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Avoid Disaster in Disaster Recovery

PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect Span the DR Gap for Both Windows and Linux, Including SUSE Linux Enterprise from Novell

Written by Jason Dea

When you hear "disaster recovery", if you picture expensive like-for-like infrastructures replicating your most essential servers, perhaps it's time to rethink disaster recovery (DR). If you envision cumbersome backup servers running all night followed by tape cartridges traveling to a storage vault, again, it's time to reconsider your DR strategy.

If you are a Linux administrator and see yourself orchestrating your DR solution with scores of commands, it's time you find a more efficient way to manage DR in today's environment of shrinking resources and growing IT needs.

In each of these scenarios a gap exists between the cost and the effectiveness of disaster recovery. You get either cumbersome and affordable or expensive and effective--the choices administrators have been facing for years.

Novell designed PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect from the ground up to span this gap, and Windows administrators have been using them for some time. Novell has recently released the latest updates to these products to now protect environments running Linux and mixed Linux-and-Windows environments.

If you see yourself orchestrating your DR solution with scores of commands, it's time you find a more efficient way to manage DR.

Spanning the Gap

A high-availability, or DR-by-duplication, strategy focuses on protecting workloads using local clusters, duplicate host sites or other like-for-like physical infrastructures. These strategies provide very low?often near zero?recovery time objective (RTO) and recovery point objective (RPO). These are the time it takes to move from a failure back to full production and the amount of data you lose in the process of recovery, respectively. However, even though RTO and RPO can be very low, these solutions can be very costly and extremely complex to configure and manage.

Traditional backup, on the other hand, eliminates the need for duplicate systems by storing backup data on tape or imaging devices, but acquiring new hardware, configuring it to the state of the original and restoring the data from the backup archive can take a long time, reducing effectiveness and increasing administrator aggravation.

The PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect products from Novell span the gap between cost and effectiveness with an entirely different way to think about DR.

The concept is quite simple, and the solutions are really equally easy to administer. PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect create a virtual machine (VM) copy of protected physical or virtual workloads and update the virtual machines at intervals you specify from 60 minutes to weekly or longer. When a server fails, you receive a notification and switch the users to this backup VM, almost immediately. The VM resumes the application load using its most recent update. And once the failed server is operational, you can either restore the VM from scratch to the server or do a reverse replication of just the changes since the failure occurred. The reverse replication would be appropriate when the original server can be repaired. If the original server configuration cannot be obtained, PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect have the flexibility to restore back to any x86 server from any vendor.

PlateSpin Forge versus PlateSpin Protect

Before we go further, you should understand that PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect are like two versions of the same product. They provide the same capabilities, use the same administration console and are managed the same way.

PlateSpin Forge is an all-in-one appliance that includes the storage, replication software, remote management interface and hypervisor. You just plug the appliance into your network, configure it, and it begins to protect up to 25 workloads. Novell designed PlateSpin Forge for medium-size enterprises and branch and field offices of larger enterprises.

PlateSpin Protect offers more flexibility in larger, more complex networks. It includes just the software?the replication software and management interface. You install PlateSpin Protect on your own virtual infrastructure connected to your own storage system. You can purchase as many workload licenses as you want, giving you maximum flexibility.

With both products, you manage the entire DR system, regardless of the number of licenses and DR appliances, through a single graphical interface. You can also integrate these products into your existing DR infrastructure with an SDK that lets you configure a custom solution.

How You Manage Disaster Recovery

Now that you have a basic idea of what PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect are and how they might fit into your DR plans, you're probably most interested in what you have to do as an administrator. Let's take a look at how you monitor workloads, configure workloads, execute a failover, perform a failback, and conduct testing. We'll also look briefly at some of the reporting capabilities.

The PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect products from Novell span the gap between cost and effectiveness with an entirely different way to think about DR.

Monitoring Workloads

The PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect Web-based console begins with the Dashboard. (See Figure 1.) Other than the name in the top left corner, the management consoles are nearly identical for both products.

The Dashboard gives you an overall view of the workloads that are being protected: how many workloads are protected, whether any have failed and how many workloads are not protected.

Simple icons in the Workloads Summary show you the status of each workload. A green light means the workload is running normally. An orange light means there is an error in the configuration; perhaps you forgot to configure some part of the protection. A red light means the workload has failed.

The License Summary shows how many licenses are being used.

The Storage pie chart shows the status of the available storage. PlateSpin Forge includes storage in the appliance, but you can also attach external, SAN or NAS storage.

On the right side of the screen, you can see a log of the past, current and upcoming events.

Simple icons in the Workloads Summary show you the status of each workload.

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