VMware vSphere Replication 6.5 is the latest version of vSphere Replication (VR) released with vSphere 6.5, vCenter Server 6.5, and Site Recovery Manager (SRM) 6.5. VR is a host-based virtual machine (VM) replication solution that works with nearly any storage type supported by vSphere. VR is deployed as a virtual appliance using an Open Virtualization Format (OVF) specification found on the VR ISO that is downloaded from vmware.com. While more general information on VR can be found here, this article focuses on the various OVFs that are found on the VR ISO and what the use cases are for each.
When deploying an OVF using the vSphere Web Client, you must select all of the necessary files that go along with the OVF. These include the CERT, MF, OVF, and VMDK files. Note that there are two VMDK files – support and system – both must be included when deploying a VR appliance.
After clicking the browse button, select the necessary files…
For detailed steps on deploying vSphere Replication 6.5, see the vSphere Replication 6.5 Documentation. Now let’s proceed with explaining the types of OVFs found on the VR ISO.
The vSphere_Replication OVF is the first virtual appliance that is deployed in an on-premises environment. This appliance receives replication from the source host(s) and it has the VR management services enabled. The appliance is usually referred to as a vSphere Replication Management Server (VRMS). The VRMS appliance is deployed for the following use case:
Replication with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM)
Migration and disaster recovery services enabled by VMware vCloud Air and vCloud Air Network (vCAN) providers.
Stand-alone replication (without SRM and/or vCloud Air)
At a minimum, you must have a VRMS appliance in each vCenter Server environment to utilize vSphere Replication. Only one VRMS appliance should be deployed in a vCenter Server environment. In many cases, this is the only appliance you need to deploy – just one – nice and simple. If a larger number of VMs will be replicated, the vSphere_Replication_AddOn OVF (below) is used to deploy additional appliances.
This OVF is used to deploy additional VR virtual appliances after a VRMS has been deployed. The “AddOn” appliance is commonly called a vSphere Replication Server (VRS). A VRS appliance does not have the VR management capabilities enabled. It simply receives replicated data from the source host(s) and it is managed by the VRMS. VRS appliances are used to scale up the number of VMs that can be replicated in an environment. The maximum supported number of VRS appliances that can be deployed in a single vCenter Server environment is nine. This is in addition to the VRMS for a total of 10 VR appliances per vCenter Server environment.
VMware vCloud Air and vCAN providers enable vSphere Replication on the provider side using this appliance. This OVF should not be deployed for on-premises use cases.
vSphere_Replication_SRM and vSphere_Replication_Server_SRM
These OVFs were previously used for deploying vSphere Replication in SRM environments using the C# vSphere Client. Now that the C# client has been replaced by the vSphere Web Client and the HTML5 VMware Host Client in vSphere 6.5, these OVFs should no longer be used. In other words, do not use these OVFs to deploy vSphere Replication 6.5.
Additional note: These OVFs require that the host they are deployed to have a vSphere Standard Switch configured on it. If the host doesn’t you will see this error: “The given OVF descriptor is invalid: Host did not have any virtual network defined.” The solution is to create a vSphere Standard Switch on one of your hosts, or deploy the VR appliance to a host with a standard switch.
As mentioned earlier, on-premises deployments start with using the vSphere_Replication OVF to deploy a VRMS virtual appliance. If additional appliances are needed for more scale in the same vCenter Server environment, the vSphere_Replication_AddOn OVF is used to deploy VRS appliances. The Cloud_Service OVF is used by service providers. The SRM OVFs were for use with the C# client and should therefore no longer be used.