Types of failover operations in Hyper-V Replica–Part III - Unplanned Failover

Types of failover operations in Hyper-V Replica–Part III - Unplanned Failover

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In the first two parts of this 3-part series, you learnt about Test Failover (TFO) and Planned Failover (PFO). In this closing part of the series, I will talk about unplanned failover and summarize the differences of these 3.

1. What is Unplanned Failover?

Unplanned Failover is an operation initiated on the replica VM when the primary VM/site is hit by a disaster. During Unplanned Failover, a check is done using Remote WMI to see if the primary VM is running.This is to protect against accidental administrator actions on the replica VM. This check prevents a ‘split-brain’ scenario where both the production and the replica VMs are running.

2. When should I use Unplanned Failover?

Unplanned Failover is used in the following cases

  • My primary site is experiencing unexpected power outage or a natural disaster
  • My primary site/VM has had a virus attack and I want to restore my business quickly with minimal data loss by restoring my replica VM

3. How should I use Unplanned Failover?

Unplanned failover is performed on the replica virtual machine by right-clicking on the VM and choosing the Failover operation (either from the Hyper-V Manager or from the Failover Clustering Manager).

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If you have turned on recovery history, Unplanned Failover can be performed against a previous point-in-time. This is usually done in case the most recent point is either corrupt or not application consistent. Once you failover, you should run some tests to check that the point-in-time is good. If the point-in-time has issues, you can cancel the failover using “Cancel Failover” on the replica VM. Then you can choose a different point-in-time and do a Failover.

After you have validated that the failed over VM is kosher, you should do a ‘Complete’ of the failover by performing an action on the replica virtual machine – this will ensure that the recovery points are merged.

The above procedure can be achieved using Powershell using the following cmdlets. Use Complete-VMFailover only  after ensuring that the failed over VM serves the purpose.

   1: $snapshots = Get-VMSnapshot -VMName VirtualMachine_Workload -SnapshotType Replica
   2:  
   3: Start-VMFailover -Confirm:$false -VMRecoverySnapshot $snapshots[0]
   4:  
   5: Complete-VMFailover -VMName VirtualMachine_Workload -Confirm:$false

Characteristics

The table below calls out the characteristics of the 3 failovers

 

Test Failover

Planned Failover

Unplanned Failover

Operation initiated on

Replica VM

Initiated on the primary VM and completed on the replica VM

Replica VM

Is a duplicate VM created during the operation?

Yes

No

No

How long is the operation run?

Short

Depends on maintenance window or regulation requirement

Depends on when the primary is brought back up

Recommended frequency

Once a month

Once in 6 months

Never (ok, fine – whenever you have a disasterSmile)

What happens to the replication of the primary VM during the duration of this operation

Continues

Continues. In this operation, a role-reversal happens, the primary VM becomes the replica VM and replication continues back to the primary site (that initiated the operation).

Stopped

Is there data loss?

None

None

There can be data loss

Is there down time?

None

Planned downtime

Unplanned downtime

When to use

  • Run minimal tests to validate if your replication is on track
  • Train your personnel on what is to be done in case of a disaster.
  • Test the recovery plan that you have built to test your preparation when disaster does strike.
  • Perform host maintenance on your primary and would like to run from the replica site.
  • Your primary site is expecting some power outage – you want to move over to the replica site.
  • There’s an impending typhoon – you want to proactively take action to ensure business continuity.
  • Your compliance requirements mandate that every quarter, you run your workloads from the replica site for a week.
  • Your primary site is experiencing unexpected power outage or a natural disaster
  • Your primary site/VM has had a virus attack and you want to restore your business quickly with minimal data loss by restoring your replica VM

Summary

In closing, use Test Failover frequently to check the fidelity of your replication and test your recovery plans. Use Planned Failover occasionally for either planned maintenance or disaster simulation or compliance reasons. Use Unplanned Failover when your primary site is hit by a disaster.

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  • Sicne this is unplanned.  You are missing one key part.  Failing back.

  • Hi Brian,

    Once the original primary site is up, using Hyper-V Replica, you can reverse-replicate the changes to the  primary server and then perform a Planned-Failover from the replica site back on the primary site.

    Praveen

  • Hi,

    can someone tell me whether a virtual server (HYPER-V guest) of Oracle (10 g One), supports the HYPER-V replication? Is there a white list of applications that support HYPER-V Replica? Thanks.

  • Oliver,

    Simple answer:

    Planned failover: absolutely!

    Unplanned failover: it can if you configure it to (with certain limitations).

    Longer answer:

    Hyper-V Replica, in its most basic configuration, replicates VM storage by committing VM storage-level changes to a local replication queue as frequently as every 5 minutes and replicating that data to the replica as fast as the available bandwidth and throttling settings allow. This is an excellent DR starting point as your replicated disk-committed data is successfully stored offsite. As this functionality is storage-focused and application-unaware, you will be presented with your standard application dirty-shutdown scenario upon booting the replica after an unplanned failover. Planned failovers will result in zero data loss and data integrity will be maintained.

    Hyper-V Replica really earns its salary bonus in two ways. First, it provides you with a warm DR site topology by replicating VM settings. This will allow you, at the very least, to bring your server platform online at the DR site in the event of an unplanned failover. If data-integrity issues are present, data can be pulled from backup. Second, and more importantly, Hyper-V Replica supports initiating VSS-initiated, application-consistent snapshots as frequently as every hour. If Oracle heeds the vss-initiated quiesce command, then VM and the database data will be captured in an application-consistent state. This means that if a full copy of one of these snaps (snapshots) makes it to the replica servers, you have a great chance of maintaining data integrity during an unplanned failover. Once again the interval has a minimum interval of 1 hour so this is clearly DR-focused, so an RPO for consistent-data of 1hr+ is to be expected.

    With that in mind, the measure of application compatibility should be based on what your business needs are, made up of the RPO/RTO's and data integrity assurances that can be delivered by the different configurations listed above.

  • unplanned Failover -> Failback with Reverse Replication -> do i really need "initial copy" with all vhd Data or there option to Replicate just difference when Primary Site is back ?

    Thanks for advice

    Juergen

  • To Juergen - if you have some copy of the VM in the original primary site, we will optimally transfer the changes. If we don't have any copy, then we will end up transferring the entire VHD.

    If you are network-bound, then you could explore other techniques such as out-of-band IR which is explained here - blogs.technet.com/.../save-network-bandwidth-by-using-out-of-band-initial-replication-method-in-hyper-v-replica.aspx

    Praveen