Netapp Solves VM Backups

The biggest challenge to backing up Virtual Machines (VMs) today is getting both image level backups of the VMs for bare metal Disaster Recovery (DR) purposes and file level backups for the more common day to day recovery scenarios.  The traditional client/server backup method of installing agents on every VM and/or ESX host and pulling backups across the network is no longer sufficient.  It is the slowest, highest impact, and most expensive method of creating and maintaining backups.  There are many different approaches to overcoming these backup challenges today.   For example, some organizations use a proxy server (such as VCB) to mount each image to a server and backup from there, but regardless of the method, most solutions still take the approach of two separate backup types: one specific to file level recovery & one specific to image level recovery.

Some have elected to pick and choose which method to use on  a server by server basis resulting in a management nightmare, while others simply write off the image level backups as a future “nice to have” and continue to only do file level backups.  All the while, each is waiting for the magic bullet of VM backup solutions that will do each of the following:

  • Backup the VMs at an image level, using storage level snapshots, while allowing file level recovery from those image backups
  • Perform VM backups instantly and not impact the performance of the VM, the ESX host where the VM resides, or the networks to which it is attached
  • Use the least amount of space possible, taking advantage of block level deduplication and thin provisioning, allowing more online backup versions to exist
  • Perform both the backup and recovery process in a quick, simple and easy to manage fashion

The wait is over! Netapp has met this challenge head on with yet another innovative software solution: Virtual Storage Console (VSC).  Happily, VSC is actually much more than just an integrated backup solution between VMware and Netapp.  It’s also a vCenter plug-in that allows you to manage several different aspects of Netapp storage directly from the VMware administrative interface: one being VM backup and recovery.  VSC also gives you visibility into the Netapp storage information, provides health and capacity information, allows for storage provisioning and VM cloning, and offloads some of the storage related tasks typically performed by the ESX host for faster storage related operations.

Here we are focusing on VSC’s VM backup/recovery capabilities.  After installing VSC 2.0 on the vCenter server, you will see an additional Netapp tab when you login to the vSphere client with a sub-component labeled Data Protection.  The Data Protection tab is like any other backup software where you setup your backup and retention policies, schedule your backups, and perform your restores.  You can choose to backup your environment at a datastore and/or VM level.  No matter which backup level you choose, the Netapp volumes involved are snapshot to the Netapp storage.  Netapp communicates with vCenter to manage quiescing the VMs and application/OS consistency.  All this takes seconds and no additional space on the storage system until changes start occurring which are 4k block level changes deduped for maximum storage efficiency.  You can include/exclude datastores, VMs, or independent disks; perform pre/post scripts; trigger SnapMirror updates to another Netapp for DR purposes; allow time based or number of copy retentions; and customize alerts/notifications.

Most importantly, you now have the option to restore the entire datastore, one or more VMs, or individual files within those VMs.  Netapp accomplishes the file level restore capability by FlexCloning the volume in the background (an instant operation that requires no additional space), mounting one or more of the drives from that VM to either the same or a different VM.  You can then utilize Windows explorer to drag & drop the recovered data from the mounted drives to wherever you’d like.  You can also assign permissions to whomever you’d want to be able to perform these recoveries and to/from which VMs.

The solution is here!  Netapp’s process meets all of the challenge criteria above and once and for all makes VM backup/recovery a stress free operation.  For more information or a demonstration, contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager.


Note: VSC 2.0 requires the following VMware versions vCenter Server 3.5, 4.0 or 4.1 & ESX / ESXi 3.4, 4.0 or 4.1.  Netapp requires ONTAP 7.3 or later or 8.0 7-mode or later.  It supports all protocols (FC, iSCSI, NFS on all Netapp hardware models (FAS/V-Series/N-Series).  The Data Protection component of VSC 2.0 also requires a SnapMgr for VI (SMVI) license and the single file recovery capability requires a FlexClone license.



SharePoint 2010: Game Changer

May 12th, 2010 was an exciting day for SharePoint enthusiasts around the world.  Locally, professionals from Jasper, Vincennes, Mount Vernon and Evansville in Indiana and Owensboro, Kentucky converged on the Oaklyn Library to watch the live launch of SharePoint 2010.  Anticipation had been building up for weeks and the launch was an undeniable success.  The excitement continues to swell – not because IT professionals have a new toy to play with, but because they see a product that can make a legitimate difference in their organizations.  Would you believe me if I told you that this product could have the biggest impact on how you work since email was introduced?

The SharePoint “feature wheel” has been revised to reflect the areas where SharePoint can help you improve productivity.  Feature areas include: Sites, Communities, Content, Search, Insights and Composites.

The question is “what does that mean to your organization?”  The answer is one that you must provide, but we can help.  Having been involved in dozens of SharePoint projects since 2005, I can honestly say that no two of them have been identical.  There are three editions of SharePoint 2010: Foundation, Standard and Enterprise.  Which one you deploy will depend upon your objectives (both near and long term), your internal skills/resources and your budget. 

Would it be nice to have a trusted partner to help you make an educated decision?

Keller Schroeder is on a mission in 2010.  The mission is to help you determine the best way to implement SharePoint and related technologies at your organization.  My mantra is “Every organization needs SharePoint…some just do not yet know why.” I am more convinced of that every day.  Some companies deploy SharePoint for robust content management on an intranet or public web site.  Other popular uses are forms automation and workflows.  SharePoint also continues to thrive as a custom application development platform.  Dashboards provide you with at-a-glance insight into your organization’s performance and competitive intelligence.   Security, records management and retention policies assure regulatory compliance.  You may want to use it for one or all of the above, or you may have a completely different need.

SharePoint is no longer just a great idea about empowering your users to be more productive.  SharePoint provides the tools and framework for productivity.  It is more scalable, customizable and governable than ever.  We introduce you to many of the new features on our blog at http://sharepointblog.kellerschroeder.com.  We welcome the opportunity to meet with you to help you understand how to leverage SharePoint to meet your objectives.


What’s New In Exchange 2010?

Microsoft’s Exchange Server 2010 is in the spotlight.  What’s new in Exchange 2010 you ask?  As always, Microsoft has evolved their product to align with current technology trends and added a number of features for both Systems Administrators as well as users.  In the following article, we will take a look at just a few of these enhancements and what they have to offer.

From the administrator’s perspective, one of the most significant improvements has been to the storage architecture.  Microsoft is boasting that Exchange 2010 provides an additional 50-70% reduction in disk I/O over Exchange 2007. In addition, Microsoft has replaced all the previous high availability solutions (LCR, CCR, SCR, & SCC) with their new Database Availability Groups (DAGs).  DAGs are simple to configure and allow for Exchange database fault tolerance utilizing an underlying Windows Clustering service. Up to 16 mailbox servers can participate in a DAG, providing automatic database-level recovery from a database, server, or network failure.  To support this improvement, Microsoft has eliminated “storage groups” and shifted databases to the Organizational level.

Another great addition is Role Based Access Control (RBAC), which replaces the standard permission model in Exchange 2007.  While smaller organizations may not immediately see the value of RBAC, larger organizations with a variety of administrators in different roles will quickly see the benefits.  Permissions are now based on Exchange tasks that a user needs to perform and the ability to control these features are now available within the Exchange management tools.

Anxiously awaited is Exchange 2010’s new Legal Hold feature which allows you to preserve the contents of an end user’s Exchange mailbox.  End users can still utilize their personal mailbox in a normal manner, however, copies of all items are retained, even if the end user deletes them or if archived content has expired.  A complementary feature to Legal Hold is the new multi-mailbox search feature, making it notably easier for organizations to perform E-discovery. As the feature’s name implies, multi-mailbox search allows a designated person to perform organization-level searches across end users’ mailboxes.

In summary, Exchange Server 2010 provides new levels of reliability and performance, simplifies administration, and adds numerous features to better the end user experience.   As an added bonus, OWA now provides support for both Safari and Firefox web browsers.

For more information regarding Microsoft’s Exchange 2010 and how it can benefit your organization, please contact your Keller Schroeder Senior Account Manager.


Cisco ASA 8.3 OS

If you’ve interacted with Cisco OS and IOS levels before, a numeric increase to the right of the decimal historically indicates a minor upgrade, focused on resolving open caveats or simple enhancements to existing features.

Cisco’s release of the ASA security OS 8.3 has challenged that perception.  The changes in the configuration of Network (and Port) Address Translation and Access Control Lists alone are worthy of Calvin & Hobbes’ best efforts at transmogrification.

This article won’t presume to cover in detail all the differences or iterations, but will touch on a few specific examples that are critical to review prior to any planned upgrade to this version.

The word of the day is objects.


The following is an example of a pre-8.3 and 8.3 configuration of a simple STATIC NAT in preparation for allowing public Internet access to an internal web server (10.1.1.10) by referencing the public IP 192.0.0.10:

Pre-8.3 configuration:

static (inside,outside) 192.0.0.10 10.1.1.10 netmask 255.255.255.255

8.3 configuration:

object network PubWebServer

host 10.1.1.10

nat (inside,outside) static 192.0.0.10


Another example of a difference in pre-8.3 and 8.3 configuration is shown in the following basic DYNAMIC PAT (Port Address Translation) to hide an internal RFC addressed network (192.168.2.0/24) as a single public IP address (192.0.0.1) for Internet access:

Pre-8.3 configuration:

nat (inside) 1 192.168.2.0 255.255.255.0

global (outside) 1 192.0.0.1

8.3 configuration:

object network my-inside-net

subnet 192.168.2.0 255.255.255.0

nat (inside,outside) dynamic 192.0.0.1


From the above, you can see that although structured differently, the familiar configuration parameters referencing the interfaces, IP addressing and NAT/PAT method (STATIC and DYNAMIC) are still present.   Cisco states the benefit as an increased flexibility in administering and managing both simple and complex NAT scenarios.

The changes to the Access Control Lists are less visually dramatic, but nonetheless are still significant.  The primary changes include the following:

1.       ACLs now reference the real ip addressing (pre-nat) of the hosts & networks where historically the public ip addressing (post-nat) were referenced (specifically on public facing interfaces)

2.       A Global ACL now exists which now tails the end of any interface based ACL

3.       As a result of the Global ACL, the explicit deny we’ve all come to respect is non-existent on interface based ACLs and now exists only in the Global ACL

Visit the 8.3 Configuration Guide for more details regarding the NAT/PAT and ACL changes.

In addition, as you prepare or decide whether or not to upgrade to version 8.3 of the OS closely review the memory requirements (which vary by ASA model) .  The following table identifies those appliances that require additional memory for the 8.3 upgrade.

Standard Memory and Memory Requirements

ASA Model Default Internal Flash Memory Default DRAM Before Feb. 2010 Default DRAM After Feb. 2010 Required DRAM for 8.3
5505

128 MB

256 MB

512 MB

Unlimited Hosts License: 512MB1
Security Plus License with failover enabled: 512MB1
All other licenses: 256MB
5510

256 MB

256 MB

1 GB

1 GB1

5520

256 MB

512 MB

2 GB

2 GB1

5540

256 MB

1 GB

2 GB

2 GB1

5550

256 MB

4 GB

4 GB

4 GB

5580-20

1 GB

8 GB

8 GB

8 GB

5580-40

1 GB

12 GB

12 GB

12 GB

1 A DRAM upgrade may be required.

If you’d like to learn more or have a member of our Network Solutions Group (NSG) assist with the planning or execution of an upgrade, please contact your Keller Schroeder Account Manager today!


How great is your company?

Our Leadership Team spent some time a few years ago in a discussion that went something like this:  “Keller Schroeder is a good company.  But are we a great company?  If not, what would it take to be great, and how should we define greatness?”

You can imagine that we did not come to closure on this in 20 minutes.  Organizations today are admired because of their size, profitability, longevity, and customer service excellence.  Others are revered because of the way they treat their employees and serve their communities.  Some have excellent employee benefits, inspiring missions or well-defined visions that compel insiders and observers alike to passionately follow their lead.

I believe the foundation to all of these characteristics – and the true measure of a company’s greatness – is the impact that it has on people.  Let’s face it.  People are what companies are all about.  Products are consumed by people.  Excellent customer service benefits people.  Profits accrue to “shareholder people” and create jobs for “employee people”, empowering them to live and give and impact more people.

If we take a step back from our core business and think about the people (internal and external stakeholders) who are being impacted by what we do every day, we can arrive at some near universal contributors to the greatness of an organization:

  1. Products and services that have a distinct, favorable impact on the people who receive them.
  2. A dynamic work environment where employees are stretched to develop their gifts and abilities.
  3. A performance-based culture offering income-earning and wealth-building opportunities for those willing to work hard and engage themselves beyond superficial levels.
  4. An atmosphere of caring, where individuals are valued first for who they are – personal, professional, and spiritual – above what they can contribute.
  5. A manner of interacting with external stakeholders – customers and community of course, but suppliers and partners as well – that builds them up and promotes mutual success and prosperity.

Absent any of these contributors, an organization’s greatness suffers.  If people are consistently better off as a result of buying from, selling to, working for, and sharing a community with a company, then it’s a great company.  Profitability and shareholder value are the applause of greatness.

Larry May, President

Keller Schroeder