HADR Brings Resiliency to Virtualization

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Vizioncore vRanger Pro 3.2.4

Vizioncore offers a suite of products providing disaster recovery, management, provisioning, and migration solutions that work with VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and Virtual PC 2004, and Virtual Iron. The Vizioncore offerings that fall under the HADR umbrella include vRanger Pro, vReplicator, and P2V-DR vRanger Pro -- and they currently only work with VMware.

vRanger Pro is analogous to a standard backup program on a physical server: It creates full or incremental backups of a guest operating system while the VM is running. These backups can be restored to a different VMware server if desired. P2V-DR vRanger Pro (which requires vRanger Pro) allows backups of physical servers to a VMware image, allowing a server to be re-created as a VMware guest OS. This would allow for one VMware server at a remote location to temporarily take the place of many separate physical production servers.

Finally, vReplicator -- which is a stand-alone product -- supports replicating server instances to a backup VMware server. All changes are synchronized and the replicas are ready to go, but failover is not automated.

I installed vRanger Pro v. 3.2.4 on a Windows 2003 Server system connected to a Fibre Channel array. It can be installed on any version of Windows from Windows 2000 SP1 with the .Net framework. It supports Versions of VMware from 2.12 on.

The initial configuration entails entering information such as the version of VMware console that you use, along with a console login and the administrative login (root, or equivalent) on each of the ESX servers you'll be backing up. To perform a LAN-free backup directly from the ESX server to a FC-connected storage device, you'll also need to install a VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) plug-in.

Running backups or restores using the VCB functionality bypass the LAN and back up directly via Fibre Channel. This tact is much faster, so if you are using a version of ESX server that supports it and you have an FC infrastructure, it's really the way to go.

When vRanger is configured and ready to go, using it is just like using any other Windows application. You select a target ESX server to back up, then select LAN-free backup or VSS (volume shadow copy). You can back up running server applications such as Exchange or MS SQL Server; you may also opt to encrypt the data transfer, then run the backup. You can schedule backups to run as desired, run full backups weekly and incremental backups in between, automate e-mails when jobs complete or if there are problems -- all the sorts of things you'd expect from a backup program.

The process of backing up a physical server is similar to that of backing up a virtual instance, except that each physical server has to be added separately. Virtual instances are auto-discovered.

After a virtual server or physical server is backed up, restoring is a simple matter of selecting an ESX host to which to restore. You can make multiple .VMDK file backups, or restore the same image with different .VMDK files on different hosts. When restoring, you can select an incremental backup to add to the restore as well. When the restore is completed, vRanger will restore the VM configuration and can register the VM if it isn't already registered (on an ESX 2.0 server).

As with backups, restores can also be scheduled to run later if desired. Reporting has all the features you'd expect from a backup program: tracking completed backups, failures, errors, times and so forth.

Vizioncore has also partnered with DataDomain to ensure that vRanger Pro is compatible with the DataDomain data deduplication appliances. If multiple backups of different instances of the same guest OS are made, using deduplication would result in vastly reduced storage requirements.

vRanger offers a strong disaster recovery system for VMware users. It offers all the features administrators would expect to find in a backup program, but it's tailored for server instances running on VMware. The P2V option is especially attractive in a disaster recovery scenario, as production servers can be backed up and then brought up in an emergency as VMware instances.

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