What’s in a name? The SRDF Utilities for SRM

I’ve spent countless hours documenting our SRDF SRA for SRM and the accompanying Utilities.  Unfortunately there are subtleties in the product pair which continue to confuse both our customers and our own employees who work with those customers.  After writing yet another email response about this topic the other day I thought I’d take a stab at trying to simplify the relationship between the SRA and the Utilities here, if only so I can point to the post instead of composing the same email again and again 🙂  Everything I am going to cover here is included in a previous post or in the SRA TechBook, though I hope I can explain very clearly and concisely the history of these products and how they relate to each other.  I’m going to break it into 3 parts.

PART I

A Storage Replication Adapter (SRA) is a lightweight application that is written by a VMware partner to marry the storage vendor’s replication technology with SRM.  The SRA must follow a set of pre-defined specifications designated by VMware.  EMC SRDF is our array replication technology for VMAX arrays.  We have written an SRA for SRDF called the SRDF SRA.  The SRDF SRA is the ONLY application from EMC that is REQUIRED to use VMware SRM with EMC SRDF.  We release new SRAs with each new VMAX software release.  The oldest SRA we support is 5.0.1 which supports DMX (pre-VMAX array) and SRM 5.0, and the newest SRA is 6.1 which supports the most recent HYPERMAX OS release and SRM 6.1.  The SRA actually goes back further than 5.0.1 but as they are all unsupported, there is no point discussing them.

PART II

When the SRDF SRA was created, we decided to use XML files to enable some of the functionality of VMware SRM (they are not needed for standard failover).  The use of XML files is an important distinction between our SRA and other storage vendors.  The files allow us to work with the advanced functionalities of SRDF (e.g. STAR, Concurrent, Metro) which other storage vendors simply do not have.  Can this increase the complexity of configuring the SRDF SRA?  Many of our customers would say it does, but to open all of SRDF’s features, we need them.  Now since they use standard XML format, these files can be edited through any appropriate application, even Notepad.  Simply follow the syntax (all detailed in the TechBook and SRA Release Notes) and update the file.  This is the practice of some of our largest SRDF/SRM customers.  The files tend to remain static for long periods so constant editing is unnecessary.

PART III

EMC recognized that some customers were not comfortable with XML editing.  We therefore created an OPTIONAL application which initially was known as the VSI SRA Utilities.  This application was made available to customers as a free download in case they wished to use it with the SRDF SRA; however again there was and is no requirement to do so.  For every SRDF SRA there is an associated “Utilities”.  Unfortunately the name and location of this application, unlike the SRDF SRA, has changed over the years.  This fact has served to confuse many.  As I noted, the product was first conceived as the VSI SRA Utilities.  VSI stands for Virtual Storage Integrator.  The SRA Utilities were a feature of VSI and as any feature of VSI it was an executable you downloaded and installed for use in the vSphere thick client (C# client).  All of the add-on features to VSI required the base executable which was the VSI Storage Viewer.  You first installed the VSI Storage Viewer, then the SRA Utilities.  The SRA Utilities looked like this:

sra-thick

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This product existed through version 5.6  Starting with version 5.7, the product was renamed to VSI Symmetrix SRA Utilities (this is the name we use on support.EMC.com for all VSI versions) , but essentially it was the same.  The only difference was that instead of an .exe file, it became an .msi file and could be installed independently of VSI; yet it was still run in the C# client.  The VSI Symmetrix SRA Utilities only had two versions, 5.7 and 5.8, and was abbreviated as SRA-U.  All VSI versions through 5.8 can be found in this support matrix, the VSI ESSM.  I encourage you to look at it.

After version 5.8 of the SRA-U, VSI moved wholly to the vSphere Web Client.  The VSI implementation changed completely which meant the Utilities also needed to change.  We therefore separated the Utilities from VSI.  The SRA-U as it was known was transformed into a new product called the SRDF Adapter Utilities or the SRDF-AU, and moved from the C# client to the vSphere Web Client.  The first version of that product is 6.0 (as noted there is also a 6.1) and has NO association with VSI.  You will find it on support.EMC.com as the SRDF Adapter Utilities.  Unlike VSI, there is no ESSM for the SRDF Adapter Utilities.  Instead, the Release Notes will cover the supported software versions.  The SRDF-AU is delivered as an .msi file.  It must be installed on at least one SRM site (Protected, Recovery), though we recommend both, and most importantly the SRM site MUST BE a Windows vCenter.  In other words the SRDF-AU DOES NOT support the vCenter appliance (VCSA).  If you only use the VCSA you are back to manually editing the XML file (PART II).  Here is what the SRDF-AU looks like (gif):

SRDF-AU_screens

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It is important to know that although the Utilities are an optional product, EMC does release new versions in concert with the SRDF SRA.  You will see in the ESSM for instance, that the SRA-U 5.8 can only be used with the SRDF SRA 5.8.  This ensures that if you do use the Utilities, you know they will support the features of the associated SRDF SRA.

That concludes our history lesson.  If you still have questions, please leave a comment and I’ll update the post if I failed to explain something.  Note that in the TechBook (page 37) I list each supported SRA along with the supported version of the Utilities in case you want the Cliff’s Notes.

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7 thoughts on “What’s in a name? The SRDF Utilities for SRM

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  1. Hi Drew, Have you ever seen the issue where the arrays when discovered in SRDF have the local and remote the wrong way around? I found that if I point the recovery site SMS-S IP to the Protected Site and vice versa then this corrects. We have multiple sites and it is pretty much the same in each site. I checked the SMI-S using the cli tools and what it reports as local and remote are correct.
    Thanks,
    Geoff Rose.

    1. No, I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything like that and I’ve tried to reproduce here but cannot. What I have found is the SRDF-AU can be confusing because the inputs change depending on the site you are connected to. If you have confirmed that the recovery site SMI-S only sees the local recovery array and that you are sure you are properly configuring the protection and recovery sites vCenters, then I’d open a service request with EMC to investigate further. You certainly don’t want to be “tricking” the bug (if confirmed) by reversing entries.

      1. Yes the recovery only sees the local. Although it sees the other array through the RDF but as far as I know thats ok? In the SRDF-AU I dont think the inputs should change because it asks you for the protected and recovery SMI-S IPs and these shouldnt change regardless of the site you are connected to – or am I missing something? BTW this is for version SRM 6.1 in the web client

      2. Yes one array should be local, one remote on each SMI-S. For inputs, what I mean by this is let’s say I have Protection site “A” and Recovery site “B”. When you login to either site and then open the SRDF-AU, there is a local vCenter shown at the top with a drop-down to change. I have seen that listed local vCenter be “A” even though I logged into “B”. Furthermore, I have also seen the radio buttons below that indicate that the local vCenter is say the Protected site when it is actually the Recovery Site. The SMI-S does not change you are correct, but if the vCenters were mixed up, then chances are your pairs would show reversed. If you have not seen this issue, you definitely should open the SR.

  2. Thanks Drew. Yes I have opened a SR about it. vCenters are reporting correctly for prod and DR – its just down the bottom where you see the arrays and it tells you which are local and which are remote.

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