Thursday, May 3, 2012

Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0 - Book Review

Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0
I received a copy of Mike Laverick's "Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0". This is a terrific book as the first book from VMware Press. Mike's has been providing terrific guides, white papers, and videos for years on his website RTFM Education.

To some the organization and presentation of this book may seem unconventional. Chapter 1 describes Site Recovery Manager, DR technologies, and addresses misconceptions of VMware technologies often thought of as DR technologies. Chapters 2 - 6 individually explain how to configure Dell, EMC Celerra, EMC CLARiiON, HP StorageWorks, and NetApp storage for VMware. Chapters 7 - 16 then cover the configuration and operation of VMware SRM. Chapters 1 plus one of 2 -6 make this book worthwhile to anyone installing a VMware solution with a SAN.

With my background being long in the teeth with networking and a little green in virtualization, Chapter 1 was most significant to me. I have been trying to understand the architectural differences and benefits of the different VMware technologies such as vMotion, High Availability Clusters, Fault Tolerance, and SRM.

Chapter 1, What is SRM, How Was DR Done Before SRM, and What VMware Technologies are Not DR

Chapter 1 provides an "Introduction to Site Recovery Manager". The chapter offers what is new in Site Recovery Manager 5.0 and, as Mike puts it, "what life was like before virtualization and before VMware SRM".

The original DR strategy was to have physical servers at the production and DR locations and rely on conventional backup and restore. For the next approach brought in virtualized servers, some suggested P2V technologies to synchronize physical servers with virtual servers. Either the production servers or the DR servers were virtualized. This approach requires the use of storage vendor's replication or snapshot technologies. This is needed to replicate the data files that make up the virtual machine's (VMX, VMDK, NVRAM, log, Snapshot, and/or swap files). Mike goes on to detail the other technology (changing IP addresses) and political issues (the storage group may not be the same people as the virtualization group) which need to be addressed. Again as Mike says, "It was again within this context that VMware engineers began working on the first release of SRM".

Next, this chapter discusses "What Is Not a DR Technology". The discussed VMware technologies provide some terrific benefits, and each have their place, but it is argued these should not be construed as DR Technologies.

As an example, some consider vMotion a DR technology. vMotion allows for virtual machines to be moved from one host to another. For vMotion to be remotely considered a DR technology, virtual servers need to be moved from one physical location to another. It is not acceptable DR design to have a DR data center within close proximity of a production data center (close enough to have your own fiber run, or where I live, to have two buildings along the same potential tornado path). To be considered a DR technology, vMotion needs to support moving virtual machines across some distance (I consider a minimum of 30 miles is necessary). Another necessary concept to understand is a vMotion is a planned event. That is, an administrator must initiate a vMotion, in a disaster scenario this is often not possible.

Finally (there is a lot in the 1st chapter) there is a discussion of the principles of storage management and replication. He does a great job of breaking through the "marketing speak" to generalize on the storage technologies most vendors support. In other words, Ford, GM, and Chrysler each offer Park, Reverse, Forward, and a radio, they may have entirely different methods of delivering these, but they all do it.

The Storage Vendors Chapters

Chapters 2 through 6 are dedicated to configuring specific vendors storage to work with VMware. Being somewhat new to VMware and also working in a place where I am exposed to multiple storage vendors, I really appreciated these chapters. These are great from those with limited experience configuring VMware to work with different vendors SANs. For me, these chapters were excellent. Mike provides terrific information for Dell, EMC, HP, and NetApp SAN platforms.While this doesn't cover every storage vendor, the basic principles apply to those not covered.

Installing, Configuring, and Customizing SRM
Chapter 7 explains installing SRM and thoroughly discusses planning and design, storage replication, and networking requirements. New VMware 5.0 features like automated failback, vSphere Replication, and bidirectional protection definitely add to the value and functionality of SRM. This chapter is very insightful for understanding the configuration of protected and recovery sites, storage replication planning and design, and configuring SRM workflow and recovery plans.

Mike walks the reader through the entire installation and configuration process with plenty of screenshots and real world examples. It is easy to follow along as he builds out a SRM solution. As the solution is built out, it covers advanced topics like customizations, scripting, and complex configurations.

The final chapter documents upgrading from SRM 4.1 to 5.0 which would be very helpful for readers still running VMware 4.1.

This is a terrific book from VMware Press. Mike Laverick has provided a well written and organized book. The chapters covering Dell, EMC, HP, and NetApp Storage Arrays are terrific. Administering VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0 should be on the bookshelf of VMware and Storage admins.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from VMware Press. I am not being compensated for this review. All views expressed are my own.