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The Importance of Foresight: Disaster Recovery for the Modern Age of Finance

sergio_seabra_bwBy Sergio Seabra

In the ever-shifting world of finance, it has become increasingly important to prepare and cater for all contingencies. This is done to not only protect the institution, but customers as well.

It can be argued that the ability to maintain data availability is central to the endeavor. As such, in my little corner of the world, the powers that be stipulated that: in the event of any sort of major setback in a financial institution, the organization would have to provide the means (as well as proof), that a disaster recovery (DR) plan was not only in effect, but also, that a successful trial-run had already taken place.

These environments tend to be quite complex and while some may had already taken measures to, at the very least, have some form of DR, many were taken by surprise and unable to comply by the time the by-laws were published.

But in all fairness, even those that already had a DR plan in place still have had to deal with a predominantly manual process spanning dozens of operatives, and hundreds, if not thousands of manual steps.

In this turmoil, a shining beacon of hope presented itself, and vCenter Site Recovery Manager (SRM) is its name. I know; a little overdramatic perhaps, but in this particular context the importance of this single piece of software should not be understated.

By now most of you are aware of the product’s capabilities, but to be quite blunt, at the time of its release, it revealed itself as quite the lifesaver; it was a perfect fit for this new but most pressing requirement.

VMware already accounted for more than 90 percent of the virtual Datacenter footprint, and the mere possibility of automating most (if not all) of the tedious DR-required tasks, had all these institutions (quite literally) scrambling to deploy the solution.

After all, it seemingly brought order to chaos and more importantly, allowed for testing and reporting against the success of each iteration. Prototyping an entire multi-tier recovery became almost as run-of-the-mill as any other vCenter operation.

One would think that by nature, such capabilities would entail a very complex process, but the truth of the matter is this: at its most basic, the building blocks of SRM are quite straightforward, simply requiring some form of storage replication between sites, and the configuration of logical containers and associated boot procedures within SRM’s user interface.

The software even catered to an array’s process automation, managing all the needed built-in replication procedures (i.e., snapshot creation and removal, LUN presentation to the hosts, replication reversal, etc.).

And that was it! The market demanded it, and VMware was front and centre with a very feasible and elegant solution to what was until then, quite a complex and time-consuming procedure.

Of course, nowadays, the software’s capabilities have been greatly extended, and we can, for instance, interface with Orchestrator. In doing so, the possibilities are practically boundless, but still and at its very core, SRM maintains the same simplicity of configuration that provided such an effective time-to-market as when originally released.

To illustrate this point, I’ll leave you with the following infographic. In it, I depict the “meager 5” main levels of SRM requirements needed to establish a full and effective DR plan for any virtual workload.

SSeabra_SRM Objects

Sergio Seabra is a Technical Account Manager based in Portugal. He has a background in Electronics and Telecommunications, and has been employed in the IT field in one form or another for the past 20 years working on some of Europe's largest telco projects. Currently, he is a VMware TAM engaged mainly with enterprise accounts.

Better Together: VMware Hands-On Labs and Technical Account Managers

By Adam Eckerle

VMware HOLI've been traveling the Midwest lately speaking at VMUGs, USERCons, and vForum events. It's been a whirlwind few months talking to many people and answering questions on various topics, such as, “What's new with VMware vSphere 6?” “What are some new possibilities with technologies like VMware NSX and VMware vRealize Automation?” And—most of all—trying to answer the question, "How does a person keep up with all this new technology?" It certainly isn't easy, but there are tools available that can help. One such tool I've been amazingly lucky to be a part of has been VMware Hands-On Labs (HOLs). In my travels I've been completely amazed at how many people are not yet aware of this really awesome tool.

So what are HOLs? Think of an HOL as a large cloud environment where hundreds, or even thousands, of lab environments are spun up, used and torn down simultaneously. A lab environment could consist of a few virtual machines or complex environments with virtual ESX hosts, VMware vCenter, NSX, vRealize Automation, etc. Some of the largest labs have upwards of 25 virtual machines and half a terabyte of storage. A user can login, browse the catalog of available labs—which, by the way, includes nearly 60 pre-built, fully functional lab environments already available—and deploy any lab of their choosing. Once deployed the user has full access to that environment for up to four hours. There are no guardrails or training wheels. If you want to go in and shut down your ESXi hosts – you can do that. But your lab will be very short!

The best part about all of this is that it is completely FREE and available 24x7x365 across the world. You are guided through each lab environment by the accompanying lab manual, which guides you from setting up the lab through some learning exercises. However, if you are brave, you can ignore the lab manual and just dig right in on your own. No guardrails, remember? Some primary reasons people love the HOLs is that they can try out VMware products—as well as partner products—and have a guided learning experience. You can take a look at something like vRealize Automation without spending hours downloading the software and then installing and configuring it. There are also partner labs where you can see integrations into VMware software. For example, HOL-PRT-1468 is an InfoBlox lab that shows the IPAM (IP Address Management) integration into vRealize Automation and VMware vCenter Orchestrator. So it’s not just about VMware! HOLs are a really great resource if you ask me – but then again I may be a bit biased.

Can you guess what can make Hands-On Labs even better? If you guessed, “Combine a Hands-On Lab with your VMware Technical Account Manager,” then you are right! As a Technical Account Manager (TAM) customer, you have a really unique opportunity. Something I’ve found to be very successful, and even fun, has been sitting down with my customers and going through some HOLs together. This facilitates a great learning experience, but it is also enhanced by the questions and discussions that result from participating in an HOL as a group. TAM customers should absolutely ask their TAMs to go through HOLs with them; I know your TAM will be happy to do so.

Something else that is interesting about HOLs is that they aren't built by a group of people who are hidden away and inaccessible. All of the HOLs are built by volunteers – Sales Engineers, Technical Marketing Engineers, and even TAMs. So if you're going through a lab and have questions, we can put you in contact with the small teams who actually built and produced the lab. Sometimes this even leads to improvements in the labs and occasional corrections in the lab manuals. I mentioned we're all volunteers, right?

Finally, I think it is important to point out that we do have a lab development cycle. The cycle begins every year in March by assembling the teams of volunteers for each HOL. There is a 2–3 month development cycle to prepare the labs for VMworld U.S., which typically runs in August. Once VMworld U.S. is done, there is a small window for changes to the labs leading up to VMworld EU. There may be some exceptions, such as if new products—or major version releases of existing products—get launched, and a HOL may get released outside of VMworld as a result of this; but in general all the new labs that we're currently developing will be released in August at VMworld U.S.

In summary, the VMware Hands-On Labs are an amazing learning and product evaluation tool that's completely free and accessible from anywhere (with an Internet connection) and from any device. I've personally used the HOL instead of spending thousands of dollars on a home lab, but there are so many other reasons to leverage this resource. All that's needed to sign up is an email address. Take a look at http://labs.hol.vmware.com – there are even some introductory videos to help get you started. I encourage you to speak with your TAM about the labs you're interested in, or, if you’ve already taken HOLs, to provide feedback. We want to make sure this resource brings the most possible value to you and your organization so ANY feedback is always welcome! Thanks for reading and have fun in the labs!



Adam is currently a TAM for VMware who works with a small number of large Enterprise & Government customers as a consultant within the VMware Professional Services Organization (PSO). Adam provides technical guidance and advocacy to his customers and provides customers access to exclusive content, access to road maps & product managers, as well as being the single point of contact for everything VMware-related. He currently holds VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD, VCAP-DTD, EMCISA, and several Cisco Data Center Specialist certifications. Connect with Adam on LinkedIn.