like VMware’s VCP exams you can flag certain questions for review, and go back and forth between questions on the exam at your leisure.  The strategy I took, since I had no idea how much of a time crunch their might be, was to simply go through the questions answering the ones I knew I was right and flagging any that I was unsure of for review after.  This process took me roughly 30 minutes, which allowed me another 30 minutes to go back and review those questions I didn’t quite have a grasp of.  My review took roughly 10 minutes – after that I went through every question again, double-checking and tallying in my head how many I knew I had right, hoping to come up with a score high enough to make me feel comfortable enough to click that dreadful ‘End Exam’ button.  In the end I knew I was I close, but ended it anyways!

You will get your score immediately after completing the exam – so you know whether it was a pass or fail right away – no painful time spent wondering Smile  Also, as mentioned earlier, upon exiting the facility you will get a print out showing how you scored in each category.  I’m certainly happy I passed and know that I can for sure improve in some areas – maybe another study guide is in the cards for me!

The Veeam Certification Paths

For those that don’t know Veeam currently has 2 different certifications.  The VMCE, which documents proof  that the engineer has the necessary level of knowledge to correctly deploy, configure and administrator Veeam Availability Suite.  Then, the VMCE-A D&O which adds on the knowledge from the VMCE, bringing in more of a design and optimize feel to the test, all the while following the Veeam best practices.  Once you have achieved both the VMCE and the VMCE-A, Veeam accredits you with the title of the Veeam Certified Architect, or VMCA.  The VMCA is not a separate certification and does not require a separate step – it’s simply a designation handed to those whom have completed the requirements for both the VMCE and VMCE-A, along with passed both exams.

VeeamCertificationPath

A little about the course

Honestly, even if you don’t go through with the exam the VMCE-A Design and Optimization course is an awesome course to take.  I guarantee you will get something out of it even if you design on a daily basis.  For me, being a customer and administrator of these products it was an awesome opportunity to walk through the Veeam design methodologies, and deep diving into each step one by one to come out with the full solution.  The course has a couple of design scenarios inside of it, of which there is really no right or wrong answer.  We broke into a couple of different groups to do these and it was amazing to see just how different the end designs were.  The instructors take the opportunity to pick away at these designs, trying to understand your though process and figure out how you think – asking a lot of questions in regards to why you set it up the way you did!  This to me was the biggest advantage of the course – having that interaction and learning other ways to accomplish similar results – and seeing where you might be going astray in your though process.

So with that I hope this helps anyone else who might be on the fence about taking either the course or the exam.  I can proudly say that I am a VMCA now and that feels great (and I’m glad I don’t have to cash in that second chance as it’s a very tough exam – or at least it was to me).

#VeeamON 2017 – Wait! There’s more!

If you packed your bags up and started to shutdown after the Wednesday keynote thinking you have heard the last of the VeeamON announcements then you might want to think about digging out that notebook and sharpening your pencils again as we aren’t done yet here at VeeamON 2017!

Thursday, Paul Matiz took the stage for the final keynote of the show and made some more announcements around existing products – and threw the gauntlet down on one brand new product, the Veeam PN, which I released a separate post about!  That said, Veeam PN wasn’t the only Thursday announcement – there were a few others outlined below.

Veeam Backup for Office 365

Veeam’s released their first version of their SaaS email based backup for Office 365 last year and honestly people flocked to it!  With more and more companies migrating to the Microsoft hosted solution rather than putting up with the headaches of dealing with the multiple on-premises Exchange servers Veeam wanted to take advantage and help those organization protect their most critical communication asset!

With the version 1.5 announced just the other day, things like scaleablity have been added in order to horizontally scale your Office 365 backups by adding new proxies and repositories to help speed up the time it takes to pull down your O365 mailboxes.

In addition to this, automation has also been a focus.  With full PowerShell support coming into the product we can now use the easy verb-noun cmdlets to backup and restore Office 365 mailboxes.  And, more than just PowerShell – a fully supported RESTfull API is also available.

That said why stop at version 1.5 – let’s get moving on to 2.0   The Veeam community spoke – we loved the ability to back up the email and use the explorer functionality to perform restores back into mailboxes – but Office 365 is so much more – What about SharePoint?  What about OneDrive?

Well, Veeam now has an answer for those questions as they released somewhat of a roadmap for their Office 365 backup strategy, with both SharePoint and OneDrive on it in version 2.0.

Veeam Management Pack v8 update

For those Systems Center users that use Veeam Management pack to monitor and gain insights into their critical applications running on both VMware and Hyper-V you will be pleased to know that Veeam has released a slew of new features into the Veeam MP v8.  Now providing Azure backed dashboards in update 4, Veeam MP users will be able to update instantaneously.

Veeam has certainly announced a lot of things this week – with a heavy focus on cloud.  With Mark Russinovich doing the final keynote of the conference I can certainly say that cloud is most definitely the future – and data protection needs to be part of that!

Veeam announces the new Veeam Powered Network (Veeam PN)

VeeamOn-2017-2During the final keynote of VeeamON 2017 Veeam took the stage and threw down the guantlet on a brand new Veeam product release, the Veeam Powered Network, or Veeam PN for short.

Veeam PN is a new product, not a feature added to any others, which was initially developed to solve an internal issue within Veeam.  Veeam has a lot of employees and developers in remote sites all accross the world – and the pain of constantly connecting those sites together via VPN. coupled with the frustration of tunnels dropping all the time gave birth to the Veeam PN.  Kind of feels a lot like how a VMware fling comes to life, first being internal only, then released to the masses, then actually built out as an application offering.  Although VeeamPN can be used to establish this connectivity between any site at all,  the real benefits and the initial design intentions all focus on Microsoft Azure.

Veeam PN – Disaster Recovery to Microsoft Azure

Veeam PN is deployed into your Azure environment via the Azure Marketplace.  Once your cloud network have been established another virtual appliance is then deployed from veeam.com into your on-premises environments.  From there it’s as simple as setting up which networks you wish to have access into Azure and importing site configuration files that are automatically generated to your remote sites – with that, you have a complete and secure site to site tunnel established.  I’m not sure of the scale-ability of Veeam PN just yet, but I do know it supports having multiple sites connected into Azure for those ROBO situations.  For those remote workers on the road, well they can simply connect into Veeam PN and download a configuration file that simplifies their setup of the Open VPN client to establish a client-to-site VPN.

VeeamPN

So at this point you may be thinking “Why would Veeam develop this tech focused around networking and what does it have to do with backup or DR?”  Well, let’s couple this together with a little feature Veeam has called “Direct Restore to Microsoft Azure”.  By recovering our VMs and physical endpoints directly into Azure, and then easily establishing the network connectivity using Veeam PN we can now leverage true DR in the cloud in an easy to use, scale-able, and secure way.  THis is the “nirvana” of recovery that we have all been looking for.

One more thing – it’s free!

There it is – the Veeam way!  They released Backup and Replication with a free tier, Windows/Linux endpoint agents free, Direct Restore to Azure – free, the explorer tech – free!  Let’s add one more to that list!  Veeam PN is absolutely free!  And even though they have talked a lot about it being leveraged for Azure, companies and organizations can essentially use this technology to connect any of their sites and clients together – absolutely free!

Details around any betas or GA haven’t been revealed yet but keep your eyes open and I’ll do my best to help spread around any opportunity for you to get your hands on the new Veeam Powered Network!

A glimpse into #VeeamVanguard day!

Sure the Veeam Vanguard program comes complete with tons of great swag and free trips to VeeamON and whatnot – but in all honesty the biggest benefit of the program in my opinion is the access that Veeam provides – access with fellow Vanguards and access with key people within Veeam, across the whole company from executives to SEs.  Here at VeeamON 2017 we get a special day jam packed full of access – and below is a bit of a lowdown on what happened (or as much as we can tell you about anyways).

Veeam Availability Orchestrator – Michael White

The day started off with a couple of hours with Michael White (@mwVme) giving the low down on Veeam Availability Orchestrator – One of Veeams newest products which helps orchestrate and automate disaster recovery fail over.  Before actually getting into any product specifics, Michael actually went through a brief discussion about what Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity actually is, and how we can best prepare for any situation that may occur.  Michael is a perfect fit to evangelize this product as he had a lot of examples with other companies he as worked for over the years, outlining how he was prepared, or at sometimes, un prepared for disasters that hit.  In all honesty it was a great way to start the day, getting a little bit of education rather than just immediately diving into product specifics!

Veeam Availability Console – Clint Wyckoff

Directly after Michael we had Veeam evangelist Clint Wyckoff come and in and give us a breakdown on the new release candidate of  Veeam Availability Console.  I’ve seen the product before, but like anything Veeam there is always a number of changes in a short time – and it was nice to see the product as moves into tech preview.  For those that don’t know, VAC is Veeams answer to a centralized management solution for those large, dispursed enterprises as well as Veeam Service Providers to manage, deploy, and configure both their Veeam Backup & Replication servers as well as the newly minted Veeam Agents for Microsoft and LInux.

Vanguard support from the top down

One great thing that I like about the Veeam Vanguard program is that it’s not just a “pet project” for the company.  During Vangaurd day we were introduced to Danny Allan, VP of Cloud and Alliance Strategy at Veeam.  Danny is our new executive sponsor at Veeam – meaning we have support at the highest levels of the company.  It’s really nice to see a company sink so much support and resources from all roles into a recognition program – one of the many reasons why I feel the Vanguard program is so successful.

Nimble

After lunch we had Nimble come in and brief us on their Secondary Flash Array and the interesting performance enhancements it has when being used with Veeam.  Last year during our Vanguard day we didn’t have another vendor other than Veeam present.  It’s nice to see some of Veeams partners and ecosystem vendors reaching to find some availability to talk with us.  Nimble certainly has a great product – and due to the fact that I’m not sure what all was covered under NDA I’ll simply leave this at that!

AMA with Veeam R&D

Earlier when I mentioned one of the biggest benefits of the Vanguard program was access this is basically what I was referring too.  For the rest of the afternoon we basically had a no holds barred, ask me anything session with Anton Gostev, Mike Resseler, Alexy Vasilev, Alec King, Vladimir Eremin, Dmitry Popov, and Andreas Newfert – all Veeam employees who manage, or work very closely with R&D deciding what features are implemented, when they get implemented, and basically define a road map for when these features get inserted into products.  Now this session was definitely NDA as a lot was talked about – but just let me say this was the best and most interesting portion of the whole day!

With so much being under NDA and embargo there isn’t a lot I can tell you about the content – but for those wondering this is just a brief description of how much access you get into Veeam being under the Vanguard label.  Certainly if you wish, I encourage you to apply for the program – you won’t regret it!

Veeam Availability Suite v10 – what we know so far…

Although we got a hint at some of the announcements coming out of VeeamON during partner day on Tuesday it was really the general session Wednesday morning which brought forth the details surrounding what Veeam has in store for the future.  In true Veeam fashion we yet even more innovation and expansion into their flagship Veeam Availability Suite – covering your data protection needs from all things virtual, physical, and cloud.  So without further ado let’s round up some of which we saw during the Wednesday keynote at VeeamON 2017.

 

Veeam Agent Management

It’s no surprise that as soon as Veeam released their support for protecting Windows and Linux physical workloads that customers and partners all begged for integration into VBR.  Today, we are seeing just that as Veeam has wrapped a very a nice management interface around managing backups for both our virtual machines, along with our physical Windows and Linux workloads.  This not only gives us the ability to manage those physical backups within VBR, but also gives us the ability to remotely discover, deploy, and configure the agents for the physical endpoints as well!

Backup and restore for file shares.

Veeam Availability Suite v10 brings with it the ability to backup and restore directly from our file shares.  Basically those SMB shares can be accessed via a UNC share and files backed up and protected by Veeam.  Different from Veeams traditional restore point though, Veeam Backup and Restore for file shares doesn’t necessarily store restore points, but acts almost like a versioning system instead – allowing administrators to state how many days they would like to version the files, whether or not to keep deleted files, and also specify some long term retention around the file.  This is some pretty cool feature set to be added to v10 and I can’t wait to see where this goes – whether the file share functionality can somehow be mapped to the image level backup and work together to restore complete restore points as well as apply any newer file versions that may exist.

Continuous Data Protection for all

Perhaps some of the most exciting news of all is Veeams announcement to support Continuous Data Protection, allowing enterprise and organizations to drastically lower the RPO by default to a whopping 15 second restore point.  Ever since Veeam hit the market their replication strategy has been to snapshot VMs in order to gain access to CBT data and replicate that across.   That said we all recognize the pain points of running our infrastructure with the impact of snapshots.  That’s why, with the new CDP strategy set forth by Veeam today they will utilize VMware vSphere’s Storage APIs for I/O filtering in order to intercept and capture those IO streams to our VMs and immediately replicating the data to another location.  This to me is a huge improvement for an already outstanding RTPO that organizations can leverage Veeam to achieve.  This is truly groundbreaking for Veeam as we can now say have 4 hours of 15 second restore points to chose from.  It’s nice to see a vendor finally take advantage of the APIs set forth by VMware.

vCloud Director Integration into Cloud Connect.

Veeam service providers have been providing many customers the ability to consume both backup and replication as a service – allowing customers to essentially ship off their data to them, allowing the SP to become the DR site.  That said, it’s always just been those VMs that live within just vCenter and vSphere.  Today Veeam announced the support for vCloud Director organizations and units to also take advantage of the Cloud Connect offering – allowing those running vCloud Director to also consume the DR as a Service that Veeam partners have been providing, keeping their virtual datacenters and hardware plans while failing over their environments.

Veeam Availability for AWS

Yeah, you heard that right!   We have seen Veeam hit the market focusing solely on virtualized workloads, slowly moving into the support of physical workloads – and now, supporting the most famous well know public cloud – Amazon AWS.  Cloud always presents risk into an environment, which in turn means that we need something exactly like Veeam Availability for AWS to protect those cloud workloads and ensure our data is always recoverable and available if need be.  In true Veeam fashion though, the solution will be agentless.

Ability to archive older backup files

Veeam v10 now brings with it the ability for us to essentially archive off any backup files as they age in our backup policies off to some cheaper storage.  Now we all know that cloud and archive storage is a great solution for this so guess what – yeah, we know have the ability to create what is called an “Archive Storage” repository which can live on any type of native object storage, be it Amazon or even your own swift integration.  This frees up your primary backup storage performance in order to manage things such as restores, etc. – while the archive storage can do what it does best – hold those large, lesser accessed backup files.

Universal Storage Integration API

For the last few VeeamON events the question of who the next storage vendor would be to integrate into Veeam is always on everyone’s mind.  With the announcement of the new Universal Storage Integration APIs the next storage vendor could literally be anyone.   This is basically an API set that will allow storage vendors to integrate into Veeam – basically giving Veeam the ability to control the array, creating, deleting and removing storage snapshots allowing customers to lower RTO and RPO without ever leaving the familiar Veeam Console.

This honestly just scrapes the surface on some of the announcements Veeam has in store for us this week so stay tuned as there is another keynote tomorrow where I’m sure we will hear more about VBR v10 and also, possibly some NEW product announcements.  For now, it’s off to some deep dives to learn some more about some of these great features!  Thanks for reading

Veeam Availability Orchestrator – Automation for your Disaster Recovery

As a member of the Veeam Vanguards here at VeeamON 2017  we got to spend a couple of hours with Michael White (@mwVme) who gave us an update on Veeam Availability Orchestrator – Veeams’ answer to orchestrating and automating fail-over to their replicated VMs.  Michael certainly is a great choice when looking for someone to evangelize this product as he had a number of examples of DR situations he has either helped with, or orchestrated companies through – which had both good and bad outcomes!  But back to topic – VAO was announced a while back, in fact, over  a year ago Veeam announced their plans for VAO during their “Next big thing” event in April of 2016.  Since then I’ve got to see the application move along through various beta stages and was pleasantly surprised to see how the product has matured as they gear up for their 1.0 release (no, I don’t know when that is).

For those not familiar with VAO let me give you a little bit of a breakdown.  VAO is essentially a wrapper, or an engine that simply interacts with other Veeam products via API calls.  Think Veeam ONE, Veeam Business View, and Veeam Backup & Replication all talking together to one centralized Disaster Recovery Orchestration machine.  As far as the architecture there really isn’t anything special – it’s a web interface, with a SQL backend.   As far as I know the only limitations associated with Veeam Availability Orchestrator are the fact that it is only supported within a VMware environment and that an Enterprise Plus license must be applied to the VBR instance VAO connects to.

So what does VAO do that VBR doesn’t?

Hearing the phrases like “testing our replicas” and “using the Virtual Labs” you might be wondering what exactly VAO does that VBR doesn’t.  I mean, we have the SureReplica technology within VBR and it works great at testing whether or not we can recover so why would we need VAO?  The answer here is really about the details.  Sure, VAO doesn’t re-invent the wheel when it comes to DR testing – why would they force you to reconfigure all of those Virtual Labs again?  They simply import them, along with a lot of information from VBR to use within VAO.  That said though, VAO does much much more.  From what I’ve seen we can basically break VAO down into three separate components.

Orchestration

VAO takes what you have already setup within VBR and allows you to automate and orchestrate around that.  Meaning we already have replicated our VMs to a DR location, setup our fail-over plans and virtual labs, and completed configuration around re-iping and post fail-over scripts to handle our recovery.  VAO takes all of this and adds flexibility into our recovery plans to execute and trigger pre and post fail-over scripts, along with per-VM testing scripts as well.  At the moment we are limited to just PowerShell, however we may see more scripting languages supported come GA time.   Essentially VAO gives us more flexibility in running and trigger external process during a fail-over even than what VBR provides on its’ own.

Automated DR Testing

VAO takes all of this fail-over orchestration and applies this to our testing environments as well.    By giving use the ability to test, and test often we, as organizations can drastically increase our success rate when a true disaster occurs.  Certainly virtualization has really impacted our ability to test DR plans, in a good way – but there are still a lot of challenges when it comes to performing a true test – VAO closes that gap even more.

Dynamic Documentation

Probably the biggest feature in my opinion of VAO is it’s ability to automatically and dynamically create Disaster Recovery documentation.  DR documentation are often overlooked, and left sitting on some file server, stale and not updated at all.  Environments today are under constant change, and when our production environments change so do our DR requirements.  VAO does a good job at dynamically pulling in any new VMs added or older VMs removed and adjusting it’s documentation accordingly.  In the end we are left with some nicely updated documentation and run books to reference when we the time comes that we need them.

All of this said though, to me the true value of VAO really is it’s ability to focus on the details.  From what I’ve seen VAO does a great job at reporting any warnings, errors or failures as it applies to any DR test or fail-over event.  Not just on its’ canned testing scripts (for instance connecting to a mailbox on a failed over exchange server), but on our custom built PowerShell scripts as well.  Without this attention to detail a lot of assumptions and false positives can be “assumed” during a DR test – leaving us left with an inconsistent state during an actual fail-over event.  VAO, in all of its reporting and messaging certainly provides a nice mechanism into the visibility of each and every VM, and each and every task associated with that VM inside of a fail-over plan.

We still don’t have a solid release date on VAO but in true Veeam fashion let me give you this estimate – “When its’ ready” 🙂

What to expect from VeeamON 2017

I’ve had the opportunity to attend both the previous VeeamON conferences in Vegas as well as the mini VeeamON forum last year in the UK and since it’s still a relatively new conference on the scene I thought I’d give everyone a bit of an overview and heads up as what to expect from the event!  Before going to far into how the event is laid out let’s first take a look at the logistics.  While I do like Vegas it tends to get a bit monotonous when it comes to conferences – making them all kind of feel like the same event.  That’s why I was ecstatic to hear that VeeamON 2017 will be held in New Orleans this year from May 16th through the 18th!  So, as Veeam embarks on its’ third VeeamON event I thought I might go over a bit on what to expect for those that may be unfamiliar with the backup vendors availability event.

Expect A LOT of technical information

With over 80 breakout sessions you can most certainly expect to learn something!    The thing about the breakouts in VeeamON though is their level of technicality.  I’ve been to many breakout sessions at other conferences that tend to be pretty marketing heavy – while VeeamON most certainly has a marketing agenda, the sessions themselves are very technical – with a 100 level being the least technical and a 400 level introducing you to things you never even knew existed!  I can honestly say that I was skeptical when attending my first VeeamON – wondering how they could have so many breakout sessions dealing solely with backup – man was I wrong!  Veeam B&R is a big application that touches a lot of different aspects of your infrastructure – think Repository best practices, proxy sizing, automation, best practices, etc.  This year with the addition of new products such as 0365 backup, Agents for Linux/Windows and the many storage integrations with partners you can bet that there will be plenty of content to be shared.

Expect a smaller, more intimate conference

VeeamON, compared to the bigger conferences is relatively small.  With roughly 2500 people in attendance last year and over 3000 expected this year the conference is not as spread out as what you may be used to – which is a good thing!  Honestly, it’s nice being able to keep everything relatively confined to the same space and even nicer to have no crazy lineups to cross the street at the Moscone.  I found that VeeamON made it very easy to find people – whether you are looking for that person or not.  Meaning, don’t be surprised to accidentally run into some Veeam executives in the hallways – or even the CEO in the elevator Smile  The atmosphere during the conference days at VeeamON is nice – not so loud that you can’t have a conversation – the solution exchange isn’t over run with vendors competing to see who has the loudest mic.  It’s a nice, low key conference which makes it easy to have those valuable hallway conversations that are usually the best benefit from any conference.

Expect to learn a little more about the “other hypervisor”

VMworld – the place you go to learn all there is to know about vSphere.  MS Ignite – the place you go to get all your Hyper-V knowledge!  VeeamON – since Veeam B&R supports both vSphere and Hyper-V you are going to hear a lot about both the hypervisors.  You’ll see your typical VMware crowd intermingling with…you know, the other guys,  all in support of the product that is protecting their infrastructure.  I’ve wrote about how the Vanguard program bridges this gap before – and the VeeamON conference is fairly similar in how it brings together the best of both the vSphere and Hyper-V worlds.  As my good friend Angelo Luciani always says “We are all in this together!”

Expect announcements!

This is a given right – every vendor organized conference is always organized around some sort of announcement or product release!  VeeamON 2014 saw the introduction to Endpoint Backup Free Edition, while VeeamON 2015 saw it’s OS counterpart announced with Veeam Backup for Linux!  All the while lifting the lid on some major enhancements and features in their core product Veeam Backup & Replication.  So what will we see this year in New Orleans – your guess is as good as mine.  Veeam just recently had a major event where they announced the evolution of the physical Windows/Linux backup products (Veeam Agent for Windows/Linux) into paid versions coupled with the Veeam Backup Console for centralized management of our endpoints – as well, we saw the release of  Veeam Backup for O365 – What else is left to announce?  I’m sure we will hear more about v10 and some top secret features from it but with all of the other new product announcements one might think there is nothing left to release – but, a wise man who worked for Veeam once told me that they have this shelf containing a lot of products and ideas – you never know when they will take something down off of it Smile

Expect to have ALL your questions answered

Veeam sends a lot of employees, engineers, tech marketing folks to this conference – and I mean A LOT.  Last VeeamON you couldn’t even walk through the Aria casino without running into at least a half dozen Veeam engineers.  What this means is, if you have questions, VeeamON is the perfect venue to ask them.  I can pretty much guarantee you that they will all be answered – there will be a SME on site dealing in the areas you are having trouble with.  So don’t just make VeeamON all about learning – try and get some of those pain points that have been bugging you for a while firmed up while at the conference.  Everyone is approachable and more than willing to give you a few minutes.

Expect an EPIC party

Sometimes you just have to let go right – If you have ever been to a Veeam party at any of the VMworlds you know that Veeam knows how to do just that!  In fact, I’ve heard more than once Veeam being described as a “Drinking company with a backup problem” Smile  I don’t quite see it as being like that but certainly you have to agree that Veeam knows how to throw a party and make you feel welcome.  Whether you are just arriving and hitting up the welcome reception or you are attending their main VeeamON party I know you will have a good time, with good food and good drinks!  Veeam understands that it can’t be all about business all the time – so take the opportunity at the parties to let a little loose and meet someone new!  I’ve made many lifelong friends doing just that!

So there you have it!  Hopefully I’ve helped paint the picture of what VeeamON is like for me and maybe helped you understand it a little more!  I’m super excited for VeeamON in New Orleans this May and I hope to see you there!

Did you know there is a Veeam User Group?

vuglogorevLike most of you I’ve been attending VMUGs for quite a while now and over the last few years I’ve helping out by co-leading the Toronto chapter.  Each and every one I attend I always get some value out of it – whether it’s from presenting sponsors, talking with peers, or just creepily listening to conversations from the corner – one of the challenges we seem to have is getting the “conversation” going – getting those customers and community members sitting in the audience to voice their opinion or even at times get up and do a presentation on something.  For our last meeting I reached out to Matt Crape (@MattThatITGuy) to see if he might be interested in presenting – Matt was quick to simply say yes – yes, but on one condition – do I want to come and present at his Veeam User Group?  So, with that a deal was cut and I headed out this morning to my first Veeam User Group.

Veeam User Group – VMUG with out the ‘M’

Matt runs the Southwest Ontario Veeam User Group (SWOVUG) – I’ve seen the tweets and blogs around the SWOVUG events taking place, and have always wanted to attend but something always seemed to get in the way – for those that know me I’m a huge Veeam user and fan – so these events are right up my alley.  So, I did the early morning thing again, battled the dreaded Toronto traffic and headed up to Mississauga for the day to check it out.

The layout of the meeting is somewhat similar to a VMUG meeting we have – two companies kindly supported the event; HPE and Mid-Range – and in return got the chance to speak.  HPE started with a short but good talk around their products that integrate with Veeam; mainly 3PAR, StoreOnce and StoreVirtual.  They also touched on HP OneView and the fact that they are laser focused on providing API entry points into all their products.

I’m glad HPE didn’t go too deep into the 3PAR integrations as I was up next and my talking points were around just that.  I simply outlined how my day job is benefiting from those said integrations; more specifically the Backup from Storage Snapshot, Restore from Storage Snapshot and On-Demand Sandbox for Storage Snapshots features.

After a quick, but super tasty lunch (Insert Justin Warren disclaimer post here) Mid-Range took the stage  Mid-Range is a local Veeam Cloud Connect partner offering DRaaS and a ton of other services around that.    Mid-Range did more than simply talk about the services they provide – they more-so went into the challenges and roadblocks of consuming disaster recovery as a service, then touched briefly on how Veeam and themselves could help solve some of those…

Finally to cap the day off we had David Sayavong, a local Veeam SE take the stage to talk to us about “What’s new in version 9.5?”.  David’s presentation was not just him up there flipping through slides of features, but more of a conversation around certain features such as ReFS integration and how all of the new Veeam Agents will come into play.  Just a fun fact for the day – the audience was asked who had already upgraded to 9.5 – and honestly around 1/3 of the room raised their hands.  That’s 33% that have already upgraded to a product that just GA’ed only 7 days ago – talk about instilling confidence in your customers.

Anyways I wanted to breifly outline the day for those that may be thinking of attending like I was, but haven’t yet set aside the time to do so.

But there’s more…

I mentioned at the beginning of the post that there is always struggles with getting people to “speak up” – this didn’t seem to be the case at the Veeam User Group.  I’m not sure what it was but conversations seemed to be flying all over the place – for instance, after I was done talking about the integration with 3PAR there was a big conversation that started around Ransomware and security.    Each presentation seemed more like a round table discussion than a sales pitch.  It truly was a great day with lots of interaction from the both the presenting companies and the audience – everything you want from user group.

The user group intrigued me – and maybe some day I’ll through my name in to try and get something started up on “my side of Toronto” – it’s Canada right – there’s only a handful of IT guys here so everything east of Toronto is mine Smile  For more information about the Veeam User Groups keep an eye out on the Veeam Events page and @veeamug on Twitter!  And to keep track of the SWOVUG dates I suggest following @MattThatITGuy and watching the swovug.ca site!  Good job Matt and team on a great day for all!

Does Veeam Backup from Storage Snapshot make things faster?

veeamlogoLater on this week I’m getting the chance to present at my first ever Veeam User Group – My topic – Veeam & 3PAR  Now as I was preparing some slides and asking around/researching the community I came to the realization that some people may be under some false pretenses as it pertains to the Veeam Backup from Storage Snapshot feature.  For the most part I see people under the assumption that backing up from a storage snapshot is all about speed – however in my experiences it really hasn’t been.  Now that’s not to say it isn’t faster, it most certainly could be, but not for any reasons that it is actually copying the data out faster, but for the reasons that it speeds up other functions of the backup process.  To help with this, let’s take a look at both the “traditional” Veeam backup process and the Backup from Storage Snapshot Process

Traditional Veeam Backups

Veeam performs a lot of tasks when it completes a backup of a vSphere VM – but for the sake of this post, let’s just take a look at how it handles snapshots.  The traditional Veeam backup process can essentially be broken down into three major steps

  1. Veeam instructs vCenter to take a snapshot of the source VM
  2. Veeam utilizes CBT data and copies those blocks which have changed to the target.
  3. Veeam instructs vCenter to delete the snapshot of the source VM.

Looking at it like this it appears to be quite simple but there are a lot of challenges with this.  First up, the copying of data step – this could potentially take a long time depending on the initial size and change rate of your virtual machines.  During this time, the VMware snapshot will continue to grow – which could possible double in size.  When Veeam finally gets to step 3, the snapshot deletion, VMware is forced to copy all of those changed blocks that were written while the backup was running back into original vmdk – this process can and usually does involve a large amount of reads and writes, which most certainly affects the performance of our VM.  On top of this VMware attempts to ‘stun’ the virtual machine by creating yet another snapshot to help with the removal – now if our VMs are generating data fast enough we could experience an overall loss of responsiveness as our storage tries to catch up.  Now VMware has made a lot of changes as to how they consolidate and remove snapshots in vSphere 6 which I suggest you read about – but the issues of having to have an active VMware snapshot during the backup process remain….

Backup from Storage Snapshot

When Veeam performs a backup from a Storage Snapshot it is able to discard of the vSphere snapshot in a much more efficient way – we can break down the steps below…

  1. Veeam instructs vCenter to take a snapshot of the source VM
  2. Veeam instructs the storage array to take a SAN snapshot of the LUN containing the source VM
  3. Veeam instructs vCenter to delete the snapshot of the source VM. (Happens on production LUN)
  4. Veeam utilizes CBT and the VM snapshot data that still exists on the Storage Snapshot to copy out changed blocks to the target
  5. Veeam instructs the storage array to discard the SAN Snapshot

So how does this help you ask?  We still see the VMware snapshot being created.  The difference here is that Steps 1-3 take literally seconds.  The vSphere Snapshot is created, SAN Snapshot is created, then the vSphere snapshot is discarded immediately after.  Due to the nature of SAN Snapshots this essentially redirects all changed writes to our production LUN while leaving our snapshot LUN available for backup processing – all the while removing the requirement of having the VMware snapshot open for the backup duration.  At the end of the backup process, the SAN Snapshot is simply discarded…

So, is Backup from Storage Snapshot faster – well, it depends.  Sure, it does speed things up, but not in a data copy/processing way – more so in a snapshot commit way.  In a Backup from Storage Snapshot job, our VMware snapshot is only open for a little time, therefore it shouldn’t take as long to consolidate it as if it were open for the complete backup job.  That said, the real value of the Backup from Storage Snapshot comes from the short VMware snapshot commit time – and the no stun, more so than any decrease of the backup time.

So there you have it – just my two cents for the day!  And hey, if you are in or around Toronto/Mississauga on Wednesday be sure to register and stop by the Veeam User Group!

Thanks for reading!

Friday Shorts – VMware, Veeam, Docker and Community

Dreams are important!  Otherwise, sleep is just 8 hours of nothing. – MacGyver

vSphere 6.5 is here!

VMware LogoNDA’s have been lifted and the flood gates have opened in terms of bloggers around the world talking about vSphere 6.5!  Now that the product has finally been declared GA we can all go ahead and download it today!  Certainly the new HTML5 client, the addition of a more functional vCenter Server Appliance and built-in disk level encryption are enough to make me want to make the jump…eventually 🙂  That said there is a lot that is new with vCenter and ESXi – you can check it all out here.

Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 is here!

veeamlogoAnd just as VMware releases it’s flagship hypervisor software to the masses Veeam follows behind one day later with the support and availability back it all up with their updated release of version 9.5 of Backup & Replication.  There is a lot that’s new within this release – check it all out here!  With Nimble support and a ton of integration with other Veeam products such as the Veeam Agents this release has a lot – but perhaps some of my favourite enhancements will be the ones that will probably not be written about the most and that’s all of the engine enhancements and things like the vSphere inventory cache.  As with most Veeam releases I’m sure this one will be well adopted!

Tech Field Day 12 – that’s a wrap!

tfd-logo-100x100I’ve just returned home from Tech Field Day 12 in beautiful San Jose!  I say beautiful but I was told it was cold by multiple people there – that said, I’m Canadian, and 18C in the middle of November is not my idea of cold 🙂  Either way I sat with 11 of my peers around the TFD table for a couple of days and got blasted by the fire hose.  There was some great presenting companies there; think Dell-EMC, DriveScale, Rubrik, Cohesity, StorageOS, Docker, and Igneous.  Expect more in this space about what these guys had to talk about but for now if you want to check out the videos you can do so – links are all over here.

Fancy some community recognition!

Ah, November – cooler air, the transition from Halloween to Christmas – and of course, a flurry of forms to fill out if you’d like to be included in any vendor/community recognition programs.  Most of these things require you to nominate yourself – so suck up any pride as you may have to get a little self absorbed while you try and brag yourself up.  Recognition programs are a funny thing – Some are great, some are so-so – I’m not going to go into the details of each.  If you want a great spot to see a list of them all Jim Jones has a great post outlining everything here.  And to get a glimpse into one of my favourties, the Veeam Vanguard program – check out Matt Crapes post here.  I’ve also been invited to the KEMP VIP program – which is new to me so expect to see more about that as well in the future.

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Docker

docker-logo-300-71x60I feel like I can’t attend any presentation anymore without hearing the work Docker – honestly, containers and Docker is just popping up everywhere – with the oddest of technologies claiming they have support for Docker.  So, with all this my problem is, What the eff is Docker – I’ve never had a use-case to even start looking at containers within my day job – therefore, I don’t really have that much knowledge around the challenges and benefits of them.  After seeing them at TFD I can now say that I need to explore this further – and jump on this container bandwagon to learn what they are all about.  First stop, Mr Stephen Foskett’s blog where he tells us just “What the deal with containers are“.  If you are just learning, or just love containers – check it out!