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How to Build Better Protection for Your Applications and Data

When it comes to business continuity and disaster recovery, the stakes are higher than ever for IT. Your company depends on you to protect their most important data and apps against downtime. But you may not have adequate solutions in place to safeguard your business.

VMware virtualization can help. Based on the core vSphere platform, organizations can implement disaster recovery, data protection and business continuity solutions. And now putting them into production is easier, with our Tech Tips for Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery (BC/DR). Whether you’re just getting started with expanding virtualization for added BC/DR capabilities, or are looking for ways to improve your level of protection, these Tech Tips will help you:

  • Simplify management and set up dependable, space-efficient backup and recovery with vSphere Data Protection. You’ll get tips on how to:
    • Determine how much backup data capacity is right for your organization.
    • Set up effective retention policies to optimize bandwidth consumption and storage efficiency.

  • Lower your cost of disaster recovery by up to 50 percent with vCenter Site Recovery Manager. Get recommendations on ways to:
    • Start small with just one application or service, then build out your disaster recovery plan.
    • Use priority groups and dependencies to prioritize which VMs start at a recovery site.
    • Build multiple recovery plans to define sets of VM machines that fail over together.
  • Apply native cloud-based disaster recovery with vCloud Air Disaster Recovery. We’ll share advice on how to:
    • Choose the service subscription plan that’s right for your specific needs.
    • Define your disaster recovery policy settings based on the priority of your applications.
    • Run a test recovery operation to verify that everything is properly configured and working as planned.

You’ll find these and many more suggestions in the VMware Tech Tips for Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery

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VMware Virtual SAN & vSphere HA Recommendations

This post originally appeared on the vSphere blog.

VSANRecently I’ve participated in a number of discussions around Virtual SAN and vSphere HA where a couple of great and interesting questions have been brought up with regards to Virtual SAN and vSphere HA interoperability and behavior.

For the most part, the discussions have been around vSphere HA and how it works and supports network partitions and isolation events for Virtual SAN enabled clusters. Those concerns required a bit more detail to provide the adequate technical guidance.

Before diving into the details, let me start with an official statement about Virtual SAN and vSphere HA. vSphere HA fully supports and is integrated with Virtual SAN. This support required some changes in vSphere HA which impact vSphere HA behavior and result in some unique Virtual SAN related configuration considerations for vSphere HA.

In this post I will detail the following information and recommendations:

  • Architecture Changes Impacting Isolation and Partition Support
  • Heartbeat Datastore Recommendations
  • Host Isolation Address Recommendations
  • Isolation Response Recommendations

Architecture Changes Impacting Isolation and Partition Support

In vSphere 5.5 anytime HA is enabled in a cluster that is also enabled for Virtual SAN, the vSphere HA FDM agents and heartbeating monitoring operations use the Virtual SAN network instead of the Management Network(s).

The modifications to the design and behavior of vSphere HA were made in order to prevent network partition events for non-overlapping partitions as illustrated here:

  • HA partition A: hosts esxi-01, 05, 06
  • Virtual SAN partition A: hosts esxi-01, 02, 03
  • HA partition B: hosts esxi-02, 03, 04
  • Virtual SAN partition B: hosts esxi-04, 05, 06

HA-VSAN non-uniform partition

Such partitions are hard to reason about and troubleshoot. They would also have required significant additional HA logic to support.

The “same networks” constraint leads to simpler partitions. The desired and actual behavior is illustrated here:

  • HA & Virtual SAN partition A: hosts esxi-01, 02, 03
  • HA & Virtual SAN partition B: hosts esxi-04, 05, 06

HA-VSAN uniform partition

In a vSphere 5.5 Virtual SAN enabled cluster, Virtual SAN datastores are not utilized by the vSphere HA agents as a means for monitoring partitioned or isolated hosts. This is because during a partition or isolation event the impacted hosts will not have been able to access the heartbeat information stored on the Virtual SAN datastore.

In a scenario where a partition event occurs, the heartbeat information would have been accessible to only one segment of the cluster therefore defeating the purpose. Virtual SAN utilizes a proprietary mechanism in partition or isolation scenarios that prevents data corruption and as a byproduct, would have prevented all hosts from accessing the heartbeat information.

Heartbeat Datastore Recommendation

Heartbeat datastores are not necessary in a Virtual SAN cluster, but like in a non-Virtual SAN cluster, if available, they can provide additional benefits. VMware recommends provisioning Heartbeat datastores when the benefits they provide are sufficient to warrant any additional provisioning costs.

For example, if you are using converged networking, provisioning Heartbeat datastores can be quite expensive since separate switch infrastructure should be used for providing each host with access to a fault-isolated datastore. Hence, there is a higher cost to realizing the benefits. However, if you already have multiple physical networks, the cost of setting up an iSCSI or NFS datastore could be much lower.

Heartbeat Datastores provide the following benefits:

  • They allow vCenter to report the actual state of a partitioned or isolated host rather than reporting that it appears to have failed
  • For non-Virtual SAN VMs, they increase the likelihood that a FDM master will respond to a VM that fails after its host becomes partitioned or isolated.
  • They prevent vSphere HA from causing VM MAC address conflicts on the VM network after a host isolation or partition when the VM network is not affected by the event. The conflict will exist until the original instance is powered off, which for a partition would occur automatically only after the partition was resolved

Heartbeat datastores provide these benefits by allowing an FDM master agent to determine if a non-responsive host is isolated, partitioned or dead and if alive, which VMs are running on that host.

Only use a datastore that all hosts will be able to access during a Virtual SAN network partition or isolation event. If you are already using a non-Virtual SAN datastore in a Virtual SAN cluster, there is no need to add another datastore just for heartbeating if the existing datastores are fault isolated from the Virtual SAN network.

To that end, look at your design holistically. For example, If you add an iSCSI datastore as a Heartbeat datastore and your Management, Virtual SAN and iSCSI vmkernal interfaces all use the same 10GbE link, you won’t be getting the same benefit as you would if the Virtual SAN and iSCSI interfaces used different links. In the first example, if the 10GbE link fails even with a Heartbeat datastore, the FDM master won’t be able to determine if non-responsive slaves are isolated or dead.

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What’s New with vSphere Data Protection 5.8 and vSphere Replication 5.8

This post originally appeared on the vSphere Blog

Along with all of the announcements at VMworld 2014, I am happy to report on the latest versions of vSphere Data Protection (VDP) and vSphere Replication. As most of you may already know, there are two editions of VDP: VDP, which is included with vSphere Essentials Plus Kit and higher editions, and VDP Advanced, which is purchased separately. vSphere Replication is included with vSphere Essentials Plus Kit and higher editions. This article highlights the most prominent new features and updates in VDP Advanced and vSphere Replication.

VDP Advanced

Perhaps the number one feature request we heard was supporting the backup and recovery of databases on SQL Server AlwaysOn and Failover Clusters. The other was Exchange DAG support. With vSphere Data Protection Advanced 5.8, you get both! The VDP Advanced agents for SQL Server and Exchange have been updated to support these high availability solutions including the ability to select a replica backup policy such as “prefer secondary” for SQL Server AlwaysOn or “prefer passive” for Exchange DAG.

sqlserver alwayson backup

VDP Advanced has further enhanced its replication capabilities to enable “Replicate and Restore Anywhere”. Replicated backup data can be re-replicated – either back to the source location or another location. Examples – Scenario 1: I back up data at Site A with VDP Advanced and replicate the backup data to VDP Advanced at Site B. If needed, I could replicate that backup data (again) from Site B to Site C. Scenario 2: If Site A were to sustain a disaster and the original VDP Advanced appliance is lost, I could deploy a new VDP Advanced appliance, “Recover replicated backups” from Site B, and restore data in Site A.

recover replicated backups

It is now possible to deploy external proxies with VDP Advanced enabling more efficient backups in remote locations where the VDP Advanced appliance does not have direct access to the storage on which protected VMs are running, e.g., a separate cluster or remote site. An external proxy also supports VMs with Linux Logical Volume Manager (LVM) and EXT4 file systems.

Reporting has improved in VDP Advanced 5.8. If there is a task failure, detailed client log information can be viewed in the VDP Advanced UI and saved to a text file. In addition to information on backup jobs, replication jobs, and automated backup verification jobs, a list of unprotected clients, i.e., VMs not currently included in a backup job, is available. These reports can be exported to CSV files.

vdp unprotected clients

vSphere Replication

The primary new feature of vSphere Replication 5.8 is the integration of replication to a cloud provider such as VMware vCloud Air. When configuring vSphere Replication for a VM, the first step is selecting replication to a vCenter Server environment (on premise) or a cloud provider.

vr config vcloud

This makes it easy to configure, manage, and monitor vSphere Replication both on premise and to the cloud using the vSphere Web Client.

vr monitoring

vSphere Replication reporting has also improved. Various graphs and charts are available including Replicated VMs (by VC), Replicated VMs (by Host), RPO Violations, and Transferred Bytes.

vr reports

The items above are in addition to numerous bug fixes. Those details will be available in the release notes for each product.

Follow me on Twitter: @jhuntervmware

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New Offer Designed for Remote and Branch Offices (ROBO): vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Standard and Advanced Editions

Post by Mike Rose, VMware Systems Engineer

At VMworld 2014 in San Francisco, VMware introduced the VMware vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Standard and Advanced Editions.  You can read more about this announcement in Sai Gopalan’s blog post from September 9th 2014.  These new editions are designed specifically for IT infrastructure located in remote, distributed sites. These new offerings will allow us to provide new and existing customers of all sizes with enhanced service level, standardization and availability capabilities for remote and branch office locations (See a short 3 minute Product Video). It’s important that we spend a moment to reflect on these changes because the changes are significant, for the better, and it is important we know all the details in order to properly license our ROBO environments.

Today, vSphere Remote Office Branch Office offerings are now available in two flavors:

  • vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Standard
  • vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Advanced

This is different from the previous offerings of vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus for Retail and Branch Office or generally referred to as Essentials/Essentials Plus for ROBO (old ROBO kits).  It is important to highlight these differences because now, the Standard and Advanced editions of ROBO, contain different vSphere features sets that were once not available with the previous editions of ROBO.  We also added more flexibility in the deployment methods you can use with ROBO and removed some restrictions.  So here is what you can expect from the new ROBO kit offerings.

  • A more robust feature set
  • New and easier licensing model
  • Fewer restrictions
  • More flexibility with vCenter Server
  • Clear conversion process for existing customers who have purchased vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus for Retail and Branch Offices

A more robust feature set

Let’s take a look at how the old ROBO kits compares with the new vSphere Remote Office Branch Office editions (based on ESXi version 5.5 Update 2) in terms of vSphere features. The below chart outlines these differences in the old and new kits as well as highlights the feature additions in the two new ROBO kits.  It’s important to call out the new features as you will see the addition of Fault Tolerance and Storage vMotion is now included in the Standard edition and additionally vSphere Distributed Switch, Host Profile and Auto Deploy are now included in the Advanced edition.

  •  Please note that although not included on the slide, the Hot Add feature is included in both editions of vSphere Remote Office Branch Office offerings.

It is easy to see that the features of the vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Standard are have additional features over the old Essentials Plus for Retail and Branch Offices (storage vMotion, Fault Tolerance) and the Advanced edition has some key additional features that were previously available only on the per-CPU vSphere Enterprise Plus editions.  vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Advanced has the features of vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Standard with the addition of vDS, Host Profiles and Auto Deploy features.

New and easier licensing model

Gone are the socket based licenses that came with the old ROBO kit.  Instead we are simply offering a 25 Virtual Machine pack bundle for both Standard and Advanced.  The great thing about this is you can now simply divide and deploy any number of these VM licenses within that same pack across any number of sites.  For example, if a customer has 5 sites, each running 5 workloads/virtual machines, he/she can simply buy 1 pack of the new vSphere Remote Office Branch Office edition and distribute the VMs in the pack across the 5 sites.

  • vSphere Remote Office Branch Office offerings will be available in packs of 25 Virtual Machines priced at
    • $3,000 for the Standard edition
    • $4,500 for the Advanced edition
    • (Note: All reference pricing above is suggested MSRP for the US, in USD. Regional prices will vary).

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Live from VMworld Europe: Announcing Updates to VMware’s Software and Cloud Services Portfolio to Help You Innovate, Compete, and Succeed

Today at VMworld® Europe 2014, we announced updates to our cloud management, hybrid cloud, and virtual workspace solutions that allow IT to be more nimble and automated, empowering you to deliver the apps that drive revenue and competitive advantage faster and more reliably than ever. Hear these announcements first-hand by visiting VMware NOW and read on for the full details.

Realize the Potential of Comprehensive Software-Defined Data Center Management– The latest VMware product updates bring all management tools under a single family name—VMware vRealize™—as the next step in our management product evolution, offering a breadth of solutions that only VMware can deliver. 

VMware’s cloud management solutions are optimized for VMware vSphere® and also offer a unified management experience across physical systems, other hypervisor platforms, and public cloud services such as VMware vCloud® Air™ (formerly vCloud® Hybrid Service™), Amazon Web Services, or those based on OpenStack.

  • vRealize™ Operations™ 6.0 (formerly VMware vCenter™ Operations Management Suite™) — Features a re-platformed architecture that can deliver up to 8x greater scalability with unified management across vSphere and other domains. Analytics, smart alerts and problem detection capabilities identify complex issues and then recommend automated tasks that streamline remediation before problems impact users.
  • VMware vRealize™ Operations Insight™ 6.0 – Extends intelligent operations management beyond vSphere to include operating systems, physical servers, storage and networking hardware, as well as new predictive capacity and project management across physical and virtual environments. Now smart alerts include automated remediation to take operations speed and efficiency to the next level.
  • VMware vRealize™ Log Insight™ 2.5 (formerly VMware vCenter™ Log Insight™) — Delivers powerful log management across physical, virtual and cloud environments, now offering better integration with vRealize Operations to help improve performance and avoid disruption. Today, more than 20 Log Insight content packs are available on VMware Solution Exchange, supporting leading IT providers such as Cisco and Microsoft.
  • VMware vRealize™ Air™ Compliance (Beta) – Quickly measures and reports on configuration compliance of vSphere environments. This event-driven change detection solution delivers a simple at-a-glance view of configuration compliance against a variety of security and regulatory content, including the VMware published Hardening Guide.

Read more on the new capabilities of the vRealize cloud management family in the full press release.

Gain Choice and Control with Hybrid Cloud Expansions – vCloud Air expands to Germany, demonstrating VMware’s ongoing commitment to providing customers everywhere access to an easy, fast path to achieve the agility and efficiency of the public cloud, while enabling them to meet local data compliance and sovereignty regulations. In addition, the vCloud Air Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand Early Access Program will be available for purchase on November 17, 2014, in Northern California, Virginia, and the United Kingdom.  Read more about these vCloud Air expansions in the full press release.

Experience the Secure Virtual Workspace for Work at the Speed of Life – New end-user computing products, programs and services further expand virtual desktop solutions from VMware, including Horizon® FLEX™, which allows employees to bring their own laptops while enabling IT to support Macs in their business.

  • VMware Horizon FLEX –A local solution that enables the quick deployment of virtual Windows desktops to Mac and PC users so companies can embrace BYOPC policies without compromising security or control
  • VMware Horizon® Air™ Desktop DR – New cloud service that enables organizations to easily protect their business and ensure workforce continuity with affordable cloud-hosted desktops and apps. In the event of a disaster, end-users can be productive instantly, from any device, anywhere, with a secure workspace connected to corporate resources. Horizon Air Desktop DR is part of the Horizon® Air™ family of desktop cloud services (formerly known as Horizon® DaaS®) that also includes cloud-hosted desktops and apps.
  • VMware Horizon Air European Expansion – The complete line-up of VMware End-User Computing hosted cloud services that includes VMware Horizon Air Desktops, VMware Horizon Air Apps and VMware Horizon Desktop DR will expand  to new locations  in France and Germany.  As a result global customers with employees in France, Germany and U.K. will be able to take advantage of the agility and speed of VMware cloud services.
  • VMware App Volumes™ — Provides just-in-time application delivery at scale   to virtualized desktop environments. IT can use App Volumes to build a real-time application delivery system that enables applications to be centrally managed, always available, and always up-to-date, at lower costs and without compromising end-user experience. Learn More
  • VMware Horizon Fast Track 2.0 Program – This new program helps customers accelerate the adoption and deployment of virtual desktops by offering access to validated partners, reference architectures and converged appliances for exceptional performance and predictable scale and cost.  Highlights include:
    • Turnkey Appliances Program – Validated, converged and scalable appliances that help customers rapidly deploy virtual desktops.
    • Validated Reference Architectures Program – Implementation blueprints for storage, networking and servers to ensure interoperability with VMware Horizon.
    • Proven Storage Program – Storage solutions certified to offer predictable performance for 1,000 and 2,000 seat VMware Horizon deployments

Read more on the updates to the VMware end-user computing solutions in the full press release.

See the full coverage of what was announced today at VMworld Europe on VMware NOW  to hear more about how VMware is delivering solutions to help your SMB innovate, compete, and succeed in today’s mobile-cloud era.

How To Seed a vCloud Air Disaster Recovery Replication Without Downtime

This post originally appeared on the vCloud Blog

In a recent blog post, VMware’s Chris Colotti shows step-by-step how to replicate a virtual machine in vCloud Air Disaster Recovery at a faster speed through data seeding.

With data seeding, you run the risk of a huge data transfer reduction. But there is a silver lining – you trade off the loss of data for a faster replication. To validate the process, Chris compared the results of three different methods:

1. Full ground up replication to establish an initial sync time


2. Traditional vCloud Connector data seeding


3. Live vSphere clone with vCloud Connector data seeding


Visit Chris Colotti’s blog for results and complete instructions on how to seed the replication using Offline Data Transfer without the need to power off the source machine!

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IT is the Cornerstone of Your Business. Shouldn’t You Protect It?

We’ve all heard about the cost savings you can get from virtualizing your infrastructure. But did you know that virtualization can also dramatically improve disaster recovery and business continuity (BCDR)?

In today’s competitive environment, your business can’t afford a minute of downtime. Even a short outage can impact your revenue, productivity, and your company’s reputation.

VMware can help your business up & running. Learn how in our paper, “5 Ways Virtualization Can Protect Your Business Now.” We’ll discuss how virtualizing with VMware can help you improve your BCDR strategy, including:

  • Simplified backup and recovery—Learn how vSphere Data Protection gives you total protection for your virtual infrastructure and your most important applications so you can minimize downtime and avoid lost data. With VMware tools you already know, deployment and management are fast, simple, and intuitive.
  • Protection against hardware and software failures—The quicker your team can spot a failure and respond to it, the better you can safeguard your business. VMware solutions protect your entire virtualized environment from failures at the physical server or OS level, and help ensure nonstop application availability.
  • Get protection from site-level failures—Virtualization lets you easily recover from site-level failures that can cost weeks of productivity. Discover how vSphere Replication makes it easy for you to easily replicate virtual machines to a recovery site.
  • Handle maintenance with zero downtime—Upgrading and patching hardware and software is important, but it’s time consuming for your team and might involve taking your applications offline. VMware solutions enable live migration of running virtual machines and virtual machine disk files, giving your IT teams the agility and flexibility they need to support other areas of the business.
  • Improve visibility across your virtualized environment—Without a single view of your IT environment, you’ll need to spend time and money managing and monitoring different administrative tools. vSphere with Operations Management delivers insight into the health, resource utilization, and capacity consumption of your entire virtualized environment.