New Toy from PHD – RTA Caluclator

PHD Virtual recently released a free tool called the Recovery Time Calculator that enables the calculation of time it will take to recover virtual machines and critical applications in the event of an outage or disaster. Did I mention its FREE? Below is the press release.

Dubbed the RTA Calculator, for the ‘Recovery Time Actual’ estimate it provides, PHD’s free tool can be easily downloaded and then immediately provides visibility into what your organization’s actual VM recovery time would be in the event of an outage.

The RTA Calculator has a built-in wizard to connect to VMware. Once installed you are prompted to select the VMs you wish to time for an RTA estimate, and set the appropriate boot order. The RTA Calculator will then take a snapshot and create linked clones for each VM. Due to the use of snapshotting and linked clones, the VM creation process is very quick. The tool then simply powers up the VMs and times the process, calculating the total time it will take to recover that grouping of VMs – it’s that simple! This gives you an accurate Recovery Time Actual you can use to compare to your Recovery Time Objective and determine if you’ll be able to adhere to your SLAs.

Run the RTA tool as often as needed to produce an estimate with different production loads.

What You’ll Need

System Requirements

Like all PHD Virtual products, the RTA Calculator is highly effective while still maintaining ease of use. It requires no training or product documentation. All you need to know is contained within in this short video demonstration

Other than that just ensure you meet the following 3 requirements

  • The RTA Calculator is a Windows application that requires an Administrator account and .Net 4.0.
  • The RTA Calculator supports VMware ESX or ESXi with vCenter 4.0 (or higher) with default ports.
  • The RTA Calculator will need the VMware guest tools installed.

Download the FREE tool here: http://www.phdvirtual.com/free/rta-calculator

CloudPhysics and Admission Control tunning

A while back I made a little demo video that showcased one of CloudPhysics cards that is still my personal favorite. I figured it would be a good idea to share it in case there is anyone out there who hasn’t taken CloudPhysics for a spin yet.

 

Recovery Management Suite

My last few posts have been about backups and DR and I have intensively covered PHD Virtual’s products and their capabilities. I have covered PHD Virtual backup, CloudHook (my review) and  just recently I also covered ReliableDR (my review). Just recently PHD virtual has released their Recovery Management Suite (RMS) that ties all these products together and delivers an extremely powerful solution that ranges from simple backups to a whole site failure (without making it an extremely complex undertaking).

 

RMS1

So why is this such a big deal. There are various products out there with similar capabilities. And that is true. However I cant think of a single product that does all that RMS offers and still manages to keep it simple. For example lets take a look at SRM (not trying to talk trash but simply using it for comparison). The business centric view of ReliableDR, DR automation and the ease of use in a multi tenant environment for cloud providers sets this product in a league of its own. Now if we throw the other two products into the mix (Virtual backup and CloudHook), PHD Virtual starts to sound like a real complete solution. And it truly is. Did I point out that PHD virtual has its own replication mechanism that can be used to replicate date between sites?

I really like SRM too. However being a technologist I like to compare products and see where one serves a better purpose. Lets put SRM in the back seat for now and lets call on Veeam for change and see how some of its features stand against RMS. I am a big fan of Veeam backup and replication also. However there is some real planning that goes into setting up Veeam’s backup manager, proxies and repositories. In the case of PHDVB things are pretty simple. And once you tie in cloud storage things get even better. And just like Veeam PHDVB also offers support for multiple hypervisor, but the ReliableDR portion is what puts PHD Virtual’s products miles ahead of Veeam in my opinion.

For the first time, companies of all sizes have a unified, affordable solution that automates and assures recovery processes in order to reduce risk, decrease recovery times, and help sustain the business throughout any issues that might occur. PHD Virtual RMS is the only solution to offer comprehensive, integrated recovery that addresses the entire recovery continuum. IT provides unified data protection and disaster recovery capabilities delivered through integrated backup, replication, recovery and DR orchestration that is powerful, scalable, easy to use, and delivers immediate value “out-of-the-box”

RMS2

Obviously nothing is life is perfect and so is the case with RMS and its components. There is room for improvement and I am more than certain that the improvement will come before you know it. I am saying this from experience. PHD Virtual has made tremendous amounts of changes and enhancements to their products over the last few years that could only compare to a handful of organizations. What may seem like the next logical step actually does happen at PHD Virtual. And I hope they maintain that trend. As a matter of fact, some of what I thought should have been included in the future releases of the products also made it. For example I wondered why all the PHD products weren’t being offered as a single solution that worked together like one.. tadaaaaa! So there, an organization that can keep a character like myself pretty satisfied has a lot to offer in years to come.

Some of the latest enhancements coming in the upcoming versions of RMS are as follow:

  • Automates the replication of backup data from a source Backup Data Store (BDS) to a remote BDS (including cloud storage).
  • Only changed data is moved from source BDS to archive BDS (bandwidth saver and more importantly data the cloud will not move from production, it will likely move from your primary BDS, hence not even touching your production load).
  • The archive BDS can have different retention policies than the source (I complained about this).
  • You can configure individual VMs to be replicated, or synch the entire BDS with the archive location.
  • You can configure multiple source BDS locations to be archived to a single archive BDS location.
  • The archive BDS supports global deduplication across all source BDS data
  • Configure a generic S3 backup target to leverage additional object storage platforms, other than Amazon, Rackspace, and Google (Yoooohooo! more options)
  • Certified Replica – Automating the testing of virtualized applications that have been replicated using PHD Virtual Backup
    • A new CertifiedReplica job exists in ReliableDR for configuration of recovery jobs against PHD VM replicas
    • These jobs can be used to automate complex recovery specifications for failover and testing of PHD VM replicas. What kinds of complex jobs? For example:
      • Boot orders
      • Network mapping for test and failover
      • Re-IP for Windows AND Linux (Unlike Veeam here you can re-IP linux machines :) )
      • Application testing and other recovery tasks
    • Verification can be scheduled at intervals as frequently as every 4 hours
    • Hypervisor snapshots are used for CertifiedReplica recovery points and other testing/failover tasks, making the entire process storage agnostic

And lastly some rumors. I have heard that ‘Certified Backups’ are also in the works. Yes machines are taking over! Look at what certified backups have to offer if it makes it through.

  • Automating the testing of VMware virtualized applications directly from backups using Instant Recovery from PHD Virtual Backup
    • A new CertifiedBackup job that initiates Instant Recovery jobs within PHD Virtual Backup and automates boot orders, network reconfiguration, and other recovery tasks
    • These jobs can be used to automate VM recovery specifications for testing of PHD backups
    • When testing is complete, Instant Recovery sessions are terminated automatically
    • Verification can be scheduled at intervals as frequently as every 4 hours

When you look at all the capabilities tied into a single product, you have no choice but to give it a go. Like I mentioned earlier I like other products too but if you are looking for a single solution that addresses your backup and DR needs, you have to give RMS a go. It will be silly to overlook it. I hope VMware Veeam and other vendors try and come up with their versions of RMS as well (though it will be interesting to see VMware come up with a solution that supports other hypervisors also).

I have been asked a couple of times in the past if ReliableDR supports vCloud Director and the answer is YES, it does. Try RMS for free today.

DR Benchmark

There is an ever growing need for having some kind of a business continuity \ disaster recovery plan that keeps the ball rolling when the unexpected happens. There is an enormous amount of data that is being collected everyday and businesses can’t afford to lose it. It’s valuable. It’s not only important from a business perspective as it aids their purpose and mission but I also believe that the data being captured today marks a new way of recording history like it never has in the past. And, we are the generation that is making it possible. As it is our biggest contribution in spreading the wealth of knowledge and information, it becomes extremely important to protect it.  For those reasons I believe disaster recovery should be an integral part of any implementation that is made in today’s day and age.

Now the last few years have been a lot of fun for any techie. So much has changed just in the last 4-5 years. So much is changing today and the near future promises a lot more changes. Of course most will be good and some will be made fun of down the road. Due to all the changes that have come about in the datacenter over the past few years there has been a paradigm shift. For example, shops that required change windows to restart a machine are now moving their machines from host to host (vMotion) during production hours and in most cases letting the computer figure that out on its own (DRS). We are truly in the early stages of a robo datacenter where self-healing processes are being implemented (VMware HA, MSCS, WFC, FT etc).

Of course, we are definitely far from our goals of what the datacenter of the future is supposed to look like. But we are well on our way there. However, one aspect of the datacenter that seems to take a major hit from all the advancements that have come about in the last few years is the all important disaster recovery. I look at DR as insurance, you will need it when you don’t have it and when you have it, it may seem like an unnecessary overhead. But I am sure we have all been in situations where we wished our DR plan was more current, tested, more elaborate and covered all aspects of the business. If you are one of those ‘lucky’ folks who wished they had some kind of a DR plan, join the party of many more like you. You are not alone.

With the tremendous amount of change that has come about in the last few years, the DR side has experienced a bit of a stepchild like treatment. It has become a back burner project in a lot of organizations where it should really be an integral part of the overall solution. With all the technological advancements that have been made recently, a lot of good DR solutions (ReliableDRSRM, Veeam Backup & Replication) have also surfaced that could help one create a DR plan like never before. But lets keep the specific tools and vendors out of this for now. Lets just talk about what are the good DR practices for today and the future? What is it that others are doing that you may not be? Where is the gap in your DR plan? Are stretched datacenters really the answer to your problems? Can HA and DR be tied together? How well do you score when compared to your peers in the industry for DR preparedness? Where can you go to get this type of information?

DRPB_outage-stats_homepage

Your prayers may have been answered.  Recently a group of people including myself have formed a council (Disaster Recovery Preparedness Benchmark) that aims to increase DR preparedness awareness and improve overall DR practices. These are not sales people who are trying to sell you stuff. These are people who work in the field like you and I and have a day job. Their jobs help them bring the diversity to the council and share the knowledge and experience they have gained over the years. The idea is all of that put together will help develop some standards and best practices for the industry to follow and bring some kind of method and calmness to the awesome madness we have witnessed over the last few years. You can take a look at it here. As everything else, we are starting off with a survey that will help you evaluate your current situation. This data will also help bring in more information that will benefit the overall cause. Don’t worry personally identifiable information is only collected when you voluntarily provide it. Start playing your role in taming the DR animal, protect your investment and take your survey here.

PHD giveaway

I have been keeping my eye on PHD Virtual for sometime now as their tools tend to make me feel smarter than I really am. It turns out they are having a free give away where you could potentially win a 1 year free license for either their VMware/Citrix backup solution or even their Reliable DR product that I reviewed just a few weeks ago.

So what do you have to do to win? Simply download their Virtual backup tool for VMware/Citrix or their Reliable DR product, from there on you are automatically entered to win. Here is the post that may have more information. Good luck!

How reliable is your DR plan?

Over the past few years or so there have been a lot of new solutions that have surfaced. There have been new ways of solving new problems and even ways to solve old problems more efficiently. I have been impressed by the simplicity that PHD Virtual brings to their backup solution, so when I first heard about “ReliableDR”, I had no reason not a take peek.

PHD Virtual acquired VirtualSharp Software earlier this year. VirtualSharp had made some great strides to address the complex problem of disaster recovery. I know we all want a disaster recovery solution and SRM is a great product. Stop laughing! Ok it’s a great product but perhaps not so great to use with all its complexities and nuances. At the end of the day a great DR solution should ask us what we want our RPO and RTO to be and orchestrate a solution based on that. It should not be the other way around. I believe ReliableDR is definitely a step in that direction. Don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on SRM here, I am simply stating the ReliableDR does that in a very simple manner. It’s a tool that doesn’t require an extensive amount of research or consulting hours.

Cloud has definitely been the buzz word for some time now. And automation is key with any decent cloud service. That’s really what makes the magic happen. When you think about it, we have automation all around us. Do we not let our VMs float around from host to host (DRS) and from datastore to datastore (SDRS)? Do we not let the packets flow around in our switches and let them figure out what’s works best for them? Do we not let load balancers determine what will be the best way to handle the load at any given time? Why not let automation come in to creating a DR plan as well? Now there would still be some manual work involved, but you will definitely not be starting from scratch and will be using a lot of information that already exists. I think that brings in a lot of value. That’s not only in cost savings for implementing a DR solution but also a tremendous amount of cost savings in a solution that will actually work.

Some of the key functionality that the product offers:

  • Automated, Continuous, Service-Oriented DR Testing – Maintains the integrity of you DR plan by being service / application centric, not data centric.  It takes a business-centric view of an application and its dependencies and then automates the verification of those applications as many as several times per day.  The typical DR plan is tested 1-2 times per year.  You can test several hundreds or thousands of times per year with ReliableDR!

  • Application-Aware Testing – Measuring of accurate Recovery Time Actuals (RTOs & RPOs)

  • Certified Recovery Points – automatically storing multiple certified recovery points

  • Compliance Reporting – demonstrates DR objective compliance to auditors

  • Test, Failover, and Failback – Automation of failover and failback processes

  • Flexible Replication Options – Integration with all major storage vendors, multiple software based replication solutions including PHD Virtual, and also includes its own zero-footprint software-based replication capabilities

So then comes the million dollar question. If it really does all that and its really simple to setup, then it must be really expensive. So how much does it cost?  I am happy to announce that you could even get it for free. Obviously that means with limited functionality.  So below are the options that one has for the product:

  1. ReliableDR Enterprise Edition
  2. ReliableDR Foundation Edition
  3. FREE

Take a look at this link here for more details in comparing the three options.

My impression of RealibleDR is that it’s great for SMB. However this does not mean that it’s not suitable for large environments. After all they have an Enterprise edition for a reason. The reason I want to focus on SMB as being the target market for this product is the simplicity of the tool without compromising functionality. Obviously this does not mean that SMB’s can’t handle complex tools they certainly can, however more often than not I find SMB shops full of the IT staff that are overworked and understaffed. This makes them a jack of all trades but leaves them with very little time to dedicate and focus in just one area. Such an environment may never be able to get past some of the complex DR solutions that are out there in the market today. For an environment like that ReliableDR will do wonders. Or like Steve Jobs once said it, it will be like a cold glass of water in hell :D .

I believe large environments will also benefit from the automation of DR this product offers, its application awareness, scalability and last but not the least, its business centric view. The ever changing datacenters require a DR solution that adapts with them and understands their dynamic nature. I think just all those things alone combined with simplicity and low cost should make any engineer click this link right now. In times of disaster one needs a tool that works every single time and RelaibleDR offers a very simple way to test the failover and failback without making them an expensive exercise. Moreover, most DR solutions tend to get out of date due to the difference in time between each exercise. With a tool like ReliableDR these exercises can be arranged more frequently and perhaps when there is a true disaster there will be calmness in the datacenters versus the headless chicken dance we often experience.

It makes sense for PHD virtual to invest their simplistic approach to the DR solutions. They have done a great job in the enhancements they have made to their backup solution over the years and ReliableDR seems to be the next logical step. I was scared that I would find complex settings and installation procedures before getting the product going. But I was pleasantly surprised. Here are some webinars that would help one understand the product in more detail.

Imagine if we had a slider that we adjusted to dictate the amount of money we want to spend on our power bill every month and our homes adjusted to that number and aligned the utilization accordingly. That’s the level of simplicity that’s needed in the DR solutions for today. And I believe ReliableDR is definitely on its way there.