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Fund services bureau automates DR with Veeam Availability Suite

Veeam Availability Suite proxy servers on Dell storage cluster create production replicas for restoring shared VMware storage.

Moving backup storage from tape to Veeam Software's Availability Suite is paying dividends by shortening recover times for FundAssist Limited, a VMware shop that provides software and technology services to the global investment funds industry.

Based in Dublin, Ireland, FundAssist implemented Veeam Availability Suite 7 with a Dell storage cluster in mid-2013. The move was done to improve disaster recovery (DR) and business continuity (BC) and reduce its reliance on tape for backup. FundAssist uses Veeam's SureBackup function to create production replicas for quickly restoring primary storage for applications, database workloads, Exchange email servers and file services.

SureBackup is designed for automated recovery and verification of shared VMware storage. The Veeam ONE virtualization management tool automates reports in vCenter Server for disk capacity, number of vSphere guests supported, and other aspects of the VMware infrastructure.

FundAssist frequently publishes updates to internal and external applications, which include major investment funds in more than 40 countries. Code updates or other application fixes must be deployed only between 9 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. GMT to serve customers stretching from Asia-Pacific to Alaska.

FundAssist's development team uses SureBackup to set up "virtual labs" in which users can test code updates before they go live. The process hastens User Acceptance Testing and promotion of application code from staging to production. Veeam has shortened recovery times from days to 15 minutes and recovery point objectives to about 30 minutes, senior systems engineer Joe McGlynn said.

"We do a lot of work for global banks, so security, uptime and reliability of storage are very important. Our customers live and die on what happens in the previous 15 minutes. Veeam gives us a way to find data quickly and fix an issue to production machines, without actually messing with production," McGlynn said.

Veeam data stores handle failover, backups, daily replication

FundAssist's production data runs on three Dell PowerEdge R720 servers, which connect to two Dell PowerVault MD3200 serial-attached iSCSI arrays. One of the Dell arrays is connected to a Dell MD1220 direct-attached expansion enclosure. The main Dell cluster provides about 10 TB of usable capacity with RAID 10 storage.

Rounding out the Dell cluster is a hot standby site equipped with two PowerEdge R720 machines. The stand-by servers provide 7 TB of usable storage per host with RAID 10 10,000 RPM 900 GB disks to host production replicas and virtual testing labs.

The company purchased a Veeam Backup Essentials license that covers six CPUs. Veeam backup servers use three Dell PowerEdge R520 boxes with 15K RAID 1 to handle operating system and Network File System shares for restores from RAID 5 7K hybrid disk backup storage. Each Veeam backup server provides 8 TB of storage.

One Veeam proxy server is installed per Dell production host. The primary Veeam-Dell server handles enterprise backups, replicating primary storage to a hot standby. A secondary PowerEdge 520 machine is configured with Veeam strictly for low-cost backup storage to hard disk for transfer to tape to provide long-term retention and DR.

Production data is replicated daily to a third Veeam-enabled Dell failover host for proof-of-concept (POC) testing for BC planning. The POC host spins up virtual production replicas as needed to restore application workloads, databases and services from a SureBackup copy.

"There was a lot of pain involved in trying to replicate our full environment that supports customer-facing machines and internal-facing users"' McGlynn said. "We've got 52 VMs -- that's a lot of hardware to keep up to date with file servers, [Microsoft] SQL Servers and what have you. Whereas with Veeam, we just build a new SureBackup copy to pull the machines we actually want. That allows the lads to know they're testing on relatively current data."

FundAssist considered storage software from other backup vendors, including the Zerto Virtual Replication suite, but selected Veeam based on its integration with VMware. Veeam also rolled out support for Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization in version 6.

"We are a VMware shop because we need guaranteed uptime. Veeam stood out because it will back up VMware environments and also back up Hyper-V storage, should we decide to change our architecture. We wouldn't need to buy a new backup product and learn it. We would just point Veeam server at our Hyper-V backups," McGlynn said

Granular recovery of Microsoft Exchange and SQL Server, included as part of Veeam Backup and Replication, also tipped the scales in favor of Veeam. "Being able to reach into an Exchange server and pull out an email from backup … how cool is that?" McGlynn said.

Next Steps

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We have a little different setup in our manufacturing plant. With 5 locations throughout the Maritimes (east coast of Canada) we are dependent on keeping our main plant operating to ensure that the other plants can keep running in the event of a disaster. Exchange, BES, SQL, file & application servers, and terminal servers are all in the main plant. Everything is running on Scale Computing HC3 nodes and the VM's are replicated to our disaster recovery site via fiber connection. 
The DR site has a Unitrends Recovery appliance and archival storage standing by to provide granular recovery for files as well as Exchange items. Should primary servers fail (meteor hits the server room) then the servers can be spun up in the Unitrends Recovery appliance to keep the other plants operating. 
In the works right now is setting up a Unitrends Enterprise Backup VM in a different province as another level of protection accessible across both the WAN and Internet. 
Prior to installing the Unitrends equipment, we'd looked at several other vendors and decided that Unitrends offered us the best bang for the buck along with a "set it and forget it" feeling.
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