Featuring Veeam, Nimble, Hyper-V and... great teamwork
By Vanessa Sim, Senior System Engineer - Asiasoft Solutions
Fortunately, your preparation and experience helps, so you adjust your plan along the way and when you reach your destination, the result is better then you could have hoped for. This is, in short, typical journey we as system engineers at a Solutions Provider make, but these projects are usually the most interesting ones, where everybody learns and the result is an improved environment and a happy customer
A couple months ago I was part of the team that did a Backup project for one of our customers, an Insurance Broker Firm here in Singapore. The customer already had an existing infrastructure with a mixture of backup solutions for the various applications they support. The back-ups were made to different locations, including USB hard disks and legacy tape drives. The customer found this hard to manage and was experiencing long backup timings, inconsistent backups and even backup failures.
"This is actually a situation we see happening a lot and it is not surprising given the great variety of technologies that only cover specific areas, hence organisations inevitably end up with a complicated mix".
Our objective, or destination, was to consolidate their backup, refresh their backup infrastructure and ensure the new setup would be resilient so it would meet their applications’ future demands and growth.
Every journey is unique
Every customer is unique and every project is a different journey with its own scenarios. For this customer, the unique element was that they did not have an in-house IT administrator. Most of the time, the in-house IT personnel can give us all the "ins and outs" of their environment. In this case that was not available so we had to do more research for our journey. We conducted site surveys, explored their environment and reviewed their documentation, which gave us a complete picture. This customer’s environment consisted of a mixture of physical and virtual servers. The VM's ran on two standalone Hyper-V hosts. Although the original wish of the customer was to only refresh their backup, once we understood their environment, we advised them to fully virtualise their environment and introduce a shared storage for high availability and business continuity. This was in line with their needs as their physical hardware were also reaching EOL soon and they felt the proposed solution was a better fit. This would help them to meet the demands of growing workloads and scale performance and capacity independently, without risk on downtime.
We carried this project out in two phases: first, we focused on consolidating and refreshing their backup infrastructure; after that, we worked on the virtualisation of their physical servers, adding shared storage and another Hyper-V host to form a Hyper-V cluster.
We made use of their existing Symantec Backup Exec license to backup all their physical servers to a central location. For the virtual machines, we implemented Veeam Backup & Replication. The plan was to merge all the backup into one after the physical servers were virtualised.
Once the backup infrastructure was up and running and proved to be stable, we ran Recovery Tests which covered multiple scenarios such as file-level recovery, database restore, mailbox recovery, VM recovery and bare-metal recovery (BMR). When we showed the customer how much easier it was to manage the backup during our walk-through at the end of this phase they were really glad and satisfied.
In Phase 2, we set up the Nimble storage and migrated the VM's. We added an additional Hyper-V host and configured a Hyper-V cluster with the existing standalone hosts. The physical hosts were then converted into VM's and were cutover.
Currently we are discussing with the customer the approach for Phase 3, which will cover Replication & Disaster Recovery.
I believe there is something to learn in every project. In this case the customer did not have any in-house IT administrator and therefor we discussed most of the plans and progress with the end-users (who are not so technical), and we learnt to exchange information with less technical jargon. Peppering our conversations with terminology was in this case not the most effective form of communication. It was also a learning process for the customer. As we progressed through the different stages of the project and journey they became more aware of the different options available and what they wanted the achieve. Along the way we discover that their ultimate goal was to minimise downtime in case a larger site-wide disaster would occur.
I am glad to have had this experience and to go on this journey together with the customer. We have grown together and completed the first two phases with a very satisfactory result. I can’t wait to get started with the next phase!
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