November 4th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

*Disclaimer – I work for EMC.  I was not asked to write this post nor was it reviewed/approved by my employer prior to publishing.  It is simply based on my learning experience as I get to know this solution*

I’ve had the opportunity for the last few days to spend some time getting to know EMC VPLEX, and wow – I wish I knew about this a few years ago.  VPLEX enables continuous available of storage arrays either locally (Local) or over distance (Metro and Geo).  In addition of continuous availability in the event of array maintenance or failure it also provides the means to migrate data from different arrays.  Now before you keep reading know that I am still learning about this solution as well – if you know this solution well and I’ve got something wrong here please let me know.

VPLEX works by sitting between the hosts and storage arrays.  Rather than zoning a host to a physical array, you zone the host to the VPLEX.  Then the VPLEX is zoned to the storage array to present available storage to the host.  Since my host is access storage through the VPLEX, and not on the array directly I can take out entire physical arrays behind the VPLEX and depending on my configuration have no affect on the host or the availability of storage.

Of particular interest to me is the Metro configuration, I could stretch a distributed volume and VMware cluster across data centers (assuming < 5ms round trip between data centers) and in the event of a site outage have access to my original virtual infrastructure.  Now a site outage could be many things – an array failure, network failure or natural disaster scenario that takes out accessibility to that physical location.  I had the opportunity in a course I was teaching last week to have some folks who helped me whiteboard what this looks like:

Whiteboarding a VPLEX Metro

VPLEX Metro whiteboard session

VPLEX Metro whiteboard session

What we have here are two arrays behind a VPLEX Metro setup – one array each in site A and B and one VPLEX in site A and B.  A distributed volume is created on the VPLEX and hosts are zoned to the VPLEX like you would typically directly to the array.  Since it is zoned to the VPLEX, and the VPLEX is setup in a Metro configuration each host can access the VPLEX in each site.  If a site fails, multipathing rules for the host would move to the VPLEX in site B and continue operation.  The witness in the middle is in a 3rd failure domain and used to monitor the VPLEXs to ensure the failure is not just communication between the VPLEXs and manage VPLEX rules appropriately.

Now as I said in the beginning I am still getting to know VPLEX, if you want to learn more check out the free EMC Education Services VPLEX eLearning on ECN.  There is also a VPLEX practice test available if you want to test your VPLEX knowledge after the eLearning and figure out what, if any other training  you want to purse.

Getting to know EMC VPLEX

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June 26th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

**Disclaimer:  I have previously published a book with Packt Publishing.  This book review was not approved or seen in advance of Packt Publishing and is my own opinion.  This book was provided to me at not cost to read and review**

Long book title, long blog post title!  Packt Publishing has given me the opportunity to review Disaster Recovery using VMware vSphere Replication and vCenter Site Recovery Manager (


The book is very straight forward and is very easily consume.  The book covers installation and configuration of VMware Site Recovery Manager and vSphere Replication.  While the book is mostly a step by step guide, the author does include design and installation considerations where appropriate as well as a review of background tasks happening which might not otherwise be controlled by the administrator; for example the cleanup tasks after testing a recovery.

Even though the book is on the shorter side, it is a worthy read for anyone interested in implementing either VMware SRM, vSphere Replication or both.

Packt has also provided me with 2 eBook copies to give away for readers of my blog.  To participate, please follow me on Twitter @jfrappier and re-tweet this article by July 3rd  (be sure to include my Twitter handle, @jfrappier so that I can track the RTs if you are using something like Buffer which may not show an RT on the original tweet).  Only July 4th, I will select two winners.

Disaster Recovery using VMware vSphere Replication and vCenter Site Recovery Manager Book Review and Contest

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January 6th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

ReliableDR from PHD Virtual, now Unitrends is an application that “helps assure business continuity by automating the disaster recovery process to dramatically reduce the cost and complexity of fail over, fail back and testing.  Now you can certify your VMs will recover as planned, and within corresponding SLAs.”  That’s the marketing version, what does it mean for an engineer/administrator?  Its a tool that allows you to test your DR plan, pretty straight and simple, then when you actually need to perform your DR plan it provides the tools needed to automate that process as well as the process to fail back, which is generally the harder process of the two!

Installing ReliableDR was amazingly simple and complete, you will need a Windows 2008 OS or greater; you can’t install on Win7 for example, and from there the installer handles all of the dependencies such as .NET 4.0 and IIS 7.  I haven’t come across many applications recently where even the installation process was so well done and documented.

  • Download and start the installer from PHD Virtual
  • Next, Accept/Next, Next
  • Here if you do not have IIS 7 installed, the ReliableDR installer configures that for you, Next
  • You will then be prompted on whether to use a local SQL instance or an existing ReliableDR instance, selecting to use a new local instance will configure the ReliableDR database (when is it appropriate to use a separate SQL server – N number of Hosts? VMs? Data?)
  • Option to change components, which appears to be no options to change, but just click Next
  • Select your path for the web services, Next
  • Select the IP(s) and ports you wish ReliableDRs web services to run on, Next (the installer will also stop the Default Web Site)
  • Next to start all the bits moving around for the installer to configure the service.
  • The installer went though and completed the installation, now click Finish.

Once the installation is complete there will be a ReliableDR shortcut on the desktop which will connect you to the web UI, the default username is Admin / password.


Once you are logged in, you do need to hop around a bit as no wizard was presented, but its a very straight forward process to configure.

  • Click on Servers and then click the Add button
  • Add your vCenter servers, and credentials for each and click save.  If you only have one for testing or POC just enter that vCenter.
  • For testing you may want to create an isolated network/vSwitch.
  • Click on Mappings and click the Add button
  • Select the primary and secondary server based on your use case and click Next
  • Under each vCenter, click the link that says “Mapping not set, click to change”
  • Here you can see I selected my VM Network and IsolatedDR next I created for testing.


  • Click OK, click Next
  • Select the failbox network, this is likely the opposite of what you selected above.  Click OK and Next.
  • Name your mapping and click Save.
  • Click on Jobs, here there was no Add button like there was for Mappings (maybe a bug?) but if you right click on Jobs you will get the Add job button; click that.
  • You will have 3 options here, the first however will be to setup ReliableDR replication.
  • Select your source and replication server, click Next.
  • Select your mapping that we just created and click Next.
  • Select the VM you wish to protect, and drag the VM to the datastore on the right you wish to replicate to, repeat for each VM and click Next.
  • Name and review your job options such as RTO and RPO and click Save.

Now you are all set to run your first test!  Just click on the job, click the Actions button and select Run Test.  You will see the status of your replication and….




In less than an hour I installed the product, configured for my environment and was able to successfully test a DR scenario.  I can’t think of many tasks that only occupy and hour of your time at work that are more worthwhile than building a DR solution, ReliableDR makes it that easy!


You can find all the current documentation at

Getting started with PHD Virtual ReliableDR

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November 26th, 2013 by NerdBlurt

Sharing a new tool from PHD Virtual, that will help in your Disaster Recovery planning and execution.

Release info 

PHD Virtual has released today a free Recovery Time Calculator to quickly and automatically calculate how long it will take to recover virtual machines and critical applications in the event of an outage or disaster.

Dubbed the RTA Calculator, for the ‘Recovery Time Actual’ estimate it provides, PHD’s free tool can be easily downloaded and then immediately provides visibility into what your organization’s actual VM recovery time would be in the event of an outage.


PHDVirtual RTA Calculator

 The RTA Calculator has a built-in wizard to connect to VMware. Once installed you are prompted to select the VMs you wish to time for an RTA estimate, and set the appropriate boot order. The RTA Calculator will then take a snapshot and create linked clones for each VM. Due to the use of snapshotting and linked clones, the VM creation process is very quick.

The tool then simply powers up the VMs and times the process, calculating the total time it will take to recover that grouping of VMs – it’s that simple! This gives you an accurate Recovery Time Actual you can use to compare to your Recovery Time Objective and determine if you’ll be able to adhere to your SLAs.

Run the RTA tool as often as needed to produce an estimate with different production loads.

What You’ll Need

System Requirements

Like all PHD Virtual products, the RTA Calculator is highly effective while still maintaining ease of use. It requires no training or product documentation. All you need to know is contained within in this short video demonstration


Other than that just ensure you meet the following 3 requirements

  • The RTA Calculator is a Windows application that requires an Administrator account and .Net 4.0.
  • The RTA Calculator supports VMware ESX or ESXi with vCenter 4.0 (or higher) with default ports.
  • The RTA Calculator will need the VMware guest tools installed.

Download the FREE tool here:

Nerd’s Blurt

I enjoy sharing free resources with my readers, tools make our jobs easier. Enjoy.

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August 22nd, 2013 by JFrappier

Today, Zerto has released version 3 of the Disaster Recovery (DR) solution; Zerto Virtual Replication.  For those unfamiliar with Zerto, they provide a complete software solution (e.g. no hardware appliances) to build, test and automate disaster recovery for your virtual environment (currently only VMware only).  Zerto is able to replicate between dissimilar storage devices and because they do not rely on snapshots can offer continuous replication for sub 1 minute RPO’s.  Version 3 ships with a list of new improvements including:

  • Replication of VM’s between hosts managed by the same vCenter
  • Automated fail over AND fail back
  • Enhanced reporting
  • New web user interface

If you do not have a DR plan, you might want to get on that; especially with hurricane season and winter coming!  Also released today is their “DR Toolkit” which helps Zerto collect your email address (love ya meant it Zerto:) )you understand some basics of DR as well as check the state of your DR plan.  You can read the full announcement from Zerto here on Virtual Replication v3.  My only complain with Zerto is they have not addressed physical systems, for those that 100% virtual this isn’t a problem, but could be a concern those still supporting physical workloads (Zerto hint; you should be able to do something with FalconStor doing a backup of physical systems).

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