Using DRBD block level replication on Windows

WDRBD or Windows DRBD

DRBD is a well known distributed replicated storage system for Linux. Recently a company has ported DRBD kernel driver and userspace utilities on Windows, so it’s now possible to setup DRBD resources on a Windows machine. DRBD is block level storage replication system  (similar to RAID-1) used on highly available storage setups. You can use both Desktop and Server Windows O/S, but it’s recommended  to use a Server version if this is intended for production use.

What you will need:
– 2 x Windows Server machines (Win2012 R2 in my case)
– DRBD binaries from here
– A dedicated volume (disk) to be replicated by DRBD. You can also use a NTFS volume, with existing data. You can use this method to replicate for example an existing Windows file server on a second Windows server. However, in this case you will need to resize (shrink) server’s partition in order to create a second, small partition needed for DRBD meta-data.
– Optionally a dedicated network for DRBD replication.


You must follow these steps on both nodes.

– Setup both Windows machines with static IP addresses. In my case I will use for node1 and for node2. Also provide a meaningful hostname on each server since you will need this during DRBD configuration. In my case node1: wdrbd1 and node2: wdrbd2 .
– Install DRBD binaries by double clicking on setup file and following the wizard. Finally reboot both servers.
– Navigate to “Program Files\drbd\etc” and “Program Files\drbd\etc\drbd.d”  folder and rename (or create a copy) the following files:

drbd.conf.sample –> drbd.conf
   global_common.conf.sample –> global_common.conf

(Note: For this test we do not need to modify the content of the above files. However it may be needed to do so in different scenarios.)

– Create a resource config file in “Program Files\drbd\etc\drbd.d”

r0.res (you can copy the contents from the existing sample config file)

A simple resource config file should look like this:

resource r0 {
      on wdrbd1 {
            device          e   minor 2;
            disk            e;
            meta-disk       f;

      on wdrbd2 {
              device        e   minor 2;
              disk          e;
              meta-disk     f;

“minor 2” means volume index number. (c: volume is minor 0, d: volume is minor 1, and e: is minor 2).

– Partition the hard drive for DRBD use. In my case I have a dedicated 40GB disk to be used for DRBD replication. I will use Disk Management to partition/format the hard drive.
I will need 2 partitions, 1st partition will be the data partition(device e above) and 2nd partition will be the meta-data partition(device f above). So let’s create the partition 1 and format it in NTFS.The size of this partition (e) in my case will be 39.68GB. The rest of free space will be dedicated for the meta-data partition (f), 200MB. To calculate the size of the meta-data properly please use the following link from Linbit DRBD documentation site.
The disk layout should look like this:
Please note that the data partition (E:) has a filesystem, NTFS,  but the meta-data partition (F:) does not, so it must be a RAW partition.

– Once finished with the above on both nodes, open a command prompt (as an Administrator)  and use the following commands to prepare DRBD:

  •  drbdadm create-md r0    (on each nodes)
Initial Sync
  • drbdadm up r0   (on node1)
  • drbdadm up r0   (on node2)
  • drbdadm status r0  (on node1)

You should see something like the following:

C:\Users\wdrbd>drbdadm status r0
  r0 role:Secondary
    wdrbd2 role:Secondary

Initiate a full sync on node1:

  • drbdadm primary –force r0

After the sync is completed you should get the following:

C:\Users\wdrbd>drbdadm status r0
  r0 role:Primary
    wdrbd2 role:Secondary

The disk state on both nodes should be in UpToDate state. As you can see the primary node in this case it’s node1. This means that node1 is the only node which can access the E: drive to read/write data into it. Remember that NTFS is not a clustered file system, meaning that it cannot be opened for read/write access concurrently on both nodes. Our DRBD configuration in our scenario prevents dual Primary mode in order to avoid corruption of the file system.

Switching the roles:

If you want to make node2 the Primary and node1 the Secondary, you can do so by doing the following (make sure there are no any active read/write sessions on node1 since DRBD will have to force close them):

  • On node1: drbdadm secondary r0
  • On node2: drbdadm primary r0

After issuing the above commands, you should be able to access the E: drive on node2 this time. Feel free to experiment and don’t forget to report any bugs to the project’s github web page!