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Tag Archives: BCDR

BCDR: Some Things to Consider When Upgrading Your VMware Disaster Recovery Solution

Julienne_PhamBy Julienne Pham

Once upon a time, you protected your VMs with VMware Site Recovery Manager, and now you are wondering how to upgrade your DR solution with minimum impact on the environment. Is it as seamless as you think?

During my days in Global Support and working on customer Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BCDR) projects, I found it intriguing how vSphere components can put barriers in an upgrade path. Indeed, one of the first things I learned was that timing and the update sequence of my DR infrastructure was crucial to keep everything running, and with as little disruption as possible.

Here If we look more closely, this is a typical VMware Site Recovery Manager setup:

JPham_SRM 6x

And in a pyramid model, we have something like this:

JPham_SRM Pyramid

Example of a protected site

So, where do we start our upgrade?

Upgrade and maintain the foundation

You begin with the hardware. Then, the vSphere version you are upgrading to. You’ll see a lot of new features available, along with bug fixes, so your hardware and firmware might need some adjustments to support new features and enhancements. It is important at a minimum to check the compatibility of the hardware and software you are upgrading to.

In a DR scenario, it is important to check storage replication compliance

This is where you ensure your data replicates according to your RPO.

If you are using vSphere Replication or Storage Array Replication, you should check the upgrade path and the dependency with vSphere and SRM.

  • As an example, VR cannot be upgraded directly from 5.8 to 6.1
  • You might need to update the Storage Replication Adaptor too.
  • You can probably find other examples of things that won’t work, or find work-arounds you’ll need.
  • You can find some useful information in the VMware Compatibility Guide

Architecture change

If you are looking to upgrade from vSphere 5.5 to 6.1, for example, you should check if you need to migrate from a simple SSO install to an external one for more flexibility, as you might not be able to change in the future. As VMware SRM is dependent on the health of vCenter, you might be better off looking first into upgrading this component as a prerequisite.

Before you start you might want to check out the informative blog, “vSphere Datacenter Design – vCenter Architecture Changes in vSphere 6.0 – Part 1.”

The sites are interdependent

Once the foundation path is planned out, you have to think about how to minimize business impact.

Remember that if your protected site workload is down, you can always trigger a DR scenario, so it is in your best interest to keep the secondary site management layer fully functional and upgrade VMware SRM and vCenter at the last resort.

VMware upgrade path compatibility

Some might assume that you can upgrade from one version to another without compatibility issues coming up. Well, to avoid surprises, I recommend looking into our compatibility matrix, and validate the different product version upgrade paths.

For example, the upgrade of SRM 5.8 to 6.1 is not supported. So, what implications might be related to vCenter and SRM compatibility during the upgrade?

JPham_Upgrade Path Sequence

Back up, back up, back up

The standard consideration is to run backups before every upgrade. A snapshot VM might not be enough in certain situations if you are in different upgrade stages at different sites. You need to carefully plan and synchronise all different database instances for VMware Site Recovery Manager and vCenter—at both sites and eventually vSphere Replication databases.

I hope this addresses some of the common questions and concerns that might come up when you are thinking of upgrading SRM. Planning and timing are key for a successful upgrade. Many components are interdependent, and you need to consider them carefully to avoid an asynchronous environment with little control over outcomes. Good luck!


Julienne Pham is a Technical Solution Architect for the Professional Services Engineering team. She is specialised on SRM and core storage. Her focus is on VIO and BCDR space.

BCDR Strategy: Three Critical Questions

Jeremy Carter headshotBy Jeremy Carter, VMware Senior Consultant

Organizations in every industry are increasingly dependent on technology, making increased resiliency and decreased downtime a critical priority. In fact, Forrester cites resiliency as the number three overall infrastructure priority this year.

A business continuity solution that utilizes the virtual infrastructure, like the one VMware offers, can greatly simplify the process, though IT still needs to understand how all the pieces of their business continuity and disaster recover (BCDR) strategy fit together.

I often run up against the expectation of a one-size-fits-all BCDR solution. Instead it’s helpful to understand the three key facets of IT resilience—data protection, local application availability, and site application availability—and how different tools protect each one, for both planned and unplanned downtime (see the diagram below). If you’d like to learn more on that front, there is a free two-part webcast coming up that I recommend you sign up for here.

As important as it is to find the right tool, you only know a tool is “right” if it meets a set of clearly defined business objectives. That’s why I recommend that organizations start their BCDR planning with a few high-level questions to help them assess their business needs.

1. What is truly critical?

Almost everyone’s initial response is that they want to protect everything, but when you look at the trade-off in complexity, you’ll quickly recognize the need to prioritize.

An important (and sometimes overlooked) step in this decision-making process is to check in with the business users who will be affected. They might surprise you. For instance, I was working with a government organization where IT assumed everything was super critical. When we talked to the business users, it turned out they had all of their information on paper forms that would then be entered into the computer. If the computer went down, they would lose almost no data.

On the other hand, the organization’s 911 center’s data was extremely critical and any downtime or loss of data could have catastrophic consequences. Understanding what could be deprioritized allowed us to spend the time (and money) properly protecting the 911 center.

As we move further into cloud computing, another option is emerging: Let the application owners decide at deployment. With tools like vCloud Automation Center (vCAC), we can define resources with differing service levels. An oil company I recently worked with integrated SRM with vCAC so that any applications deployed into Gold or Silver tiers would be protected by SRM.

Planned Downtime Unplanned Downtime VMware Data Protection2. Which failures are you preventing?

Each level of the data center has its preferred method of protection, although all areas also need to work together. If you’re concerned about preventing failures within the data center, maybe you rely on HA and App HA; however, if you want to protect the entire datacenter, you’ll need SRM and vSphere Replication (again, see chart).

3. RTO, RPO, MTD?

Another helpful step in choosing the best BCDR strategy is to define a recovery time objective (RTO), recovery point objective (RPO) and maximum tolerable downtime (MTD) for both critical and non-critical systems.

These objectives are often dictated by a contract or legal regulations that require a certain percentage of uptime. When established internally, they should take many factors into account, including if data exists elsewhere and the repercussions of downtime, especially financial ones.

The final step in the implementation of any successful IT strategy is not a question, but rather an ongoing diligence. Remember that your BCDR strategy is a living entity—you can’t just set it and forget it. Every time you make a change to the infrastructure or add a new application, you’ll need to work it into the BCDR plans. But I hope that each update will be a little easier now that you know the right questions to ask.


VMware-WebcastWant to learn more about building out a holistic business continuity and disaster recovery strategy?
Join these two great (free) webcasts that are right around the corner.

Implementing a Holistic BC/DR Strategy with VMware – Part One
Tuesday, February 18 – 10 a.m. PST

Technical Deep Dive – Implementing a Holistic BC/DR Strategy with VMware – Part Two
Tuesday, February 25 – 10 a.m. PST


Jeremy Carter is a VMware Senior Consultant with special expertise in BCDR and cloud automation. Although he joined VMware just three months ago, he has worked in the IT industry for more than 14 years.