Organizations can no longer count on a “best efforts” disaster recovery strategy. They also can’t afford to take a “recover everything instantly” strategy. IT must balance the recovery requirements of the organization with the realities of the budget to make sure that the right level of recovery is applied to each application based on its criticality to the organization. An intelligent recovery effort requires a process that is documented, tested and updated. The problem is that most organizations don’t have the time and resources to keep the DR plan in line with organizational requirements and budget reality. Veeam Availability Orchestrator (VAO) offers organizations the ability to meet these often conflicting goals.
Getting Ready for Veeam Availability Orchestrator
The first step in getting ready for VAO is to implement a standard Veeam Backup & Replication configuration. The Veeam Backup & Replication Server is used to backup and/or replicate data at the primary site to the protection infrastructure, likely a secondary DR site. The next step is to implement an VAO server at the DR site. This server then communicates with a VAO agent installed on the Veeam Backup & Replication Server. VAO knows which virtual machines (VMs) are protected via native Veeam replication, backup, or both.
After the implementation is complete, the DR administrator then starts creating orchestration plans within VAO to define how and when each application should be recovered. The orchestration plans are incredibly flexible so they can be tailored to each application’s needs, including dependencies within and outside of that application, as well as taking advantage of VM- and application-specific recovery steps and scripting. VAO ships with out-of-the box options as well as the option to include and custom PowerShell scripts. Once the orchestration plan is built, IT can test it to make sure it executes as designed, and within recovery time objectives (RTO) and recovery point objectives (RPO). VAO uses automated Veeam Data Labs to isolate this test recovery effort, so there is no personnel requirement, no impact on production, and any potential errors won’t leak into production either.
Veeam Availability Orchestrator Benefits
The primary benefit of using VAO to drive the DR process is reliable recoveries in any situation. The recovery effort is pre-programmed, repeatable and incredibly efficient. It is also scalable. A key differentiator between standard restores and site-wide disasters is the number of applications that require recovery. VAO allows IT to pre-program each recovery effort according to its unique requirements.
Creating a written DR plan is a big challenge for most organizations. After completion of the initial orchestration plans, VAO provides documentation on those workflows, including a detailed change log. With VAO, IT now has automatically created a documented DR plan.
Even more difficult is keeping a DR plan up to date. VAO’s ease of testing enables IT to make sure they adapt their recovery efforts to meet the changing state of the application and changes to recovery objectives. If an application’s data set size becomes too large or if the organization decides it needs the application up in half the time as the prior commitment, IT can make changes and use VAO to test them. Once IT develops a new strategy for protection and recovery, VAO updates its documentation automatically. The organization now has a living disaster recovery plan that evolves with the organization.
VAO also enables IT to continuously test and document application recoverability automatically, alerting the organization when an application is no longer recoverable within its objectives. IT can demonstrate the viability of recovery at any time making it easy to pass audits. The testing and isolation of recoveries also extends the usefulness of the DR environment to enable the organization to work through software updates, test patches and new software before they are pushed to production.
VAO v2 adds the option of Restore Plans, enabling organizations to use traditional backups as part of the DR plan, not just replicas. VAO will completely automate the recovery of applications from both. Applications not needing as rapid replication recovery can leverage the backup repository without creating extra work for IT, while significantly reducing the cost of disaster recovery. It is worth mentioning that VAO supports Veeam’s patented Instant VM Recovery, powering production from the backup file while it is being restored, so even when using backups for the DR plan, aggressive RTOs can still be met.
Another key capability added in VAO is Scopes, which enables granular permissions at the VM group level. Now IT can empower business units, application owners and operations teams with their own DR planning and testing capabilities. IT can, for example, set up the initial plan, then the business unit can test that plan at any time to make sure it will complete recovery within the required time without impacting other applications.
Finally, VAO v2 provides enhanced reporting and compliance features. IT professionals can now define RTOs and RPOs and test against them, enabling IT to see what commitments it can and cannot make, as well as proving compliance with internal and external regulations.
During a disaster, IT resources can easily get stretched thin or simply be unavailable. Automation of DR is critical so that the entire process can execute with the minimum amount of delay. Automated DR also provides other advantages, like improved testing and documenting capabilities to ensure the plan is frequently validated, up to date and always ready to go. VAO does more than cover the DR basics. It has the ability to greatly improve efficiencies, reduce costs and improve DR compliance.