vRealize Automation Disaster Recovery

Introduction

VMware has invested a lot of time and effort in vRealize Automation high availability. For medium and large deployment scenarios VMware recommends using a load balancer (Citrix, F5, NSX) to distribute traffic between vRA appliance and infrastructure components, as well as database clustering (such as MS SQL availability groups) for database high availability. Additionally, in vRA 7.3 VMware added support for automatic failover of vRA appliance’s embedded PostgreSQL database, which was a manual process prior to that.

There is a clear distinction, however, between high availability and disaster recovery. Generally speaking, HA covers redundancy within the site and is not intended to protect from full site failure. Site Recovery Manager (or another replication product) is required to protect vRA in a DR scenario, which is described in more detail in the following document:

In my opinion, there are two important aspects that are missing from the aforementioned document, which I want to cover in this blog post: restoring VM UUIDs and changing vRA IP address. I will cover them in the order that these tasks would usually be performed if you were to fail over vRA to DR:

  1. Exporting VM UUIDs
  2. Changing IP addresses
  3. Importing VM UUIDs

I will also only touch on how to change VM reservations. Which is also an important step, but very well covered in VMware documentation already.

Note: this blog post does not provide configuration guidelines for VM replication software, such as Site Recovery Manager, Zerto or RecoverPoint and is focused only on DR aspects related to vRA itself. Refer to official documentation of corresponding products to determine how to set up VM replication to your disaster recovery site.

Exporting VM UUIDs

VMware uses two UUIDs to identify a VM. BIOS UUID (uuid.bios in .vmx file) was the original VM identifier implemented to identify a VM and is derived from the hardware VM is provisioned on. But it’s not unique. If VM is cloned, the clone will have the same BIOS UUID. So the second identifier was introduced called Instance UUID (vc.uuid in .vmx file), which is generated by vCenter and is unique within a single vCenter (two VMs in different vCenters can have the same Instance UUID).

When VMs are failed over, Instance UUIDs change. Compare VirtualMachine.Admin.AgentID (Instance UUID) and VirtualMachine.Admin.UUID (BIOS UUID) on original and failed over VMs.

Why does this matter? Because vRA uses Instance UUIDs to keep track of managed VMs.  If Instance UUIDs change, vRA will show the corresponding VMs as missing under Infrastructure > Managed Machines. And you won’t be able to manage them.

So it’s important to export VM Instance UUIDs before failover, which can then be used to restore the original values. This is how you can get the Instance UUID of a given VM using PowerCLI:

> (Get-VM vm_name).extensiondata.config.InstanceUUID

Here, on my GitHub page, you can find a script that I have put together to export Instance UUIDs of all VMs in CSV format.

Changing IP addresses

Once you’ve saved the Instance UUIDs, you can move on to failover. vRA components should be started in the following order:

  1. MS SQL database
  2. vRA appliance
  3. IaaS server

If network subnets, that all components are connected to, are stretched between two sites, when VMs are brought up at DR, there are no additional reconfiguration required. But usually it’s not the case and servers need to be re-IP’ed. IaaS server network setting are changed the same as on any other Windows server machine.

vRealize Appliance network settings are changed in vRA appliance management interface, that can be accessed at https://vra-appliance-hostname:5480, under Network > Address tab. The problem is, if IP addresses change at DR, it will be challenging to reach vRA appliance over the network. To work around that, connect to vRA VM console and run the following script from CLI to change appliance’s network settings:

# /opt/vmware/share/vami/vami_config_net

Don’t forget to update the DNS record for vRA appliance in DNS. For IaaS server it’s not needed, as long as you allow Dynamic DNS (DDNS) updates.

Importing VM UUIDs

After the failover all of your VMs will have missing status in vRA. To make vRA recognize failed over VMs you will need to revert Instance UUIDs back to the original values. In PowerCLI this can be done in the following way:

> $spec = New-Object VMware.Vim.VirtualMachineConfigSpec
> $spec.instanceUuid = ’52da9b14-0060-dc51-4733-3b01e912edd2′
> $vm = Get-VM -Name vm_name
> $vm.Extensiondata.ReconfigVM_Task($spec)

I’ve written another script, that will perform this task for you, which you can find on my GitHub page.

You will need two files to make the script work. The vm_vc_uuids.csv file you generated before, with the list of original VM Instance UUIDs. As well as the list of missing VMs in CSV format, that you can export from vRA after the failover on the Infrastructure > Managed Machines page:

This is an example of the script command line options and the output:

You will need to run an inventory data collection from the Infrastructure > Compute Resources > Compute Resources page. vRA will discover VMs and update their status to “On”.

Updating reservations

If you try to run any Day 2 operation on a VM with the old reservation in place, you will get an error similar to this:

Error processing [Shutdown], error details:
Error getting property ‘runtime.powerState’ from managed object (null)
Inner Exception: Object reference not set to an instance of an object.

To manually update VM reservation, on Infrastructure > Managed Machines page hover over the VM and select Change Reservation:

This process is obviously not scalable, as it can take hours, if you have hundreds of VMs. VMware offers an alternative solution that lets you update all VMs by using Bulk Import feature available from Infrastructure > Administration > Bulk Imports. The idea is that you can export all VM configuration details in a CSV file, update compute and storage reservation columns and import back to vRA. vRealize Suite 7.0 Disaster Recovery by Using Site Recovery Manager 6.1 gives very detailed instruction on how to do that in “Bulk Import, Update, or Migrate Virtual Machines” section.

Conclusion

I hope this blog post helped to cover some gaps in VMware documentation. If you have any questions or comments, as always, feel free to leave them in the comments sections below.

References

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