VMware Replication Setup for Site Recovery Manager

April 24, 2012 3 By Eric Shanks

Recently, I wrote a blog post about how to setup and configure VMware Site Recovery Manager for vSphere 5.0.  This setup included using array based storage replication to transfer data and it ignored the new VMware replication engine that is included with Site Recovery Manager 5.0.  This post is intended to cover the setup and configuration of the vSphere replication.

If you’re not familiar with it, the vSphere Replication Management Server handles individual replication of powered on virtual machines, to a secondary site.  This is a free vSphere appliance with the purchase of VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0.  Traditionally, vSphere required that the storage providers were replicating the virtual machine data for SRM to work, but that has all changed with 5.0.  Now VMware can do the replication for you.

The vSphere replication can provide big savings to small and medium businesses looking to setup a disaster recovery site.  Now there is no need to purchase two storage devices (one for each site), you can now replicate single VMs without replicating additional items in a datastore, and you can save on storage licensing for replication software.  Unfortunately, there are also several shortcomings of the vSphere replication, such as: Not being able to replicate powered off virtual machines, no VMware FT Support, Microsoft Clusters can’t be replicated, both sites must be on vSphere 5, and it can only replicate virtual machines i.e. no files.

To get started, this article assumes that VMware Site Recovery Manager is installed and configured at both sites and that the vSphere Replication Option was added during the install.

In the vSphere Client go to Home –> Solutions and Applications –> Site Recovery Manager and then click on the vSphere Replication tab.

You will notice that there are No VRM Servers found and the only command you can choose is to deploy a VRM Server.  When you click on the “Deploy VRM Server” command, a wizard will open to allow you to import the OVF template for the VMware Replication Manager Server.  This server is used to manage the replication between sites.  It can have one or more replication servers registered to it that do the transferring.

When you’re ready click ok.  The standard OVF Template wizard starts up to deploy the VRM Server.  Notice that the path is greyed out and filled in for you.

A summary of the Template setup will appear.

Name the Virtual Appliance.

Choose the Datastore and Host to deploy the appliance under.

Select the Datastore to house the appliance.

Chose a disk format.

Put the appliance on the network appropriate for your environment.  It must be reachable by vCenter.

Setup the root password for the appliance and the network setup appropriate for your environment.

Make sure you get a green check next to the vCenter Extension vService Dependency.  If the managed IP address of the vCenter server is not set under “Runtime Settings” you will receive an error here and may not continue.

Now that the VRMS has been deployed to your production site, you will need to deploy a second VRMS Server in the DR site.  The same steps we’ve just covered will need to be repeated with the correct vCenter, storage, and networking settings.

Once the VRMS Servers have been deployed, they must be configured.  In the vSphere Replication tab of the vSphere Client, the “Configure VRM Server” command should now be available.  If this command is selected it opens a web browser with the address of the VRMS Server.  Log in with the “root” username and password that was configured during the install.

In the VRM –> Configuration section, the Database Server connection and vCenter Server connections need to be filled out.  During my testing, I was unable to get Windows Authentication working with the SQL Database and needed to configure the database to use Mixed Mode.  When I entered a SQL user account it worked fine.

When you have finished configuring the VRMS Server, be sure to configure the secondary site’s server as well.  Once both sites have a configured VRMS Server, choose the “Configure VMRS Connection” Command in SRM.

SRM will then prompt for the username and password of the remote vCenter Server.  Enter the required information and accept any certificate warnings that might show up.  When you are finished you should see a friendly message with a green check mark indicating that the connection was setup correctly.

Now that the VRMS Servers are done, we can deploy the vSphere Replication Servers.  These are the servers that actually handle the replication of the data.  In the vSphere Replication tab of SRM you can now choose the “Deploy VR Server” command.  At this point you will be prompted to deploy another OVF template much like when the VMRS Servers were deployed earlier.  Don’t forget, that this must be done in both sites and that these servers must be able to communicate with each other across the WAN to replicate the data.

Once the vSphere Replication Servers have been deployed, they must be registered to the VMRS servers that were deployed earlier in this post.  In SRM there will now be a command available named “Register VR Server”.  When this command is chosen, a wizard screen comes up and asks which server should be registered as a vSphere Replication Server.  Choose the VR Server from your datacenter and then don’t forget to repeat this on the secondary site’s VR Server.

The configuration is now done for the replication setup.  The rest will depend on how the DR plan needs to be executed.

Replicating a virtual machine

Right click on any powered on virtual machine and choose vSphere Replication.

Yet another wizard will be available asking where to replicate the data and how often to perform the replication.

Each disk of the virtual machine can have different settings.  Some disks might not need to be replicated depending on the situation.  These options will be given in the wizard.

If there are more than one VR Servers configured, a specific VR Server can be specified or auto assigned.  This should help to load balance the VR Servers and possibly replicate over different network paths depending on your environment.

When the replication wizard has finished, there will be a replication console showing the status of the virtual machines and the progress of the replication.  This will also be a good place to find the Recovery Point Objectives once all of the machines have been configured.

There are a lot of pieces to setting up the vSphere Replication for Site Recovery Manager, but as you can see they are very intuitive and wizard driven.  Once the replication is working smoothly, the process of setting up recovery plans, and recovery groups can be accomplished with Site Recovery Manager and the use of expensive storage devices was not necessary.