I have been spending a lot of time working with Veeam Availability Orchestrator, or VAO, since it was released a few months ago. I have found VAO to be easy to set up and use and have come up with a few tips to help get VAO up and running even faster.

If you are not familiar with VAO, it enables organizations to reduce the time, cost and effort associated with planning for and recovering from a disaster to ensure compliance and the continued delivery of production IT services. A free 30-day trial is available for download from the Veeam website.

Now, let’s start with a few tips for a smooth deployment...

Plan first, install next

One of the fundamental constructs of VAO is the Disaster Recovery site or DR site. All plans point to the DR site. One of the earliest steps should be identifying a number of characteristics for the DR site: Where is it? Will workloads need to be protected at the DR site — and how often? Will there need to be multiple DR sites? Consider below the single DR site:

Alternatively, multiple DR sites are shown in this figure:

If you like using the whiteboard, a fun way to remember this is “Draw before you install”

Start with the right application to protect

VAO is a very powerful orchestration tool and it is tempting to make many applications hyper-available out of the gate. However, my recommendation is to start with one application you know very well. When you know an application this well, it makes it easy to translate it into VAO and create a Failover Plan. A Failover Plan is the step by step actions VAO will perform on the virtual machines you are protecting.  If you are currently using home grown disaster recovery scripts, you can also import them into VAO to create Custom Steps for your Failover Plan which can be run during recovery or testing. Picking an application you know the ins and outs of will allow you to quickly and easily prove how well VAO works in your environment, versus spending time troubleshooting why an application is not working if you forgot to include a database or another component. Once you have orchestrated the Availability of this application end to end and tested it successfully, you will be ready to take on the other applications in your environment.

Decide on your categorization strategy for virtual machines

VAO uses a construct called VM Groups to determine which virtual machines make up an application and will be added to a Failover Plan. There are a few ways we can choose to do this. The first method is VMware vSphere tags. The embedded Veeam ONE server will simply get the vSphere tags you are using from vCenter and pass the information along to VAO. vSphere tags are also great for things like creating replication jobs and grouping components together in VMware vSphere. Remember to give your tags and categories easy to understand names such as the name of the application the inventory item is a part of. Examples of useless tag names are things like “Tag1,” “Storage Tag,” etc. For more information on how to get started using vSphere tags, be sure to look at this blog.

You can also use the embedded version of Veeam ONE Monitor to directly group your virtual machines. This can be done by creating a new category in Business View. The interesting thing about using this method is you can use one or multiple criteria to group virtual machines. For example, you can choose to group powered on virtual machines, or powered on virtual machines in a specific data center. Please note you can only use one of these methods at a time, so it is a good idea to make your decision up front. For more information, you can see the Veeam Availability Orchestrator 1.0 Categorization Guide.

Start with a fresh virtual machine

I briefly mentioned the embedded Veeam ONE server which is included in a VAO installation. VAO also installs an embedded version of Veeam Backup & Replication, regardless of if you choose to use it or an existing installation of Veeam Backup & Replication. VAO cannot be installed on a server that already has Veeam ONE or Veeam Backup & Replication running, so it is best to start with a fresh virtual machine. The system requirements for the virtual machine are documented in the Veeam Availability Orchestrator 1.0 Deployment Guide, which is a great document to read before you get started with your first installation of VAO.

These first three tips will make getting started with VAO even easier. Be sure to stay tuned for even more tips coming soon.

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