Sunday, June 22, 2014

Microsoft Azure Site Recovery

In January, we had a new and interesting service available in Microsoft Azure, called “Hyper-V Recovery Manager”. I blogged about it and explained how to configure this on-premises using a single VMM management server. For details you can read this blog post:

Hyper-V Recovery Manager provided organizations using Hyper-V and System Center with automated protection and orchestrating of accurate recovery of virtualized workloads between private clouds, leveraging the asynchronous replication engine in Hyper-V – Hyper – V Replica.

In other words, no data were sent to Azure except the metadata from the VMM clouds.
This has now changed and the service is renamed to Microsoft Azure Site Recovery that finally let you replicate between private clouds and public clouds (Microsoft Azure).

This means that we are still able to utilize the automatic protection of workloads that we are familiar with through the service, but now we can use Azure as the target in addition to private clouds.
This is also a door opener for migration scenarios where organizations considering moving VMs to the cloud, can easily do this with almost no downtime using Azure Site Recovery.


In our environment, we will use a dedicated Hyper-V cluster with Hyper-V Replica. This means we have added the Hyper-V Replica Broker role to the cluster. This cluster is located in its own host group in VMM and the only host group we have added to a cloud called “E2A”. Microsoft Azure Site Recovery requires System Center Virtual Machine Manager, which will be responsible for the communication and aggregation of the desired instructions made by the administrator in the Azure portal.


-          You must have an Azure account and add Recovery Services to your subscription
-          Certificate (.cer) that you upload to the management portal and register to the vault. Each vault has a single .cer certificate associated with it and it’s used when registering VMM servers in the vault.
-          Certificate (.pfx) that you import on each VMM server. When you install the Azure Site Recovery Provider on the VMM server, you must use this .pfx certificate.
-          Azure Storage account, where you will store the replicas replicated to Azure. The storage account needs geo-replication enabled and should be in the same region as the Azure Site Recovery service and associated with the same subscription
-          VMM Cloud(s). A cloud must be created in VMM that contains Hyper-V hosts in a host group enabled with Hyper-V Replica

-          Azure Site Recovery Provider must be installed on the VMM management server(s)
In our case, we had already implemented “Hyper-V Recovery Manager”, so we were able to do an in-place upgrade of the ASR Provider.
-          Azure Recovery Services agent must be installed on every Hyper-V host that will replicate to Microsoft Azure. Make sure you install this agent on all hosts located in the host group that you are using in your VMM cloud.

Once we had enabled all of this in our environment, we were ready to proceed and to the configuration of our site recovery setup.


Login to the Azure management portal and navigate to recovery services to get the details around your vault, and see the instructions on how to get started.

We will jump to “Configure cloud for protection” as the fabric in VMM is already configured and ready to go.
The provider installed on the VMM management server is exposing the details of our VMM clouds to Azure, so we can easily pick “E2A” – which is the dedicated cloud for this setup. This is where we will configure our site recovery to target Microsoft Azure.

Click on the cloud and configure protection settings.

On target, select Microsoft Azure. Also note that you are able to setup protection and recovery using another VMM Cloud or VMM management server.

For the configuration part, we are able to specify some options when Azure is the target.

Target: Azure. We are now replicating from our private cloud to Microsoft Azure’s public cloud.
Storage Account: If none is present, then you need to create a storage account before you are able to proceed. If you have several storage accounts, then choose the accounts that are in the same region as your recovery vault.
Encrypt stored data: This is default set to “on”, and not possible to change in the preview.
Copy frequency: Since we are using Hyper-V 2012 R2 in our fabric – that introduced us for additional capabilities related to copy frequencies, we can select 30 seconds, 5 minutes and 15 minutes. We will use the “default” that is 5 minutes in this setup.
Retain recovery points: Hyper-V Replica is able to create additional recovery points (crash consistent snapshots) so that you can have a more flexible recovery option for your virtual workload. We don’t need any additional recovery points for our workloads, so we will leave this to 0.
Frequency of application consistent snapshots: If you want app consistent snapshots (ideally for SQL servers, which will create VSS snapshots) then you can enable this and specify it here.
Replication settings: This is set to “immediately” which means that every time a new VM is deployed to our “E2A” cloud in VMM with protection enabled, will automatically start the initial replication from on-premises to Microsoft Azure. For large deployments, we would normally recommend to schedule this.

Once you are happy with the configuration, you can click ‘save’.

Now, Azure Site Recovery will configure this for your VMM cloud. This means that – through the provider, the hosts/clusters will be configured with these settings automatically from Azure.
-          Firewall rules used by Azure Site Recovery are configured so that ports for replication traffic are opened
-          Certificates required for replication are installed
-          Hyper-V Replica Settings are configured

You will have a job view in Azure that shows every step during the actions you perform. We can see that protection has been successfully enabled for our VMM Cloud.

If we look at the cloud in VMM, we also see that protection is enabled and Microsoft Azure is the target.

Configuring resources

In Azure, you have had the option to create virtualized networks for many years now. We can of course use them in this context, to map with our VM networks present in VMM.
To ensure business continuity it is important that the VMs that failover to Azure are able to be reached over the network – and that RDP is enabled within the guest. We are mapping our management VM network to a corresponding network in Azure.

VM Deployment

Important things to note:
In preview, there are some requirements for using Site Recovery with your virtual machines in the private cloud.

Only support for Gen1 virtual machines!
This means that the virtual machines must have their OS partition attached to an IDE controller. The disk can be vhd or vhdx, and you can even attach data disks that you want to replicate. Please note that Microsoft Azure does not support VHDX format (introduced in Hyper-V 2012), but will convert the VHDX to VHD during initial replication in Azure. In other words, virtual machines using VHDX on premises will run on VHD’s when you failover to Azure. If you failback to on-premises, VHDX will be used as expected.

Next, we will deploy a new VM in VMM. When we enable protection on the hardware profile and want to deploy to a Cloud, intelligent placement will kick in and find the appropriate cloud that contains Hyper-V hosts/clusters that meet the requirements for replica.

After the deployment, the virtual machine should immediately start with an initial replication to Microsoft Azure, as we configured this on the protection settings for our cloud in Azure. We can see the details of the job in the portal and monitor the process. Once it is done, we can see – at a lower level that we are actually replicating to Microsoft Azure directly on the VM level.

After a while (depending on available bandwidth), we have finally replicated to Azure and the VM is protected.

Enabling protection on already existing VMs in the VMM cloud

Also note that you can enable this directly from Azure. If you have a virtual machine running in the VMM cloud enabled for protection, but the VM itself is not enabled in VMM, then Azure can pick this up and configure it directly from the portal.

If you prefer to achieve this by using VMM, it is easy by open the properties of the VM and enable for protection.

One last option is to use the VMM powershell module to enable this on many VMs at once.

Set-SCVirtualMachine –VM “VMName” –DRProtectionRequired $true –RecoveryPointObjective 300

Test Failover

One of the best things with Hyper-V Replica is that complex workflows, such as test failovers, planned failovers and unplanned failovers are integrated into the solution. This is also exposed and made available in the Azure portal, so that you easily can perform a test failover on your workloads. Once a VM is protected – meaning that the VM has successfully completed the initial replication to Azure, we can perform a test failover. This will create a copy based on the recovery point you select and boot that virtual machine in Microsoft Azure.

Once you are satisfied with the test, you can complete the test failover from the portal.
This will power off the test virtual machine and delete it from Azure. Please note that this process will not interfere with the ongoing replication from private cloud to Azure.

Planned failover

You can use planned failover in Azure Site Recovery for more than just failover. Consider a migration scenario where you actually want to move your existing on-premises workload to Azure, planned failover will be the preferred option. This will ensure minimal downtime during the process and start up the virtual machine in Azure afterwards.
In our case, we wanted to simulate planned maintenance in our private cloud, and therefore perform a planned failover to Azure.

Click on the virtual machine you want to failover, and click planned failover in the portal.
Note that if the virtual machine has not performed a test failover, we are recommending you to do so before an actual failover.
Since this is a test, we are ready to proceed with the planned failover.

When the job has started, we are drilling down to the lowest level again, Hyper-V Replica, to see what’s going on. We can see that the VM is preparing for planned failover where Azure is the target.

In the management portal, we can see the details for the planned failover job.

Once done, we have a running virtual machine in Microsoft Azure, that appears in the Virtual Machine list.

If we go back to the protected clouds in Azure, we see that our virtual machine “Azure01” has “Microsoft Azure” as its active location.

If we click on the VMs and drill into the details, we can see that we are able to change the name and the size of the virtual machine in Azure.

We have now successfully performed a planned failover from our private cloud to Microsoft Azure!

Failback from Microsoft Azure

When we were done with our planned maintenance in our fabric, it was time to failback the running virtual machine in Azure to our VMM Cloud.
Click on the virtual machine that is running in Azure that is protected, and click planned failover.
We have two options for the data synchronization. We can either use “Synchronize data before failover” that will perform something similar as “re-initializing replication” to our private cloud. This means synchronization will be performed without shutting down the virtual machine, leading to minimal downtime during the process.
The other option “Synchronize data during failover only” will minimize synchronization data but have more downtime as the shutdown will begin immediately. Synchronization will start after shutdown to complete the failover.
We are aiming for minimal downtime, so option 1 is preferred.

When the job is started, you can monitor the process in Azure portal.

Once the sync is complete, we must complete the failover from the portal so that this will go ahead and start the VM in our private cloud.

Checking Hyper-V Replica again, we can see that the state is set to “failback in progress” and that we currently have no primary server.

The job has now completed all the required steps in Azure.

Moving back to Hyper-V Replica, we can see that the VM is again replicating to Microsoft Azure, and that the primary server is one of our Hyper-V nodes.

In VMM, our virtual machine “Azure01” is running again in the “E2A” cloud

In the Azure management portal in the virtual machines list, our VM is still present but stopped.

Thanks for joining us on this guided tour on how to work with Azure Site Recovery.
Next time we will explore the scenarios we can achieve by using recovery plans in Azure Site Recovery, to streamline failover of multi-tier applications, LOB applications and much more.


Artur Krzywdzinski said...

Hi Kristian,
Do you know if ASR is supported on SCVMM running in Failover cluster ?


Kristian Nese said...

It is supported, but it will require you to use SQL Always ON Availability sets if you want to replicate VMM too.

Aeldra Robinson said...

I've been following this post since a while and wanted to thank you for your excellent work.
I may just ask you wither you have any "Audit SCOM Infrastructure Guide" or any kind of documentation related to auditing scom infra itself.
Many thanks for your help.
azure downtime