PHD Virtual Backup (v 8)

Recently I got an opportunity to play around with Unitrends backup solution, which is still in beta. For those of who are not aware, PHD Virtual is now part of Unitrends. At first I was a bit skeptical because I have seen products being wasted after an acquisition. But in this case I think I am quite happy with the progress the product has made under the new name.

My goal is to share my views on my testing of the product and also try and explain the new architecture. Once you get a hang of it, its really simple and makes a lot of sense. In my initial attempt, I sort of screwed things up but that was mostly because I was being hasty and didn’t bother reading the few simple concepts.

Like in previous version, the one we will discuss here, version 8 revolves around the good ole VBA. However now the VBA does a lot more and has delivered on the promises in the past. For example: my previous complain was lack of single pane of glass to manage multiple VBAs, that’s no longer a problem here. In fact they went a step further and made it possible to manage VBAs that could be deployed in Citrix or even Hyper V environments.

Architecture:

In version 7, the concept of appliance roles was introduced and version 8 continues with this model. Each appliance can be dedicated to a single role or a single appliance can have multiple roles configured. So what are those roles?

Presentation (P) – The Presentation appliance is the appliance running the web-based interface you use to configure and manage your installation. Only one presentation appliance is necessary per installation, across all configured environments (including across all hypervisor types). All management and configuration of PHD Virtual Backup occurs through the Presentation Appliance’s web interface.
Management (M) – Each Environment requires one appliance designated as the Management Appliance. This appliance performs inventory and other hypervisor-specific tasks and manages the work of the Engine appliances. Each environment you add to your PHDVB deployment requires the IP address of one appliance to act as Management appliance. The Presentation Appliance can also be designated as a Management Appliance.

 

Engine (E) – Engine appliances perform the actual data processing and send data to their configured data stores. Engine is the most common role an appliance will take on in your deployment. Appliances with the Presentation and Management role can also be configured with the Engine appliance.

 

Note: As a general recommendation, you will need at least one Engine appliance for every 10 TB of source data you will protect (or every 1 TB of data if using XenServer or 5 TB is using CIFS backup storage).

 

So for any deployment you will need at least one VBA that has the P M and E roles. If the environment is small enough, a single VBA can host all those roles. And then add more engines as the environment grows. You can tell someone was thinking scaling. The latest version of the beta also incorporates a tutorial video that gives you a high level view of what the VBA roles may look like when laid down. This will also assist you in determining what will be ideal for your environment. I highly recommend you watch this before moving forward with the full configuration.

Deploying:

I am stealing a diagram from Unitrends documentation to explain how the roles can be laid out.

Deployment single hypervisor

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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!