The BC/DR Dilemma

Business continuity and disaster recovery, these four words can make or break the sanity of any server or virtualization professional. I personally would have rather stared into the face of Cthulhu and lost all of my remaining sanity (at one time there wasn’t much left either) than trying to navigate these waters. There was always a lot to it and there still is. The options out there are so diverse and all of them are so different in what they can or can’t do that you could spend hours researching each one and still not be able to understand which one is right for you. Maybe your strategy was the same as mine: “Don’t let that s**t go down.” So how can we as IT/IS professionals make it easier?

This is fine. Right?!

So let’s start off getting one thing straight here, VM snapshots are NOT BC/DR, they are only a single note in the symphony. Sure you can restore a VM from a snapshot, but 9 times out of 10 where are you storing that snapshot? On the same cluster where the VM currently lives. And what happens if that cluster is attacked by ransomware? Those snapshots are not safe in any way shape or form. Sure some solutions encrypt everything on the backend when the snapshot is taken, but it’s usually light encryption. With that out of the way, we are now faced with how do you get everything you want or need for your business strategy, with as little friction as possible?

I had that same question back in late 2017 and early 2018. As I mentioned in Infrastructure: the Past, Present, and Future (part 2), I was in the process of switching from ESXi to AHV, and the company I worked for, had over the years, acquired multiple backup vendors at different sites globally. This meant there was one person who had all of the knowledge for each particular software and if they were out on vacation… well we just had to hope nothing broke. During this time cloud adoption was starting to ramp up, and when it came to connecting my private cloud (on-premise) to any public cloud, there wasn’t much functionality. This was especially true as I was on AHV and it was in the early stages of adoption by most software providers. There was one backup vendor at that time that was at least working towards AHV portability to Azure and AWS and that was HYCU. For me, it was the option I chose as it worked best for our use case and it helped me consolidate from three backup vendors to one. It was also an easy sell internally as it looked just like Prism Element for the most part and was simple to figure out. Easy, yes and it did everything they said it did and it has expanded since then.

Now while software vendors like HYCU, VEEAM, Commvault, and others can help with the BC/DR aspect there is a lot more to consider. What does true business continuity look like? How would you as an IT/IS professional feel about being able to have your workloads run in any cloud? Sure it could be expensive, but some ways can be dealt with. There is also the issue of having to refactor applications to work on one cloud provider and then having to refactor them again for the other cloud provider. This means you have to have a team dedicated to one specific cloud, or one team that handles all of your cloud operations. With that said the cloud can be very complex. You have to worry about cloud networking, then building out your marketplace if you want to include self-service, making sure everything is running properly, tiering your data storage for hot, cold, or frozen data, and the list goes on and on. It’s tough and this is why BC/DR gets thrown to the wayside and most companies cross their fingers they never have to deal with it or pay through the nose for insurance.

But what if there was an easy way to tie it all together? What if I told you that you could utilize AWS or Azure (coming soon) with Nutanix running AHV? What if I told you the simplicity we’ve already built into Nutanix can just be brought to the cloud and in the process, you could help reduce your organization’s cloud spend? I mean that sounds great! But then you also add in the fact this can be purely for a BC/DR scenario. Let’s say everything is running in your data center and you have a power outage. Well, just bring those last backups online in whichever of the two clouds you choose. Now let’s say one of them, I’ll let you guess which one, has DNS issues and that connectivity goes out. Well, it’s as easy as using those same protection policies and Nutanix DR Orchestration to bring it back up on the other cloud. What if I also told you that you can use Prism Central to manage those two clusters in the cloud the same way you do on-premise? I mean, this keeps getting better and better.

As of this writing, we have also now made it so you can use Flow Security Central to monitor the security of those cloud resources and VMs. It can alert you to what is going on, any vulnerabilities it sees, and in some cases can provide remediation in just a few simple clicks. You can also look at those clusters from a PCI-DSS, STIG, and now HIPAA compliance and remediate those issues. You can even generate reports off of those to prove you are within compliance. Just more ways you can ensure that your most critical workloads are not only safe from cyber attacks but also able to withstand a data center outage or other foreseeable issues. Now we are talking true BC/DR!

There is a lot more we will discuss on this topic in the future, as BC/DR is one of my passions. For now, if you’re interested, there are some tools out there to help you envision what this will look like and even give you some hands-on guided labs on Nutanix Test Drive. Also, let me know if you have any other questions or topics you would like to have more insight into. I have lots of stories and am always willing to share.

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