Ensure disaster recovery compliance with Veeam Availability Orchestrator

Written by: Stuart McEwan

Last week Veeam released its long-awaited Disaster Recovery (DR) tool, Veeam Availability Orchestrator (VAO), to the public, a product that has been a long time coming and finally adds a serious contender to the long-time champion of the DR toolset, VMware’s Site Recovery Manager (SRM). 

It’s very important to understand that both these DR tools (on their own), do not provide you with a way of replicating your virtual machine workloads and making them available, should a disaster strike your organisation. Their main responsibility is to orchestrate the return of services in a DR site, using a pre-configured ‘runbook’ that you have designed and tested many times before, so you have confidence that it will work when you really need it. This is where VAO seems to have the upper edge on SRM, reporting and documentation.

As most companies nowadays have some level of requirement to provide a DR plan, how does the IT department show to the business how well prepared they are should the proverbial really hit the fan? By providing documentation of course; this is one area where VAO have spent some serious time and focus. There are a number of different options available in VAO for both running tests and documenting the results. This allows you to provide fully customisable and template based documentation for legal requirements, compliance audits and to complement your existing technical libraries with DR documentation that is automatically updated and republished as the environment changes, a challenge that can be very hard to achieve in today’s fast changing infrastructures.

So how does VAO do this so well? As mentioned before, VAO itself does not handle replication, it relies on another great Veeam product, Backup and Replication (either Veeam Backup & Replication or Veeam Availability Suite Enterprise Plus edition is required).

By leveraging the replication function as a way of automating replication of specific Virtual Machines (VMs) between two sites, VAO is able to allow you to create a plan of what needs to happen in a disaster to ensures that the right services are brought up in the right order, allowing you to make checks on these services along the way (via a comprehensive selection of built in checks for applications like SQL & Exchange) and to then test the process in a number of ways to give you confidence.

This also means you can setup DR plans for individual VMs, groups of VMs, or all the VMs of course, which is more granular than using array-based replication.

The DR test plans are easily executed on-demand or scheduled with real-time reports and dashboards available for you to publish. This allows you to regularly test the readiness of your DR plan with zero impact, test with isolated ‘bubble’ environments that require resources in DR and to schedule actual real-world failovers between sites at less regular intervals so that you know your plans will actually work, should the time come.

Once you have a fully tested recovery plan in place, this allows you to ensure IT service continuity and minimise disruption to the business through the failover and failback of multi-site DR plans for planned migrations (ever needed to move your workloads between sites for planned maintenance on a site?), disaster avoidance (air conditioning on the blink, power cuts with limited generator time etc.) and disaster recovery. I bet there’s not too many who can say they have a DR plan that is as well tested and trusted as much as what can be achieved with VAO.

Sounds amazing right? I am seriously impressed. It must be understood that currently it only supports orchestrating Veeam Backup & Replication replicas of VMware vSphere VMs. Licencing is on a subscription basis as a one-year annual subscription or discounted two to five-year annual subscriptions. All subscription licenses are sold per-VM (10 VM minimum purchase) and include Production 24×7 Support.

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