Clustering 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.
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:
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.
- 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
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:
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.
- 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
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:
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.
- 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
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 High Availability Technologies Offered by Progent's Consultants
Progent's Microsoft and Cisco engineers can assist your business to implement a cost-effective, fault-tolerant information network that resolves key challenges covering a broad range of networking solutions and operations including:
Why Pick Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Business Continuity Planning
Progent's business continuity professionals can show you how to design a disaster recovery strategy so you can restore network operations in the event of an IT system disaster. Progent can help you to develop a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy that includes periodic disaster recovery evaluations and testing. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-authorized consultants can also show you how to create an affordable, zero-downtime network solution that addresses reliability issues involving a broad array of network technologies and procedures. For details, see Business Continuity Consulting Services.
High Availability Internet Connectivity
Progent's Cisco-authorized IT engineers can show you how to create an economical, high availability Internet configuration solution that can deliver 24x7 Internet connectivity via a wide range of fault tolerant Internet access solutions including fault tolerant BGP, transparent fail-over, and multiple Internet Service Providers. Progent offers Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert consultants to show you how to apply the most advanced techniques for fault tolerant Internet connections to implement an economical, completely redundant Internet network with automatic failover and other capabilities to deliver non-stop Internet availability. To learn more, go to High Availability Internet Access Solutions.
Microsoft Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced enterprise-class fault tolerance and system recovery to Microsoft's failover clustering solution. Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this foundation and delivers important improvements that offer increased extensibility, better disk storage availability for server applications, easier management, quicker automatic failover, and more flexibility for designing failover clusters. To find out more, visit Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Clustering Migration and Support.
VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager (SRM) is a component of VMware vCenter that lets you orchestrate, automate and verify a repeatable workflow for restoring services quickly following an outage. SRM supports centrally controlled and automated disaster recovery, application mobility, plus transparent site relocation, failback and site re-protect. Site Recovery Manager also supports non-intrusive testing for disaster recovery, upgrades and fixes and can generate reports to confirm full service recovery, validate SLAs and prove DR compliance. Progent offers the support of a VCDX certified VMware SRM consultant to assist you to design, deploy, test and maintain a DR system based on VMware SRM.
NetApp MetroCluster Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a high-availability and disaster recovery platform that combines failover storage clustering along with continual replication to provide fast, zero RPO disaster recovery (DR) between datacenters located as far as 185 miles apart from each other. Progent can provide access to a NetApp MetroCluster expert who can help you to plan, configure, administer, update, test and troubleshoot a disaster recovery system built around NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can help you to choose an architecture for your MetroCluster environment that aligns with your technical requirements and IT budget. Progent can make sure you adhere to best practices for installing your MetroCluster solution by providing guidance with tasks such as assigning shelf IDs, determining aggregate layout, setting up FlexVol volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, provisioning Cisco and Brocade switches, designing a tiebreaker mechanism, designing a configuration replication network between your storage clusters, and verifying your MetroCluster DR system to verify compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements.
Network Load Balancing
Progent offers fault tolerant load balancing support covering network load balancing, load balanced programs, LAN/WAN infrastructure routing, and content dispatching products such as F5 Networks 3DNS. High availability load balancing products for which Progent offers consulting services include Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008 Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Metaframe and Presentation Server, Cisco Content Services Switch, Cisco Content Distribution Manager and ACNS, and F5 Networks 3-DNS. To find out more, visit Fault Tolerant Load Balancing.
Zero Downtime Data Centers
Progent's Data Center consultants can show you how to find zero-downtime data centers that meet the particular requirements of your business. Fault tolerant co-location sites are particularly appealing to small and mid-size companies because of their affordability and convenience in comparison to pursuing a do-it-yourself strategy. Trying to build an in-house data center that offers even a basic degree of fault tolerance is too costly for the majority of small companies. Progent is ready to show you how to reap all the benefits of 24x7 data centers by offering a full array of engineering and support services. For details, visit Non-stop Colocation Expertise.
Fault Tolerant Inter-office Networking
Progentís multi-site connection engineers can help organizations create zero-downtime multi-site connections through fully redundant networks featuring automatic failover. Progentís Cisco-qualified CCIE engineers can plan and implement high-availability Inter-office connections supported by non-stop EIGRP network routers or non-stop OSPF configurations of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how redundant connectivity and transparent fail-over offers economical 24x7 interoffice networking. For more information, go to High-Availability Inter-office Connectivity.
Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) Data Recovery Consulting
Progent's expert Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager engineers can help your company to develop a practical disaster recovery strategy, implement a cost-effective high-availability network infrastructure, install a System Center Data Protection Manager-based backup and restore solution, comprehensively validate your DPM system, educate your administrative staff or regular service providers how to maintain System Center Data Protection Manager, or provide complete IT support outsourcing including remote hosting of Microsoft SCDPM machines in Progent's secure data center facility. To learn more, visit Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager Consulting.
Managed Offsite DPM Backup Service
Progentís affordable Offsite DPM-based Backup Service combines the power of System Center Data Protection Manager with the world-class security features of the QTS (formerly Herakles) Colocation Center in Sacramento, California to deliver continual, non-disruptive backup for up to 2.5TB of data from one or more of your Windows-powered servers. Progent's service offering includes all configuration, support, and monitoring needed for a complete offsite data backup solution. To find out more, visit Managed Offsite DPM Backup Service.
Backup and Restore Technology Consulting Services
Progent offers economical remote access to engineers with expertise in a broad array of products and services that provide solutions for protecting Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux physical and virtual servers and desktops plus notebooks and handhelds. Progent can provide help for all major backup platforms such as Acronis, Symantec Backup Exec, BackupAssist, CrashPlan PRO, Double-Take, MozyPro, Retrospect for Macintosh, Apple Time Machine, VMware Data Recovery, and Solaris FLARs. Progent can help you to design, enhance, or maintain backup/restore systems for a range of topologies such as local, edge to datacenter, cloud, or a mix. For more information, see Backup and Restore Solutions Consulting.
Consulting for Double-Take Software for Data Backup and Recovery
Double-Take offers a selection of products designed to provide small and midsize companies a range of affordable alternatives for backing up and restoring business-critical workloads including Microsoft Exchange, SQL, RIM Blackberry, and Microsoft SharePoint. Progentís disaster recovery planning consultants have extensive backgrounds integrating Double-Take Software products into small business IT systems to achieve a high state of availability and business continuity readiness at an affordable price. For more information, go to Consulting for Double-Take Solutions for Backup.
CRISC-certified IT Risk Control
The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) program was established by ISACA to verify an IT professional's ability to plan, deploy, and support IS control mechanisms to mitigate network risk. Progent offers the expertise of a CRISC-certified engineer to assist your company to create and execute a workplace continuity or disaster recovery strategy that follows industry best practices identified by CRISC and crafted to align with your organization's risk appetite, business goals, and budgetary guidelines. To read more, see CRISC-qualified IT risk control specialists.
Since Progent is a Microsoft Gold Partner and offers specialized application support for a wide range of business software programs, Progent can assist clients to find comprehensive information technology solutions that substantially enhance the business value of your network. As a Registered Partner with Cisco, Progent offers the services of qualified consultants and specialists with experience in architecting, installing and troubleshooting networking solutions based on Cisco products. The extent of Progent's technical experience and Progent's familiarity with the requirements of small and midsize businesses make Progent the ideal partner for building and running a cost-effective, dependable network.
How You Can Access Progent's Experts for Non-stop Network Services
In order to get in touch with Progent about engineering support for non-stop networking, call 1-800-993-9400 or see Contact Progent.