Thursday, May 22, 2014

New and Improved Veeam Explorers Reduce Recovery Time Objectives

Businesses of all sizes receive benefits from virtualizing Tier 1 applications such as resource allocation, high availability, workload customization, and mobility. Although great benefits are provided, virtualizing Tier 1 application workloads also brings challenges that are associated with disaster recovery, management of the virtual infrastructure, and data protection. Veeam has extensive experiencing helping enable virtualization of Tier 1 applications for today’s businesses that demand constant access to data, efficient management of exploding data growth, and minimal downtime though backup, monitoring, replication, and management of the virtual machines (VMs).

Veeam added Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange to Veeam Backup & Replication almost two years ago. This provided access inside the Exchange .EDB database file from within the Veeam backup file, allowing granular recovery of items from an Exchange database to a running Exchange server in minutes instead of hours, all without agents. Veeam Backup & Replication v8 introduces additional features for Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange including a web-based restore portal for help desk operators and the ability to recover hard deleted items.

Veeam Explorer for Microsoft SharePoint soon followed and made it possible to restore and backup everything in a SharePoint environment. This allowed the .MDF database to be available from within the backup file with item level granular recovery features to the running SharePoint servers without the need for software agents.

With v8 of Backup & Replication, Veeam introduces Veeam Explorer for SQL and Veeam Explorer for Active Directory. Veeam Explorer for SQL allows fast, transaction-level recovery of SQL databases in an easy-to-use interface.  With a 1-Click restore back to the original location, digging through a file-level system or knowing where the database or log files are located are no longer an issue. Veeam Explorer for SQL provides agentless transaction log backup and restore that allows users to restore SQL databases to a specific point in time while ensuring low recovery point and recovery time objectives (RTOs and RPOs).

Item-level recovery is made simple with Veeam Explorer for Active Directory. This allows users to easily recover individual Active Directory objects, computer passwords, individual user accounts, entire containers and organizational units instantly. Accessing and recovering accidental deletions or service accounts that need the password changed on every server that used that account is made easy with Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Active Directory. There is no need to extract the entire VM, perform or restore into isolation, or install an agent on the domain control.

With these additions and upgrades to Veeam Explorer for Microsoft Exchange, Veeam Explorer for Microsoft SQL, and Veeam Explorer for Active Directory, Veeam continues to deliver the tools necessary to manage virtualized Tier-1 applications. All Veeam Explorers will be included in Veeam Backup & Replication v8, aimed for release in the second half of 2014.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Taking the Mystery Out of Wi-Fi

Many IT departments still treat Wi-Fi like a "second-class" infrastructure asset despite the cultural shift toward mobility and devices, which is responsible for the BYOD mania we deal with at work. IT professionals love their devices too, so why not more love? Perhaps the reluctance to support and embrace Wi-Fi with open arms is due to a lack of visibility. After all, you can't see it, therefore, it's difficult for most people to gauge, manage and control.  But with the emergence of Wi-Fi performance management systems, Wi-Fi no longer has to remain a mystery. In fact, once the system is put in place the data is quite empowering, even to those traditional network engineers with little to no WLAN experience.

Wi-Fi networks today are facing issues with regard to density, capacity and coverage. This is especially true at places where Wi-Fi networks are becoming increasingly mission critical, like at hospitals and institutions of higher learning. If your Wi-Fi network is more than five years old then it likely wasn't built to stand up to these challenges, causing you major headaches. The traditional approach to managing Wi-Fi networks and solving issues has been to use a troubleshooting tool, such as a speed tester or a spectrum analyzer, and walk to the area in question in an attempt to find and fix the issue. However, much to the chagrin of the IT professional who sets out on this expedition, the root cause is rarely discovered and sometimes the problem has even disappeared by the time you get there, which can get really aggravating. Why does Wi-Fi seems to be so fickle? How can it work well one day and be lousy the next? What forces and factors contribute to reliable, high-performance Wi-Fi? With today's tools, answers to these questions remain largely a mystery.

A System of Performance Management

Wireless networks are dynamic systems with many components that must coexist harmoniously to achieve the goals of reliability and high performance. With so many environmental factors and moving parts, this balance can be easily upset, causing both random and chronic issues for clients depending on the network to successfully do their jobs. To visualize and bring to life this ecosystem, a Wi-Fi performance management system is required which consists of three elements: active testing, passive testing and Wi-Fi analytics.

Active tests exercise the network like a client and take continuous measurements that tell us what the network is capable of in terms of performance. It's equivalent to 24 hour per day user experience testing and captures data relating to client throughput, latency and jitter on Voice over IP calls.  Passive tests monitor and measure all RF activity in the environment to tell us if clients can actually take advantage of those performance capabilities as measured by the active testing.  Passive tests track channel usage, retransmission rates, data connection rates and environmental interference to gain a complete and accurate picture of how client devices and wireless access points all interact with each other and the environment in which they operate.  The two sets of tests form the comprehensive data set that is required in order to fully understand the behavior of the network. The data is all brought to life through Wi-Fi analytics which allow you to finally visualize your network in a way that provides actionable intelligence for finding and fixing the root cause of your Wi-Fi performance issues.  Because the system tracks and trends performance over time and allows you to set service level targets for performance, you now have the ability to be proactive in identifying issues before they actually hamper the performance of clients on your network.  No longer are you reacting to complaints, but rather you are truly managing the Wi-Fi network like the important and strategic asset that it is.

The Wi-Fi Performance Cycle

As a result of putting in place a system of performance management, you have created a Wi-Fi performance cycle within your environment that assures on-going reliability. The performance cycle begins with continuous measurements.  The metrics generated are benchmarked and compared against service level targets for performance. An analysis of the data brings to light weak spots that were never visible in the past. This allows you intelligently optimize your network based on data, not anecdotes, complaints or theories. Changes to clients, access points or the environment can all be verified through the continuous measurements taken within the system.  This on-going verification provides network assurance, giving you confidence in the exact capabilities and limitations of your network now and in the future.

A Wi-Fi performance management system, like the one provided by 7signal that can be purchased through Great Lakes, takes the mystery out of managing Wi-Fi networks. It allows users to see how clients are experiencing the network and proactively detect and correct issues before anybody notices or complains.  It is the only way to ensure that wireless devices and the people who use them, remain productive, saving your organization both time and money.

Guest blog post written by Eric Camulli – VP of Marketing, 7signal Solutions

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Best Practices for VMware vSphere 5 on Nimble Storage

Enabling customers to transform current IT infrastructure into a private cloud, VMware vSphere provides a solid foundation with built-in availability, manageability, scalability and business continuity for the virtualization of business critical applications. To take advantage of the built-in features such as vMotion, Distributed Resource Scheduling, and vSphere High Availability, shared storage is a requirement and storage planning, along with architectural design, becomes crucial for a successful deployment.

The Nimble Storage solution is built to provide the performance of solid state storage with the capacity of hard disks using the patented Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture. Nimble Storage has revolutionized storage system management with a simple, intuitive web interface and vCenter plug-in.  A Nimble Storage array provides iSCSI target volumes (LUNs) to VMware hosts as well as guest virtual machines. Volumes created on Nimble Storage arrays are highly optimized for virtual machines and provide many benefits including:
  • In-line Compression: 50%-70% decrease of storage footprint on physical disks.
  • Thin Provisioning: Stores actual data efficiently by written rather than reserved space. 
  • Snapshot Backups: Immediate point-in-time backup that gets rid of the backup window. 
  • Zero-Copy Cloning: Preventative de-duplication to eliminate storage footprint of repetitive data. 
  • WAN-Optimized Replication: Significantly reduces bandwidth required for disaster recovery.
The following are areas of design considerations and best practices for implementing VMware vSphere with Nimble Storage arrays:

Base connectivity for high availability – Be sure that the VMware vSphere ESXi host has a minimum of two physical NICs. It is recommended to have a minimum of two physical network ports dedicated for iSCSI storage access. The preferred method for accessing Nimble Storage is through software iSCSI initiator. High availability and load distribution can be achieved through one of two methods: one VMnic per vSwitch, and one VMkernel interface per vSwitch, or two or more VMnics per vSwitch, dedicating one VMnic port to one VMkernel. Each method requires that all VMkernel ports to be bound to the software iSCSI adapter. Round Robin is the recommended path policy.

Manageability – Management is made simple with the Nimble Storage plug-in for vCenter which provides many operational management functions. These include datastore provisioning, datastore removal, datastore performance overview, and array volume management.

Virtual storage access considerations – There are three main methods that users can employ to connect networked storage to vSphere. These include connecting virtual machines directly to volumes on the Nimble Storage array using an iSCSI initiator in the guest operating system, creating a VMFS datastore on a volume, or creating a Raw Device Map (in either physical or virtual compatibility mode) to the volume presented by the Nimble Storage array. By planning your volume creation carefully, you can maximize the benefits of the Nimble Storage array.

Backup and restore – Nimble Protection Manager (NPM) provides an interface between the native interfaces of the VMware host or guest operating system and a Nimble Storage array and places the operating system and application data into a consistent state that is safe for backup and recovery.

vSphere storage features usage considerations:
  • Storage I/O Control (SIOC) – SIOC allows Quality of Service (QoS) for shares storage access between virtual machines. 
  • vSphere Storage DRS – Continuously balance storage capacity usage and I/O load between multiple storage resources. 
  • vSphere Profile Driven Storage– Presents Profile-Driven Storage for the placement of virtual machines based on SLA, availability, provided storage capabilities and restore and backup requirements.
Utilizing these design considerations and best practices enables users to fully leverage the benefits of both VMware and Nimble Storage. VMware’s virtualization enables x86 servers to run multiple operating systems and applications, for a simpler and more efficient infrastructure. Offering scale-to-fit storage performance and capacity, Nimble Storage systems provide a solid foundation for any VMware environment.