This article is about using an important feature in Veeam Availability Orchestrator (VAO). I was thinking of writing this and a friend reached out to me about an issue he was having in VAO and it was due to him not using a Lab Group. So that moved the importance of this article up! So thanks for that Josh!
When you are protecting an application, such as Exchange, or SharePoint, it often requires a domain controller to run, or perhaps just provide the ability to log in. Exchange will not start for example if there is no DC’s around.
However, domain controllers should not be protected and recovered as part of a failover. This is a best practice from long ago and one that I still believe is appropriate. After all it costs very little to have a domain controller already on the recovery side.
So how do we get a domain controller into a protection plan, so that we can safely do a test failover? Test failovers are critically important as it means we can confirm things work, or figure out how to make things work, so that in a real failover everything actually does works good. But, remember the domain controller never fails over.
The answer is Lab Groups. That is a safe way to pull outside resources into a test failover, but yet are not part of a real failover.
Lets create one and see how it goes.
You need to replicate a Domain Controller, and know what the tag is for it. Then in the Plan Components section of Configuration make sure that Domain Controller VM group is selected and enabled.
Of course, domain controller is what we are using in this article. It could be something else if that is what you need.
Creating a Lab Group
We log into VAO, and change to the Virtual Labs view. We need to have at least one virtual lab already defined.
So what we do is highlight the Virtual Lab, and select the Edit button. You can see it above with the pencil beside it.
Now we use the green plus sign Add button. We will get a wizard.
So in the Search field you see above look for your DC VM Group. Mine is highlighted. If you are not use if the right VMs are in that group, you can use the View VMs button indicated above to confirm the continued VMs are what you want. Once you are sure use the Add button to add that VM group to to the Lab Group windows. Once you Add and Next, you will see the next step in the wizard.
There are some important things on this page. First is the “If any VM recovery fails then:” which you see above as 1. I suggest you never should have that set to halt. If you even use it once, you may use it twice or three times and forget it is in a plan and in the middle of a failover you will have a halt triggered and it will be a disaster. So it is a thing to avoid. I always change it to Proceed with the Lab.
Next important thing is “Start simultaneously max of VMs” and it defaults to 10. This is seen as number 2 above. That number can increase or decrease but you should investigate and determine what it should be. The default is pretty good actually. But, for example, if you have a solid flash array, it might be worth testing to see if you can increase that number without negatively impacting vCenter or Veeam performance.
On the next screen we work on VM Steps.
It is important to know that I added some VM steps as seen above to the defaults. I added the following:
- Prepare DC for Test Lab
- Ping VM Network
- Verify Domain Controller Port
- Verify DNS Port
The list above is what I suggest for a DC. It does a very good job making sure it is working. The order is important. The order you see above is solid.
Note: You should confirm that the configuration of the steps matches your needs.
If you choose a step that requires access to the inside of the VM, that means the next screen will be to confirm credentials. None of the steps above require credentials so our next step is the Summary screen.
Once you select Finish you will be out of the wizard.
You can select the Lab Group on the left, as we see above I have only one. With the Lab Group selected you can see the VMs in it as we see Logan above. You can even click on the VM and see the steps.
But lets use the Save button, and then the arrow back to the main view of Virtual Labs.
Now if you do a few test failovers the display will change above.
We can see that so far, two different plans have used the Virtual lab with lab group.
We have learned how to do more realistic testing in this article. We have learned that there are machines, such as domain controllers that should not be failed over but yet we need to have them in a test and that is what we have done in this article. As we have more machines in the DR site that we do not need to fail over that makes our failover shorter and that is very good! Realistic testing also makes our failover better as it is more likely to work properly when we test and lab groups really help with that. Be aware that while we used a Domain Controller as our example of what should be in the Lab Group, but I bet you can think of other things.
As always, questions and comments are welcome. And you can find all my VAO technical articles with this tag. If there is something missing from that list you think I should cover let me know.
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