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
To configure a workload, you just need to tell PlateSpin Forge or PlateSpin Protect where the target workload is on the network by providing a host name or IP address. (See Figure 2.) You also provide the administrator credentials so the product can interact with the workload as needed. Then you identify the schedule for incremental replication based on how often the data changes and how much network bandwidth you want to use for replication.
One nice feature Novell added to these products is Smart Replication, which slices large batch replications into small portions that can be processed quickly without overloading the network.
A number of other configuration settings include whether you replicate by file or data block, how often you want to replicate, how often you want the devices to ping the workloads to ensure they are still functioning, whether to encrypt transfer data, the volumes that are protected and so on.
These are all menu driven and easy to follow. You can also set these configurations individually for each workload, or you can configure sets of workloads using templates.
Managing DR by Workload
Novell designed these DR products to take the guesswork out of managing them. For example, in the Workloads tab, where you will spend the bulk of your day-to-day management, you can see that the console activates only the commands that are applicable to each workload. (See Figure 3.) If you check on a workload that has failed, the Prepare for Failover and Run Failover commands become active.
This window also provides the other information you need about each workload, such as whether it's online, its protection tier, its replication status and so on.
For a description of each command, see Workload Commands in the Additional Resources.
When a Workload Fails
If a workload or a server fails, you have two options: conduct an immediate failover, wherein the VM will boot up and begin serving the applicable users from the last snapshot, or start with the Prepare for Failover command. If there is a chance the failover is a false alarm, say someone simply tripped over a network cable, you should start with Prepare for Failover. With this command, the DR appliance stages the failover by configuring the virtual machine to take over for the failed workload but leaves it in a paused state. You can then choose whether to complete the failover by selecting the Failover or Cancel Failover commands.
Novell designed these DR products to take the guesswork out of managing them.
Restoring the Production Server
This is where PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect really shine. Traditionally, once you've repaired or replaced a failed server, reinstalling the OS, applications and data can be a nightmare. However, with these products, all these steps are a one-click process. They can build the new workload from scratch, or in the case of a repaired machine, you can chose to restore just the changes that have occurred since the workload failed. This includes restoring plug-and-play drivers that have been updated or that are different because you're using new equipment. PlateSpin Forge or PlateSpin Protect automatically install any necessary up-to-date drivers for Windows and Linux.
Testing Your DR Environment
If your DR system failed, now that would be a disaster. Testing is an important part of every DR strategy, and in the past this often required building an expensive and cumbersome parallel network just for testing. These DR products from Novell provide a Test Failover command that takes a snapshot of the VM and boots the snapshot to a virtual environment that you have defined as the test network. You don't boot the backup VM itself, and you don't affect the production network, so you can run this test anytime that is convenient for you.
Tracking DR Performance
PlateSpin Forge and PlateSpin Protect keep a history of all DR activities and events and measures performance such as how long it takes to run a job. They provide this data in several reports that you can view online, save as PDFs or export to applications such as spreadsheets. (See Figure 4.)
An Easier, Affordable DR Solution
When one of your workloads fails, you no longer need to go through a cumbersome several-step process from retrieving a flat-file archive, sourcing a new server or repairing the existing server, redeploying the operating system and other software, and rebuilding the data files just to get your services back up and running. And you don't need to employ an expensive duplicate system. With PlateSpin Forge or PlateSpin Protect, you have a backup of the workload ready to move into place almost immediately, and it restores back to your production servers just as smoothly, with very little disruption to the users on your network.