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Pop Quiz: Take the DR Challenge for a Chance to Win a Pass to VMworld 2015!

Have you mastered your organization’s disaster recovery plan? Think you know the answers to, “When did we last test our plan?” or “How much would an hour of downtime cost?” If so, we want to give you a chance to put your knowledge to the test.

Last year, we launched the first DR Challenge and invited our audience to test their disaster recovery know-how. The participation was so great we’ve decided to bring it back! Sign up for this year’s DR Challenge and try your hand at three quizzes designed to test your mastery of cloud-based disaster recovery facts. A perfect score enters you into a drawing for a free pass to VMworld 2015!

The challenge begins February 12th, and runs through March 25th.  You’ll have roughly 2 weeks to take each quiz. Register now to get started:

Quiz Challenge 1: Feb. 12 – Feb. 25   

Quiz Challenge 2: Feb. 26 – Mar. 11

Quiz Challenge 3: Mar. 12 – Mar. 25

You’re free to take the quiz as many times as you want, but you only need to ace it once to be entered to win the grand prize. (We have faith you can do it, but just in case, we’ll also offer hints along the way.)

Click here to sign up for the DR Challenge. We’ll announce the winners at the end of each challenge, so stay tuned on our social channels. Good luck, everyone!

To learn more about vCloud Air Disaster Recovery, visit us at vCloud.VMware.com.

Could You Get More Bang for Your Virtualization Buck?

Many small and midsize businesses are putting virtualization to work to consolidate servers, cut costs, and increase IT agility. That’s all wonderful news, of course, but the story doesn’t stop there. Now it’s time to ask yourself if you could get even more value from your virtualization investments.

This topic is explored in a new VMware white paper that highlights five ways to take your virtualization environment to a new level. This quick-to-read paper draws on key findings from a recent Management Insight study that found the addition of robust management capabilities can drive 20 to 40 percent gains in key performance metrics for a virtualization environment.

In more specific terms, the paper explores the gains made by adding management capabilities to your VMware vSphere® environment, putting your organization on the path to five quantifiable business benefits: improved capacity utilization, cost savings, strong ROI, business continuity, and greater efficiencies.

The bottom line? When you add robust management capabilities to a vSphere environment with VMware vSphere® with Operations Management™, you reap not just the advantages of the world’s leading virtualization platform but also a wide range of compelling business benefits.



For a fuller look at this story, check out our new white paper, Five Reasons to Take Your Virtualization Environment to a New Level.






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Want to Be a Star? Try Virtualizing Your Business-Critical Applications

The virtualization of business-critical applications is not a new trend. VMware customer surveys show that many IT departments are virtualizing more than half of their main business-critical applications—such as Microsoft Exchange, Oracle, and SAP. [i]

The reasons for virtualizing business-critical apps are pretty straight forward: reduce risk and improve service levels, reduce cost and complexity, improve manageability, and strengthen security and compliance.

Here’s where things get even better. When you take the lead in initiatives that yield benefits like these, you could put yourself on the path to a promotion, and maybe even one of those coveted corner offices. It all adds up to a win for the business and a win for your IT organization—and the IT practitioners who make it happen.

So how do you get started on a virtualization initiative? That question is addressed in a new VMware eBook that offers tips on best practices for virtualization projects, along with tangible examples of the gains you can achieve when you virtualize applications like Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange, and SAP.

One important tip from this paper: Virtualizing business-critical applications is a team sport. That team should comprise all key stakeholders, including application end users and the owners of the systems that will be virtualized. The eBook notes: “By having involvement by the end users and following a methodical process, you will increase the chances of success and recognition after the project goes live.”

And what could that recognition bring? “By virtualizing business-critical applications, and doing it in a way that reduces risk, improves service levels, and reduces costs, you are able to deliver tangible business benefits to the organization. These types of results could potentially result in more exciting projects and promotion opportunities for you, the IT practitioner.”



For the full story, read the eBook Why Virtualizing Your Business-Critical Applications Can Lead to a Promotion.”




[i] Source: VMware customer survey, January 2010, June 2011, March 2012, and June 2013.


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Calling all SMBs: With new vSphere 6, you can run one cloud for any application

The one cloud, any application vision is now real with a host of new features and functionality being introduced today with the release of vSphere 6.  This is particularly great news for SMBs looking to further streamline and simplify their IT environment and maximize their virtualization investment.

There are two key product announcements that are particularly relevant for SMBs:

  • vSphere 6: provides new vMotion capabilities for long-distance live migration with zero downtime, as well as multi-processor fault tolerance to deliver continuous availability for VMs up to four CPUs.
  • Virtual SAN 6: now delivering an all-flash architecture for both caching and data persistence.  With Virtual SAN 6, SMBs can take advantage of their storage resources in their servers to further bring down hardware costs, while at the same time simplify your overall IT operations.

To learn more about how your SMB can run one cloud for any application, as well as additional information about the launch announcements, read the full announcement on our company blog, Tribal Knowledge, or see the announcement from our CEO, Pat Gelsinger, on our microsite.

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Taking virtualization to the next level

The mobile-cloud era has cast a new reality upon IT services. With more users are operating from more endpoints and moving more data, business expects increasingly more capabilities from IT—often more than a resource-strapped IT organization can rightly deliver.

Bridging this “expectations gap” calls for a different approach to managing IT. We believe the VMware Software-Defined Data Center provides you with that approach.

Perhaps you’ve already embraced a virtualization platform such as vSphere to consolidate your servers and pack more computing power into less space. But the Software-Defined Data Center takes you beyond the benefits of vSphere; with the Software-Defined Data Center you can also virtualize networking and storage while you apply intelligent management to your entire infrastructure.

What is the Software-Defined Data Center? It’s a highly automated, easily managed platform that embraces all applications, providing fast deployment across data centers, clouds, and mobile devices. And to help you establish a Software-Defined Data Center, VMware has introduced VMware® vSphere with Operations Management™.

VMware vSphere with Operations Management combines the most trusted server virtualization platform with the capabilities for intelligent management. With this tool you can confront virtualization’s challenges, including:

  • VM sprawl. With virtual machines easier to create, they are more difficult to manage.
  • Over provisioning. Underutilization of VMs is common.
  • Poor visibility and monitoring. With early virtualization technology, data center monitoring is reactive.
  • Complex troubleshooting. Most performance problems are slow to resolve.

Simplified management is essential to keeping pace with business expectations. vSphere with Operations Management provides an intuitive dashboard to help you assess the health of your virtualized environment, monitor risks to IT performance, and identify opportunities for greater efficiency. You’ll possess the power to address performance resolution, capacity management, and future planning for your data center, and you’ll have the solution for the “expectations gap.”



To learn more about the difference that operations management can make in your virtualized environment, read our new white paper Take Virtualization to the Next Level with vSphere with Operations Management.







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Four Ways a BC/DR Plan Can Help Your SMB – Part 3: Software-Based Replication

By: vExpert Gregg Robertson                        

A Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) iplan s something every business, no matter how big or small, should be thinking about and implementing. Whilst preparing for my VCAP-DCD and even for my VCDX attempt, BC/DR was a very important topic, as two of the infrastructure qualities of AMPRS (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security)  are availability and recoverability.

In my daily role as a consultant, BC/DR is a core component for every virtualization design, no matter if it is data center virtualization, end-user computing or hybrid cloud. In this four-part blog series, I am going to cover four ways BC/DR can help your small/midsized business (SMB) through the usage of solutions available to you. In this third blog, I will cover the benefits of automated software-based replication built in as a feature in VMware vSphere.

Automated Software-Based Replication

With the release of VMware vSphere 5.1, came the availability of vSphere Replication (VR), which was previously only available in VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0. VR is a software-based replication engine that works at the host level rather than the array level. Identical hardware is not required between sites, and in fact, customers can run their VMs on any type of storage they choose at their site – even local storage on the vSphere hosts, and VR will still work. It provides simple and cost-efficient replication of applications to a failover site. VR is a component delivered with vSphere Essentials Plus and above editions, and also comes bundled with vCenter Site Recovery Manager. This offers protection and simple recoverability to the vast majority of VMware customers, without additional cost.

vSphere Replication allows single site replication and protection. This is perfect for SMB organizations that may have a local campus, with a single cluster spanning two floors of a building where recoverability is within a proximal datacenter. If a floor loses power and the primary hosts and disks are unreachable, the administrator could simply point to the replica VMDK within VR and choose to recover it. The administrator deploys a single VR Appliance to act as both the replication manager and also the recipient and distributor of changed blocks. Then the admin configures a VM and one or more of its VMDK files to be replicated, giving the local VR Appliance as the target, and selecting a different datastore for the replica of the VM. The vSphere Replication Agent on the appropriate vSphere 5.x host that holds the running VM then starts tracking changes to disk as they are being written, and in accordance with the configured RPO sends the changed blocks to the VR Appliance.  The VR Appliance passes the changed block bundle via NFC to a host to write the blocks to the replica VMDK.

VR is also a perfect fit for IT managers looking to protect virtual machines in ROBO scenarios.

In this model, hosts at remote sites are not managed by distributed vCenter Server instances, but from a central ‘head office’ datacenter. A single vCenter Server instance manages both local vSphere instances and remote clusters or hosts.

VMs from multiple remote sites need to be replicated to the central office in this scenario.  At the remote sites, as long as the hosts are vSphere 5.x, there is no change necessary to be implemented. They will have the necessary vSphere Replication built in to the kernel.

At the head office datacenter, at least one vSphere Replication Appliance must be deployed to manage the replication of all the VMs (both remote and local targets). This single appliance will usually be sufficient to handle the incoming replications, but sometimes customers will want to isolate replication traffic by source, or will need to scale up the number of recipient servers to handle more incoming replications.

In that case, administrators can deploy more VR Servers (Not the full VR Appliance – there is only one per vCenter) to handle isolating the incoming replication traffic or to adjust for scale.

Each VR Server can be used as a dedicated target for one or more remote sites.

Within the main datacenter, the VR Servers will pass the incoming replication data to the recovery cluster via Network File Copy for committing to local replica copies of the remote VMs.

Continue reading

Four Ways BC/DR Can Help Your SMB – Part 2: Automated High Availability

By: Gregg Robertson ,vExpert

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) is something every business, no matter how big or small, should be thinking about and planning for. Whilst preparing for my VCAP-DCD and even for my VCDX attempt, BC/DR was a very important topic, as two of the infrastructure qualities of AMPRS (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security) designs should show impact on availability and recoverability.

In my daily role as a consultant, BC/DR is a core component for every virtualization design no matter if it is data center virtualization, end-user computing or hybrid cloud. In this four-part blog series, I am going to cover four different ways BC/DR can help you with your small/midsized business (SMB) IT infrastructure.  In this second blog, we will cover the benefits of automated high availability built in as a feature in VMware vSphere.

Automated High Availability For SMB’s

BC/DR is met and ensured with features that have been part of vSphere for years, like VMware High Availability (HA), which, since vSphere 5.0, has been rebuilt from the ground up to use the Fault Domain Manager (FDM) agent instead of the legacy AAM agent (Legato Automated Availability Management). This rebuilding of a new agent has introduced higher resiliency and less complexity and means that HA can be enabled with as little as five clicks and be installed onto ESXi hosts in seconds rather than the minutes that it took previously. HA allows you to protect the virtual machines running on your hosts from isolation and/or recover from host failure by restarting the virtual machines on the affected host to the remaining working hosts, thereby bringing your applications and solutions back online as soon as possible. With the new FDM agent, this also allows partitioned hosts to elect a master node within the partitioned section and maintain the uptime of the virtual machines on the affected hosts. HA also has a number of features that provide additional checks to ensure that hosts are indeed non-responsive before rebooting the virtual machines through the usage of Datastore Heartbeating and the setting of additional isolation addresses.

HA can also restart virtual machines if the application in a virtual machine fails through the usage of application monitoring. By utilizing the appropriate SDK or an application that supports VMware application monitoring, HA can setup customized heartbeats for your applications.

vSphere HA has several advantages over traditional failover solutions, including:

Minimal setup – After a vSphere HA cluster is set up, all virtual machines in the cluster get failover support without additional configuration.

Reduced hardware cost and setupThe virtual machine acts as a portable container for the applications and it can be moved among hosts. Administrators avoid duplicate configurations on multiple machines. When you use vSphere HA, you must have sufficient resources to fail over the number of hosts you want to protect with vSphere HA. However, the vCenter Server system automatically manages resources and configures clusters.

Increased application availability – Any application running inside a virtual machine has access to increased availability. Because the virtual machine can recover from hardware failure, all applications that start at boot have increased availability without increased computing needs, even if the application is not itself a clustered application. By monitoring and responding to VMware Tools heartbeats and restarting nonresponsive virtual machines, it protects against guest operating system crashes.

Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and vMotion integration – If a host fails and virtual machines are restarted on other hosts, DRS can provide migration recommendations or migrate virtual machines for balanced resource allocation. If one or both of the source and destination hosts of a migration fail, vSphere HA can help recover from that failure.

High Availability Overview

Fault Domain Manager Agent

HA’s architecture is fairly simple with the FDM agent being installed on each ESXi host within a vSphere cluster that has HA enabled. As of vSphere 5.0, there is now only a single master node and all the remaining hosts within the cluster are slaves which report their health to the master node as well as the vCenter server. This is unlike HA in versions previous to vSphere 5.0, where there were Primary and Secondary nodes, which constrained you to a limit of 5 primary nodes and the need to have at least 1 primary node available. The below diagram shows a simplistic view of the FDM agent on each host and the allocation of the master and slave roles to the hosts.


As of vSphere 5.0, there are now two different heartbeat mechanisms that HA uses to ensure the health of the ESXi hosts within the HA enabled cluster. The first of these is datastore heartbeating, a new feature as of vSphere 5.0. Datastore heartbeating adds an additional check where HA utilizes the existing VMFS file system locking mechanism of creating a heartbeat region. The heartbeat region is where at least one file per host is kept open per selected heartbeat datastore (default is two datastores). HA does a check whether the heartbeat region has been updated and if it has, then the host still has storage connectivity and therefore the virtual machines on the host don’t need to be restarted elsewhere. The below diagram shows the selection of three datastores and that currently, only two of the hosts within the cluster are attached to the two datastores. Good design practice is to allow HA to select the datastores, as HA will choose the datastores with the most connected hosts and if applicable NFS and FC/iSCSI datastores to ensure added resiliency.