In August last year, Veeam Software had just announced the availability platform. The vision was well defined and well communicated to the audience and to the Veeam customers. One of the highlights of the announced platform was the Veeam Availability Orchestrator. This is a product that excites me; it is what I wished for back in the early years of my career. Today, I want to shed more light about what exactly this product designed for, and in this Version 1, tell you about its capabilities and features.
Note: On this blog, I used a pre-release version, please be aware that some or all the configuration steps might be changed on the GA release which expected toward the end of the year.
What is Veeam Orchestrator?
First, let’s define Veeam Orchestrator, and see what business challenges it can solve. Veeam Availability Orchestrator is a software product, part of the Veeam Availability platform vision. It is designed to help customers with these common requirements:
- Automate DR procedures;
- Meet disaster recovery compliance requirements;
- Reduce recoverability workloads;
- Reduce operational costs; and
- Maintain data availability.
Simply put, this product runs on top of the Veeam Availability Suite and is designed to help you build, test and document a disaster recovery plan. Building a DR plan will start at selecting the servers you wish to include in your disaster recovery plan. The next step is to ensure that your plan works flawlessly before catastrophe strikes. If it works, document your DR plan. Using the Veeam Orchestrator will automate the entire DR process for you; this is exactly the reason Orchestrator was designed
Set the Expectation with Version One
Veeam Availability Orchestrator is not a backup or a replication product. Its purpose is to assist you to create your backup strategy. It is to help you and your business to be prepared for any disaster by implementing a DR plan that starts from procedures, then moves to validation of the procedures, and then to documenting the plan. To achieve and build your DR plan, you must ensure that a Veeam Backup and Replication product is installed and that a replication job is configured. In additional to the Veeam Backup and Replication product, you must have VeeamOne, the Veeam monitoring tool necessary to build and associate your replicated server to a DR plan.
Veeam Availability Orchestrator Building Blocks
The Veeam Availability Orchestrator is the master application organizing several Veeam products to help you build, validate and document your business DR plan. The components of the Veeam orchestrator are:
- VAO Server Service — responsible for synchronizing data across VAO sites, and manages failover plans and administers user roles and permissions.
- VAO Agent Service – responsible for communication with the embedded Veeam backup server.
- VAO UI — a web-based UI to manage VAO.
- Veeam Backup & Replication Server (embedded) — installed automatically as part of a VAO server installation. It can be orchestrated directly by the VAO Service without further configuration, and may also be used as a fully functional Veeam backup server.
- Veeam ONE Server (embedded) — installed automatically as part of a VAO server installation, it contains the Veeam Business View component, which is responsible for collecting VMs into VM Groups for use in Failover Plans.
- SQL Server — required to host configuration data, VM inventory, and failover plan definitions. An SQL Server Express instance can be installed locally by the VAO setup.
As with many enterprise products, there are several ways to deploy and scale the Veeam Availability Orchestrator; on this blog, we will discuss the “all in one deployment” used for testing and Proof of Concept (PoC) purposes. The installation process is straightforward; just run the guided installation, and you will see how that works below.
Note: Review the Product Guide for the hardware and software requirements.
Veeam Availability Orchestrator Configuration
After installing the product, you will notice three icons have been added to your desktop/server; they are:
- Veeam Availability Orchestrator;
- Veeam Backup and Replication; and
- VeeamOne Business view.
Our configuration journey will start with the following three steps.
Veeam Backup and Replication side:
- Run the Veeam console.
- Add a vCentre to the backup infrastructure.
- Create and configure a Virtual Lab (see the figures below). This will be used by Veeam Availability Orchestrator to run and validate the recoverability of the replicated VMs.
Name the Virtual Lab:
Choose the host to be used to run the VLab:
Choose the datastore to store the redo logs:
Configure the proxy appliance to be used for this virtual appliance:
Configure the Virtual lab networking:
and then press Apply.
- Create a Replication Job. Add the VMs to be included in the DR plan.
Veeam ONE Business view side:
Note: there are several ways to build a Groups.
- Run the VeeamOne Business view WebGui.
- Build Rules to include the Replicated VMs, by browsing to Configuration on the VeeamOne Business view.
- Create categories by pressing add:
- On Groups add a new group under the newly created category
- Browse to the Workspace
- and select the desired VM you wish to add to the new created Category and press Edit Category button to assign the VM to the desired Category
Veeam Availability Orchestrator side:
As you have come to expect of Veeam R&D, they went the extra mile to make the deployment and configuration of their product simple and to the point; the Veeam Availability Orchestrator is no different. To get you started with the configuration, you must understand and be familiar with the term “Site.” a Veeam Orchestrator “Site” is a logical organizational unit. A Site is not necessarily a separate geographical or physical location; every installed VAO server defines a site. Sites are used in VAO for two reasons:
- They allow a scalable distributed architecture; and
- They provide administrative delegation for failover plan authoring.
There are two types of sites in the VAO infrastructure — Production site and DR site.
- Production Site(s) — a Production site is a site where source production VMs to be replicated are located.
- DR Site — DR Site is the site where the VM replicas are located, and where your failover plans are created, stored, tested and executed.
In a single VAO deployment, there can be multiple Production sites, but only one DR site. Should the environment have more than one DR location, various deployment options are still possible; such as, “stretched” VAO DR site accommodating several locations or separate parallel installations of VAO.
- Login to the VAO WebGui:
- Run through the Initial Configuration Wizard,
- Select the Site type. On this blog, we will choose a DR site:
- Enter the site name:
- Press Skip the Backup Server; we going to use the Embedded VBR server:
- Add the VI (Virtual Infrastructure or vCentre):
Now that we have reached this stage, it is time to start building our DR Plan Components.
- Browse to the configuration menu item at the upper right side;
- Select Plan Components at the left-hand side Menu.
VM GROUPS is the VM Replicated Group you created on the VeeamOne Business view. In our example, we have VAOReplication Group, which contains one replicated server.
- Select Enable checkbox
- PLAN STEPS are the steps we wish to include in our DR Plan; such as Start Replica VM, Ping-VM, etc. In this example, I have selected the options below:
- CREDENTIALS: These are used on the failover plan; for example, running a custom script. I will select the default Veeam B&R server credentials.
- VIRTUAL LABS: This enables the virtual lab we created when we configured the VBR server:
- TEMPLATE JOBS: These are any jobs configured that VAO will use as a template to perform a backup of the replica VM after a failover:
Also under the configuration, you can configure a Users and Roles, and SMTP. We will skip this config; it is a straightforward config, and I’m sure you won’t need my screenshots for these.
After the configuration steps up to this point are completed, we will be able to setup a DR plan and schedule a validation of the plan. The last step will be to generate the DR documents to keep our DR plan records up-to-date.
Let’s build our first test plan by choosing the BUILD AND RUN option from the menu. On selecting this option, we will be presented with the Build and Run\Failover Plans options:
- Under the Failover Plans option, select the New option. Provide the Plan with a name:
- Under Add VM Groups, select our previously configured VAOReplication Group:
- Customize the recovery option of the plan. Here you can configure the behavior of the DR plan run:
- Customize the VM steps during the failover test:
- Select the backup template:
- Select the desired documentation format:
The test plan is now configured and ready. We can hit the Run button to test our failover plan:
Note: In this example, the SMTP server was not configured; that’s why you can see an error with the Send Email task. Safely, you can ignore this error.
Now it is time to configure the Test failover plan and schedule the testing. So, lets browse to the TEST option and then select the Site and the PLAN NAME.
- Choose “Configure testing” to start our configurations:
- To start the configuration, enter a password to edit the test plan
- On being authenticated, chose the Virtual lab associated with the test plan you are editing:
On the Application Dependency group option, you can select the servers supporting the replicated server. For example, if you are building a DR plan for a SharePoint environment, you will need to add AD, DNS, SQL servers add a dependency group to test the SharePoint application failover. After you add the servers, you will be to able to configure the order in which the servers run. The last option is to schedule the testing. On the screenshot below, you will see the settings for scheduling to run the DR plan testing every day at midnight.
I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I wished I had this product in my early IT life. We needed it when we were working over a weekend every three months to check our DR strategy. I do recall that every three months we would find another hole in our DR Plan.
If this product was available then, we could have had restful weekends all year round. The VAO would take care of the planning, validation, and document the DR strategy; and more than that, all these tasks would have been performed automatically, anytime, and DR report would be sent to the team.
As usual, thanks go out to Veeam R&D for another great product; all that remains now is the final release, coming very soon.