VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery – Using A Script VM

This is a quick post covering the steps required to configure a script VM for use in a recovery plan with VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery (VCDR). Why would you want to do this? You might be running a recovery for a Linux VM and you need to run a script to update the DNS settings of the VM once it’s powered on at another site. Or you might have a site-specific application that needs to be installed. Whatever. The point is that VCDR gives you that ability to do that via the Script VM. You can read the documentation on the feature here.

Firstly, you configure the Script VM as part of the Recovery Plan creation process. Specify the name of the VM and the vCenter it’s hosted on.

Under Recovery steps, click on Add Step to add a step to the recovery process.

When you add the step, you’ll want to add an action for the post-recovery phase.

You can then select “Run script on the Script VM”.

At this point you can specify the full path to the script file, keeping in mind that Windows looks different to Linux. You can also set a timeout for the script.

And that’s pretty much it. Remember that you’ll need working DNS, or, failing that, valid IP addresses for things to work.

Random Short Take #90

Welcome to Random Short Take #90. I remain somewhat preoccupied with the day job and acquisitions. It’s definitely Summer here now. Let’s get random.

  • You do something for long enough, and invariably you assume that everyone else knows how to do that thing too. That’s why this article from Danny on data protection basics is so useful.
  • Speaking of data protection, Preston has a book on recovery for busy people coming soon. Read more about it here.
  • Still using a PDP-11 at home? Here’s a simple stack buffer overflow attack you can try.
  • I hate it when the machines shout at me, and so do a lot of other people it seems. JB has a nice write-up on the failure of self-service in the modern retail environment. The sooner we throw those things in the sea, the better.
  • In press release news, Hammerspace picked up an award at SC2023. One to keep an eye on.
  • In news from the day job, VMware Cloud on AWS SDDC Version 1.24 was just made generally available. You can read more about some of the new features (like Express Storage Architecture support – yay!) here. I hope to cover off some of that in more detail soon.
  • You like newsletters? Sign up for Justin’s weekly newsletter here. He does thinky stuff, and funny stuff too. It’s Justin, why would you not?
  • Speaking of newsletters, Anthony’s looking to get more subscribers to his daily newsletter, The Sizzle. To that end, he’s running a “Sizzlethon”. I know, it’s a pretty cool name. If you sign up using this link you also get a 90-day free trial. And the price of an annual subscription is very reasonable. There’s only a few days left, so get amongst it and let’s help content creators to keep creating content.

VMware Cloud on AWS – Check TRIM/UNMAP

This a really quick follow up to one of my TMCHAM articles on TRIM/UNMAP on VMware Cloud on AWS. In short, a customer wanted to know whether TRIM/UNMAP had been enabled on one of their clusters, as they’d requested. The good news is it’s easy enough to find out. On your cluster, go to Configure. Under vSAN, you’ll see Services. Expand the Advanced Options section and you’ll see whether TRIM/UNMAP has been enabled for the cluster or not.

VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery – Ransomware Recovery Activation

One of the cool features of VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery (VCDR) is the Enhanced Ransomware Recovery capability. This is a quick post to talk through how to turn it on in your VCDR environment, and things you need to consider.

 

Organization Settings

The first step is to enable the ransomware services integration in your VCDR dashboard. You’ll need to be an Organisation owner to do this. Go to Settings, and click on Ransomware Recovery Services.

You’ll then have the option to select where the data analysis is performed.

You’ll also need to tick some boxes to ensure that you understand that an appliance will be deployed in each of your Recovery SDDCs, Windows VMs will get a sensor installed, and some preinstalled sensors may clash with Carbon Black.

Click on Activate and it will take a few moments. If it takes much longer than that, you’ll need to talk to someone in support.

Once the analysis integration is activated, you can then activate NSX Advanced Firewall. Page 245 of the PDF documentation covers this better than I can, but note that NSX Advanced Firewall is a chargeable service (if you don’t already have a subscription attached to your Recovery SDDC). There’s some great documentation here on what you do and don’t have access to if you allow the activation of NSX Advanced Firewall.

Like your favourite TV chef would say, here’s one I’ve prepared earlier.

Recovery Plan Configuration

Once the services integration is done, you can configure Ransomware Recovery on a per Recovery Plan basis.

Start by selecting Activate ransomware recovery. You’ll then need to acknowledge that this is a chargeable feature.

You can also choose whether you want to use integrated analysis (i.e. Carbon Black Cloud), and if you want to manually remove other security sensors when you recover. You can, also, choose to use your own tools if you need to.

And that’s it from a configuration perspective. The actual recovery bit? A story for another time.

VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery – Firewall Ports

I published an article a while ago on getting started with VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery (VCDR). One thing I didn’t cover in any real depth was the connectivity requirements between on-premises and the VCDR service. VMware has worked pretty hard to ensure this is streamlined for users, but it’s still something you need to pay attention to. I was helping a client work through this process for a proof of concept recently and thought I’d cover it off more clearly here. The diagram below highlights the main components you need to look at, being:

  • The Cloud File System (frequently referred to as the SCFS)
  • The VMware Cloud DR SaaS Orchestrator (the Orchestrator); and
  • VMware Cloud DR Auto-support.

It’s important to note that the first two services are assigned IP addresses when you enable the service in the Cloud Service Console, and the Auto-support service has three public IP addresses that you need to be able to communicate with. All of this happens outbound over TCP 443. The Auto-support service is not required, but it is strongly recommended, as it makes troubleshooting issues with the service much easier, and provides VMware with an opportunity to proactively resolve cases. Network connectivity requirements are documented here.

[image courtesy of VMware]

So how do I know my firewall rules are working? The first sign that there might be a problem is that the DRaaS Connector deployment will fail to communicate with the Orchestrator at some point (usually towards the end), and you’ll see a message similar to the following. “ERROR! VMware Cloud DR authentication is not configured. Contact support.”

How can you troubleshoot the issue? Fortunately, we have a tool called the DRaaS Connector Connectivity Check CLI that you can run to check what’s not working. In this instance, we suspected an issue with outbound communication, and ran the following command on the console of the DRaaS Connector to check:

drc network test --scope cloud

This returned a status of “reachable” for the Orchestrator and Auto-support services, but the SCFS was unreachable. Some negotiations with the firewall team, and we were up and running.

Note, also, that VMware supports the use of proxy servers for communicating with Auto-support services, but I don’t believe we support the use of a proxy for Orchestrator and SCFS communications. If you’re worried about VCDR using up all your bandwidth, you can throttle it. Details on how to do that can be found here. We recommend a minimum of 100Mbps, but you can go as low as 20Mbps if required.

Brisbane VMUG – October 2023

 

Event Overview

This month I’ll be presenting a recap of VMware Explore for all those that could not make it overseas, exploring what’s new and innovations. The agenda covers:

  • Cloud & Edge infrastructure
  • Modernize infrastructure, operating models and applications
  • Networking & Security
  • Automating app experiences with a comprehensive and secure network
  • Modern Applications & Cloud Management
  • Develop, operate and optimize apps at scale on any cloud
  • Hybrid Workforce
  • Enable work anywhere with secure and frictionless experiences

An introduction to VyOS by Shah Anupam covering how VyOS networking can be leveraged within the VMware ecosystem.

 

Primary Venue

Brisbane VMware Office

Queen St 8/324, 4000 Brisbane, QLD, AU

Brisbane VMware Office – Goondiwindi Room

Register here. Hope to see you there. [Edit] I should mention it’s happening on Wednesday October 18th, 2023 from 12:00 – 1:30pm.

Brisbane VMUG – Lunch And Learn – September 2023

The Brisbane VMUG team are running a lunch and learn with the local VMware team on September 6th, 2023. You can find out more about it below, and register for the event here.

 

Event Overview

In this Lunch & Learn session, attendees will embark on a journey through VMware Aria Operations, exploring its capabilities and innovations. The agenda is designed to provide an understanding of Aria Operations, covering:

  • General Overview: An introduction to the platform, highlighting its evolution.
  • Deployment and Enhancements: A look into new feature enhancements. SaaS and on-prem deployment options.
  • Integration with Clouds: Insight into seamless integration with VMware Cloud and native cloud platforms.
  • Core Capabilities: Exploration of essential features like troubleshooting, automation, and cost.
  • Compliance Engine: discover the compliance management ensuring adherence to standards.
  • Extended Capabilities: A focus on extended monitoring capabilities for applications and operating systems.
  • Live Demo & Q&A: An interactive segment with a live demonstration of selected features, followed by an open Q&A session.

The session aims to unlock the potential of VMware Aria Operations, guiding attendees through its multifaceted functionalities and demonstrating how they can leverage these features in their own environments. Whether new to Aria Operations or looking to explore its latest updates, this session offers valuable insights and practical knowledge.

 

Noil Oomman, Senior Solutions Architect VMware.

Noil Oomman is a Senior Solutions Architect in the Multi-Cloud Management team, based in Melbourne. Noil is experienced in working with customers and 3 X VMware Certified Professional – Cloud Operations and Automation. Noil enjoys helping customers understand the benefits of VMware’s Cloud Operation Model and how the application of our associated multi-cloud management portfolio can support them with their unique Digital Transformations.

 

Primary Venue

Brisbane VMware Office

Queen St 8/324, 4000 Brisbane, QLD, AU

Brisbane VMware Office – Goondiwindi Room

VMware Cloud on AWS – Melbourne Region Added

VMware recently announced that VMware Cloud on AWS is now available in the AWS Asia-Pacific (Melbourne) Region. I thought I’d share some brief thoughts here along with a video I did with my colleague Satya.

 

What?

VMware Cloud on AWS is now available to consume in three Availability Zones (apse4-az1, apse4-az2, apse4-az3) in the Melbourne Region. From a host type – you have the option to deploy either I3en.metal or I4i.metal hosts. There is also support for stretched clusters and PCI-DSS compliance if required. The full list of VMware Cloud on AWS Regions and Availability Zones is here.

 

Why Is This Interesting?

Since the launch of VMware Cloud on AWS, customers have only had one choice when it comes to a Region – Sydney. This announcement gives organisations the ability to deploy architectures that can benefit from both increased availability and resiliency by leveraging multi-regional capabilities.

Availability

VMware Cloud on AWS already offers platform availability at a number of levels, including a choice of Availability Zones, Partition Placement groups, and support for stretched clusters across two Availability Zones. There’s also support for VMware High Availability, as well as support for automatically remediating failed hosts.

Resilience

In addition to the availability options customers can take advantage of, VMware Cloud on AWS also provides support for a number of resilience solutions, including VMware Cloud Disaster Recovery (VCDR) and VMware Site Recovery. Previously, customers in Australia and New Zealand were able to leverage these VMware (or third-party) solutions and deploy them across multiple Availability Zones. Invariably, it would look like the below diagram, with workloads hosted in one Availability Zone, and a second Availability Zone being used as the recovery location for those production workloads.

With the introduction of a second Region in A/NZ, customers can now look to deploy resilience solutions that are more like this diagram:

In this example, they can choose to run production workloads in the Melbourne Region and recover workloads into the Sydney Region if something goes pear-shaped. Note that VCDR is not currently available to deploy in the Melbourne Region, although it’s expected to be made available before the end of 2023.

 

Why Else Should I Care?

Data Sovereignty 

There are a variety of legal, regulatory, and administrative obligations governing the access, use, security and preservation of information within various government and commercial organisations in Victoria. These regulations are both national and state-based, and in the case of the Melbourne Region, provide organisations in Victoria the opportunity to store data in VMware Cloud on AWS that may not otherwise have been possible.

Data Locality

Not all applications and data reside in the same location. Many organisations have a mix of workloads residing on-premises and in the cloud. Some of these applications are latency-sensitive, and the launch of the Melbourne Region provides organisations with the ability to host applications closer to that data, as well as accessing native AWS services with improved responsiveness over applications hosted in the Sydney Region.

 

How?

If you’re an existing VMware Cloud on AWS customer, head over to https://cloud.vmware.com. Login to the Cloud Services Console. Click on the VMware Cloud on AWS tile. Click on Inventory. Then click on Create SDDC.

 

Thoughts

Some of the folks in the US and Europe are probably wondering why on earth this is such a big deal for the Australian and New Zealand market. And plenty of folks in this part of the world are probably not that interested either. Not every organisation is going to benefit from or look to take advantage of the Melbourne Region. Many of them will continue to deploy workloads into one or two of the Sydney-based Availability Zones, with DR in another Availability Zone, and not need to do any more. But for those organisations looking for resiliency across geographical regions, this is a great opportunity to really do some interesting stuff from a disaster recovery perspective. And while it seems delightfully antiquated to think that, in this global world we live in, some information can’t cross state lines, there are plenty of organisations in Victoria facing just that issue, and looking at ways to store that data in a sensible fashion close to home. Finally, we talk a lot about data having gravity, and this provides many organisations in Victoria with the ability to run workloads closer to that centre of data gravity.

If you’d like to hear me talking about this with my learned colleague Satya, you can check out the video here. Thanks to Satya for prompting me to do the recording, and for putting it all together. We’re aiming to do this more regularly on a variety of VMware-related topics, so keep an eye out.

Random Short Take #87

Welcome to Random Short Take #87. Happy Fête Nationale du 14 juillet to those who celebrate. Let’s get random.

  • I always enjoy it when tech vendors give you a little peak behind the curtain, and Dropbox excels at this. Here is a great article on how Dropbox selects data centre sites. Not every company is operating at the scale that Dropbox is, but these kinds of articles provide useful insights nonetheless. Even if you just skip to the end and follow this process when making technology choices:
    1. Identify what you need early.
    2. Understand what’s being offered.
    3. Validate the technical details.
    4. Physically verify each proposal.
    5. Negotiate.
  • I haven’t used NetWorker for a while, but if you do, this article from Preston on what’s new in NetWorker 19.9 should be of use to you.
  • In VMware Cloud on AWS news, vCenter Federation for VMware Cloud on AWS is now live. You can read all about it here.
  • Familiar with Write Once, Read Many (WORM) storage? This article from the good folks at Datadobi on WORM retention made for some interesting reading. In short, keeping everything for ever is really a data management strategy, and it could cost you.
  • Speaking of data management, check out this article from Chin-Fah on data management and ransomware – it’s an alternative view very much worth considering.
  • Mellor wrote an article on Pixar and VAST Data’s collaboration. And he did one on DreamWorks and NetApp for good measure. I’m fascinated by media creation in general, and it’s always interesting to see what the big shops are using as part of their infrastructure toolkit.
  • JB put out a short piece highlighting some AI-related content shenanigans over at Gizmodo. The best part was the quoted reactions from staff – “16 thumbs down emoji, 11 wastebasket emoji, six clown emoji, two face palm emoji and two poop emoji.”
  • Finally, the recent Royal Commission into the “Robodebt” program completed and released a report outlining just how bad it really was. You can read Simon’s coverage over at El Reg. It’s these kinds of things that make you want to shake people when they come up with ideas that are destined to cause pain.

VMware Cloud on AWS – TMCHAM – Part 11 – Storage Policies

In this edition of Things My Customers Have Asked Me (TMCHAM), I’m going to cover Managed Storage Policy Profiles (MSPPs) on the VMware-managed VMware Cloud on AWS platform.

 

Background

VMware Cloud on AWS has MSPPs deployed on clusters to ensure that customers have sufficient resilience built into the cluster to withstand disk or node failures. By default, clusters are configured with RAID 1, Failures to Tolerate (FTT):1 for 2 – 5 nodes, and RAID 6, FTT:2 for clusters with 6 or more nodes. Note that single-node clusters have no Service Level Agreement (SLA) attached to them, as you generally only run those on a trial basis, and if the node fails, there’s nowhere for the data to go. You can read more about vSAN Storage Polices and MSPPs here, and there’s a great Tech Zone article here. The point of these policies is that they are designed to ensure your cluster(s) remain in compliance with the SLAs for the platform. You can view the policies in your environment by going to Policies and Profiles in vCenter and selecting VM Storage Policies.

 

Can I Change Them?

The MSPPs are maintained by VMware, and so it’s not a great idea to change the default policies on your cluster, as the system will change them back at some stage. And why would you want to change the policies on your cluster? Well, you might decide that 4 or 5 nodes could actually run better (from a capacity perspective) using RAID 5, rather than RAID 1. This is a reasonable thing to want to do, and as the SLA talks about FTT numbers, not RAID types, you can change the RAID type and remain in compliance. And the capacity difference can be material in some cases, particularly if you’re struggling to fit your workloads onto a smaller node count.

 

So How Do I Do It Then?

Clone The Policy

There are a few ways to approach this, but the simplest is by cloning an existing policy. In this example, I’ll clone the vSAN Default Storage Policy. In the VMware Cloud on AWS, there is an MSPP assigned to each cluster with the name “VMC Workload Storage Policy – ClusterName“. Select the policy you want to clone and then click on Clone.

The first step is to give the VM Storage Policy a name. Something cool with your initials should do the trick.

You can edit the policy structure at this point, or just click Next.

Here you can configure your Availability options. You can also do other things, like configure Tags and Advanced Policy Rules.

Once this is configured, the system will check that your vSAN datastore are compatible with your policy.

And then you’re ready to go. Click Finish, make yourself a beverage, bask in the glory of it all.

Apply The Policy

So you have a fresh new policy, now what? You can choose to apply it to your workload datastore, or apply it to specific Virtual Machines. To apply it to your datastore, select the datastore you want to modify, click on General, then click on Edit next to the Default Storage Policy option. The process to apply the policy to VMs is outlined here. Note that if you create a non-compliant policy and apply it to your datastore, you’ll get hassled about it and you should likely consider changing your approach.

 

Thoughts

The thing about managed platforms is that the service provider is on the hook for architecture decisions that reduce the resilience of the platform. And the provider is trying to keep the platform running within the parameters of the SLA. This is why you’ll come across configuration items in VMware Cloud on AWS that you either can’t change, or have some default options that seem conservative. Many of these decisions have been made with the SLAs and the various use cases in mind for the platform. That said, it doesn’t mean there’s no flexibility here. If you need a little more capacity, particularly in smaller environments, there are still options available that won’t reduce the platform’s resilience, while still providing additional capacity options.