Windows Server 2008 Fault Tolerant Clustering ConsultingClustering is a key technique to achieve maximum fault tolerance. A cluster is a collection of computer systems responsible for running a shared set of applications and services. The systems in the cluster are interconnected through hardware and software in such a way that in case any component in the cluster stops functioning, the workload will "failover" to, or be assumed by, another system in the cluster without a disruption of service.

Failover clustering clearly has an advantage in increasing network availability in the case of a hardware breakdown, but it also allows non-disruptive system maintenance for environments that have no time window when key applications such as email or web commerce can be taken offline without hurting business. For geographically dispersed environments, multi-site clustering provides insurance against natural disasters such as earthquakes or hurricanes.

The Enterprise and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2008 include significant improvements in failover clustering such as easier deployment, management, and migration; enhanced support for multi-site clusters; improved security architecture and quorum models; stronger authentication and encryption; and more efficient tools for backup and recovery. Windows Server 2008 R2 offers even more advanced support for clustering through the addition of features that make clusters more secure, more available, and easier to manage. Major clustering improvements in Windows Server 2008 R2 include Live Migration support through Cluster Shared Volumes, enhanced support for IPsec security, and expanded cluster storage.

Progent offers a full range of Windows Server 2008 Server consulting services and Windows Server 2008 R2 expertise and can assist businesses of any size to design, implement, and maintain cost-effective failover clusters that provide high availability, security, and performance and that add significantly to the business value of your information network.

New and Improved Features of Windows Server 2008 Failover Clustering
The failover clustering capabilities incorporated into Microsoft Windows 2008 Server represents more than a decade of Microsoft's experience in developing clustering technology. The Enterprise and Datacenter Editions of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 offer a number of new clustering services and capabilities including:

More Convenient Management Interfaces
Windows Server 2008 includes Microsoft Management Console (MMC) 3.0, a new easy-to-use interface for controlling network resources. The new Failover Cluster Administration Console is task oriented rather than cluster resource oriented. To make a file share highly available, for example, the administrator no longer has to create a group, a disk resource, an IP address resource, Network Name, configure IsAlive/LookAlive, configure preferred services, and set dependencies. Instead, the wizard simply asks for the Network Name. You do not necessarily need to assign an IP address because Windows Server 2008 failover clustering now supports DHCP.

Windows Server 2008 also supports remote management via the Remote Server Administration Tools (RSAT). You can manage multiple clusters throughout the organization from a single MMC. Windows Server 2008 Failover Clusters are also fully scriptable with Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI).

Built-in Cluster Validate Tool
Windows Server 2008 clustering includes a cluster Validate Tool, an expanded and integrated version of the ClusPrep tool released for Windows Server 2003 server clustering. As a part of the cluster configuration process, Validate runs a set of tests to determine whether the selected servers, cluster networks, and storage meet the requirements for failover clustering. Validate performs an inventory that includes BIOS information, operating systems, adapters, drivers and software updates; verifies cluster topology for redundancy; checks IP configuration details; and makes sure that storage can correctly handle simulated cluster actions. The Validate Tool helps prevents configuration errors, which is one of the most common problems encountered in failover clusters.

Support for Windows Server 2008 Server Core
Windows Server 2008 offers a Server Core installation option that supports failover clustering and provides a bare-bones environment for running distinct server roles. By limiting the services that need to be maintained and updated, this minimalist installation reduces support and management expense and enhances security by shrinking the server's attack surface. Server Core supports a variety of important roles including DHCP server, file services, print services, DNS server, Active Directory Domain Services, streaming media services, and Windows Server 2008 virtualization.

Better Storage and Backup Support
Improvements in storage and backup offer increased stability and availability for failover clusters. Support for both Master Boot Record (MBR) and GUID Partition Table (GPT) disks allows the creation of disks greater than 2 terabytes. Built-in logic initiates self healing automatically as long as the system can find either the disk signature in the Master Boot Record or the SCSI inquiry page 0x83 data (VPD).

Support for Storage Area Networking (SAN) solutions is improved for storage hardware that supports SCSI-3 SPC3Ėcompliant SCSI commands for persistent reservation/release. All multi-path solutions are Microsoft Multipath I/O (MPIO). The Device Specific Module (DSM) provided by the storage vendor is responsible for sending PR registration information down each path to the storage system. Closer integration with Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) makes the backup process easier. Failover clustering in Windows Server 2008 has its own VSS.

Greater Expandability
With Windows Server 2008, x64-based failover clusters support up to 16 nodes in a single cluster, as opposed to the maximum of 8 nodes in Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2008 failover clusters also now support GPT disks, which use the GUID partition table (GPT) disk partitioning system. A GPT disk allows up to 128 primary partitions and a much larger volume size. In comparison, MBR disks can support up to four primary partitions and a volume size limit of up to 2 terabytes. For greater reliability, GPT disks offer replication and cyclical redundancy check (CRC) protection of the partition table. The increased number of nodes plus support for GPT disks dramatically extends the scalability of larger volumes in cluster environments.

A New Quorum Model
Windows Server 2008 introduces a new failover clustering quorum model that incorporates a combination of Microsoft's earlier shared disk and majority node set models. In Windows Server 2008 failover clustering there are now four ways to establish a quorum:

  • No Majority Ė Disk Only (same as Windows Server 2003 shared disk quorum)
  • Node Majority (same as the Windows Server 2003 majority node set)
  • Node and Disk Majority
  • Node and File Share Majority
The quorum mechanism in Windows Server 2008 no longer requires a shared storage resource for the cluster to function. Quorum now refers to a number of votes which must equate to a majority of nodes. All nodes and disk resources have a vote. This avoids failure points in the old model, which required the disk to be available at all times so that disk failure meant cluster failure.

An Improved Security Model
Windows Server 2008 failover clustering incorporates a new security model that enhances its security and dependability. Changes include:

  • Elimination of the need for a domain user account for the Cluster Service Account (CSA)
  • Better logging and event tracing
  • Transition from unsecure datagram remote procedure call (RPC) communications to TCP-based RPC communications
  • Default enabling Kerberos authentication on all cluster network name resources
  • The ability to audit access to the cluster service via either the Failover Cluster Management snap-in or the cluster command-line interface
  • Ability to secure Inter-Cluster communications.

New Networking Capabilities and More Flexible Dependencies
Windows Server 2008 failover clustering includes a new networking model. Major improvements include:

  • Enhanced support for geographically distributed networks
  • The ability to place cluster nodes on different networks
  • The ability to use DHCP server to assign IP addresses to cluster interfaces
  • Improvements in the cluster heartbeat mechanism
  • Support for IPv6
Administrators no longer have to stretch virtual local area networks across the wide area network to support geographically dispersed servers on different subnets. Failover cluster nodes can now be located on different subnets. Individual cluster nodes can be placed on separate, routed networks, which allows IP Address and Network Name resources to come online when services and applications fail over to remote nodes.

Cluster IP address resources can now get their addressing from DHCP servers as well as from static entries. The cluster heartbeat mechanism has moved from a UDP broadcast health checking mechanism to a UDP unicast communication that it uses a Ping-like Request-Reply process. This allows better security and more reliable packet sequence numbering. Windows Server 2008 supports IPv6 IP Address resources and IPv4 IP Address resources either alone or in combination in a cluster. Clustering also supports 6-4 and Intra-site Automatic Tunneling Addressing Protocol (ISATAP).

Enhancements to Failover Clustering In Windows Server 2008 R2
Major enhancements to Failover Clustering available with Windows Server 2008 R2 include:

  • Clustered Shared Volumes (CSV) with dynamic I/O redirection
  • Geographically dispersed clustering for immunity from natural disasters
  • Easier setup and migration through the new Best Practices Analyzer
  • Redundant Quorum Resource to eliminate single-point failure for the cluster quorum
  • Improved security through support for IPsec security between client and cluster nodes
  • Supports for GPT disks that exceed 2 terabytes in capacity
For more details about the improved Failover Clustering support provided by Windows Server 2008 R2, visit Progent's Consulting Services for Windows Server 2008 R2.

How Progent Can Help You Benefit from Microsoft's Failover Clustering
Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can help you evaluate the business benefits of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2008 R2 failover clustering, set up pilot programs to validate performance and compatibility for your key workloads, develop and execute a cost-effective deployment plan, train your IT staff to manage your clustering environment, and provide ongoing consulting and technical support services remotely or at your site. Progent can also provide comprehensive Help Desk services.

Progent's service professionals can also help you migrate from Windows Server 2003 cluster nodes. This migration requires experience because these two types of nodes cannot share the same cluster, which eliminates a rolling migration.

If you currently have a clustering environment based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and are considering a move to Windows Server 2012 R2 or Windows Server 2016, Progent can help you plan and carry out a Windows Server 2012 R2 failover clustering upgrade or create a Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery solution.

Progent's CISM, CISA, GIAC, CISSP, and CRISC certified security engineers can assess the protection offered by your cluster environment and can recommend and implement affordable improvements. Progent's security experts can also help you design, document, and test business continuity and disaster recovery plans.

Other Zero-Downtime Solutions Supported by Progent's Experts
Progent's Microsoft and Cisco support professionals can assist your company to implement an efficient, non-stop environment that resolves major issues encompassing a broad range of networking technologies and operations including:

Disaster Recovery Planning
Progent's disaster recovery engineers can show you how to create a business continuity plan in order to resume network operations in case of an information system disaster. Progent can help you to define a complete disaster recovery plan that includes scheduled disaster recovery assessments and testing. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified engineers can also help you create an affordable, high-availability network architecture that takes into account reliability issues involving a wide range of infrastructure technologies and processes. For more information, go to Workplace Recovery Expertise.

Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services from Progent offer small and medium-sized organizations an affordable and fully managed service for reliable backup/disaster recovery. For a low monthly cost, ProSight Data Protection Services automates and monitors your backup processes and allows rapid recovery of vital data, applications and VMs that have become unavailable or damaged due to hardware breakdowns, software glitches, natural disasters, human mistakes, or malware attacks such as ransomware. ProSight DPS can help you back up, retrieve and restore files, folders, apps, system images, plus Hyper-V and VMware images. Important data can be backed up on the cloud, to a local storage device, or mirrored to both. Progent's cloud backup consultants can deliver world-class support to set up ProSight Data Protection Services to be compliant with government and industry regulatory requirements like HIPPA, FIRPA, and PCI and, whenever needed, can help you to restore your business-critical information. Find out more about ProSight DPS Managed Cloud Backup and Recovery.

Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery experts can assist you to plan and deploy a disaster recovery solution based on Microsoft's cloud-tested Failover Clustering technologies such as Cluster OS Rolling Upgrade for non-disruptive migration to Windows Server 2016, Storage Replica for zero-data-loss recovery, Storage Spaces Direct for enterprise-class network-attached storage using low-cost equipment, Virtual Machine Load Balancing for improving the performance and resilience of Failover Clusters while reducing capital investment and management overhead, and Cloud Witness for fast, affordable creation of a stretch cluster quorum witness. To learn more, go to Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Support.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Windows Server 2008 R2 brought enterprise-class availability and recoverability to Microsoft's failover clustering platform. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this technology and provides significant enhancements that offer more extensibility, better disk storage availability for server applications, easier administration, faster failover, and more options for designing failover clusters. To find out more, see Windows Server 2012 Clustering Consulting Services.

VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager is an extension to VMware vCenter that allows you to orchestrate, automate and test a repeatable process for recovering applications and services rapidly following an outage. Site Recovery Manager provides centrally controlled and automated disaster recovery, application mobility, and non-disruptive site relocation, failback and re-protect. Site Recovery Manager also enables non-disruptive testing for site recovery, updates and fixes and can generate audit reports to verify complete service recovery, validate SLAs and prove disaster recovery compliance. Progent offers the support of a VCDX certified VMware SRM consulting expert to help you to plan, deploy, test and maintain a DR solution powered by VMware SRM.

NetApp MetroCluster High Availability and Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery software suite that combines failover storage clustering with continual replication to deliver fast, zero data loss disaster recovery (DR) between datacenters located up to 185 miles (300km) apart from each other. Progent offers online or on-premises access to a certified NetApp MetroCluster consultant who can assist you to plan, configure, administer, upgrade, test and troubleshoot a disaster recovery system built around NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can help you to select a topology for your MetroCluster deployment that meets your technical requirements and IT budget. Progent can make sure you adhere to leading practices for installing your MetroCluster environment by delivering guidance with tasks like assigning disk pools, determining aggregate and plexes layout, setting up NetApp FlexVol volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, provisioning Cisco and Brocade switches, designing a tiebreaker mechanism, setting up a TCP/IP configuration replication network, and testing your MetroCluster DR solution to prove compliance with industry standards and government mandates.

Fault Tolerant Load Balancing
Progent offers high availability load balancing consulting that addresses system load balancing, load balanced applications, network infrastructure routing, and content delivery technology such as F5 Networks 3DNS. Fault tolerant load balancing products for which Progent can provide consulting services include Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008 Server Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Metaframe and Presentation Server, Cisco Content Services Switch, Cisco Content Engine and LocalDirector 400 series, and F5 Networks 3-DNS. To read more, visit Non-stop Load Balancing.

Zero Downtime Internet Data Centers
Progent's Data Center professionals can show you how to select zero-downtime data centers that meet the specific needs of your company. Fault tolerant Internet Data Centers are particularly attractive to small and mid-size companies because of their low cost and simplified logistics in comparison to taking a do-it-yourself approach. Attempting to build an on-site data center with even a basic level of fault tolerance is too expensive for most small organizations. Progent is ready to help you get all the benefits of non-stop data centers by providing a full range of consulting and maintenance services. To learn more, visit Fault Tolerant Data Centers Expertise.

Non-stop Branch Office Networking
Progentís inter-site connectivity engineers can help organizations achieve zero-downtime multi-site connectivity solutions via redundant system architectures featuring transparent failover. Progentís Cisco-qualified CCIE engineers can design and implement fault-tolerant Inter-office connections based on non-stop EIGRP routers or zero-downtime OSPF configurations of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how multi-path connectivity and automatic fail-over offers affordable 24x7 interoffice networking. To find out more, visit Failsafe Inter-office Connectivity.

Fault Tolerant Internet Connectivity
Progent's Cisco-certified network professionals can help you design an economical, high availability Internet connection solution that can achieve non-stop Internet connectivity through a wide range of high availability Internet access technologies including non-stop BGP, automatic fail-over, and redundant ISPs. Progent can provide CCIE consultants to help you apply the latest technology for high availability Internet connectivity to create an economical, completely redundant Internet network with automatic failover and other capabilities to deliver non-stop Internet availability. For details, visit Fault Tolerant Internet Access Solutions.

Backup and Restore Technology Consulting
Progent offers affordable remote support from engineers with expertise in a broad range of utilities and technologies that provide solutions for backing up Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux servers and desktops plus notebooks and handhelds. Progent can provide help for leading backup platforms such as Acronis, Backup Exec, BackupAssist Software, CrashPlan PRO, Double-Take Backup, Mozy, Retrospect, Apple Time Machine, vSphere Data Protection, and FLARs. Progent's consultants can help your company to implement, upgrade, or troubleshoot backup solutions for a variety of architectures including local, remote, cloud, or a mix. To read more, see Backup and Recovery Solutions Consulting Services.

System Center Data Protection Manager Data Recovery Consulting Experts
Progent's certified System Center Data Protection Manager consultants can assist your company to develop an effective workplace recovery plan, implement an affordable fault-tolerante network infrastructure, install a SCDPM-based backup and recovery system, thoroughly validate your system, train your IT personnel or local service providers how to maintain Microsoft SCDPM, or provide extensive information technology outsourcing services including remote hosting of SCDPM machines in Progent's world-class data center facility. For more information, go to Microsoft SCDPM Consulting Services.

Consulting for Double-Take Software for Backup and Recovery
Double-Take publishes a selection of products intended to deliver small companies a range of affordable solutions for replicating and restoring business-critical workloads including Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, RIM Blackberry, and Microsoft SharePoint. Progentís disaster recovery planning experts have extensive backgrounds integrating Double-Take products into small company information systems to achieve an advanced state of fault tolerance and business continuity readiness at a budget-friendly price. To read more, visit Consulting for Double-Take Software for Backup.

CRISC-certified Network Risk Mitigation
The CRISC program was initiated by ISACA in 2010 to validate a consultant's skills to plan, deploy, and maintain IS controls to mitigate network risk. Progent can provide the expertise of a CRISC-certified engineer to assist you to develop and execute a business continuity or disaster recovery plan that follows leading practices identified by CRISC and crafted to align with your organization's risk appetite, business goals, and IT budget. For details, see CRISC-certified network risk control specialists.

Why Pick Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Because Progent is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and provides high-level application expertise for a broad range of business software programs, Progent is able to assist clients to find comprehensive IT solutions that maximize the business value of your network. As a Registered Partner for Cisco, Progent offers the expertise of certified engineers and specialists with expertise in designing, deploying and managing infrastructure solutions built on Cisco technology. The broad scope of Progent's technical experience and Progent's familiarity with the requirements of small businesses make Progent a great resource for creating and maintaining a cost-effective, dependable network.

How You Can Contact Progent's Experts for Non-stop Computing Support
To get in touch with Progent about professional expertise for non-stop networking, phone 1-800-993-9400 or go to Contact Progent.
















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