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 Fault Tolerant Solutions Provided by Progent's Experts
Progent's Microsoft and Cisco support professionals can help you to create a sensible, zero-downtime system that addresses major challenges covering a wide array of networking solutions and operations including:

Workplace Recovery Planning
Progent's disaster recovery planning engineers can help you design a workplace recovery plan in order to restore network operations in case of an IT network catastrophe. Progent can help you to develop a complete disaster recovery plan that incorporates periodic disaster recovery assessments and testing. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-authorized professionals can also show you how to create an affordable, high-availability network solution that takes into account reliability issues covering a broad array of network technologies and processes. To find out more, see Disaster Recovery Expertise.

Fault Tolerant Internet Connectivity
Progent's Cisco-authorized IT experts can help you build an economical, high availability Internet configuration solution that can deliver 24x7 Internet connectivity via a wide range of high availability Internet access solutions including fault tolerant BGP, automatic fail-over, and multiple Internet Service Providers. Progent offers CCIE engineers to help you utilize the most up-to-date technology for 24x7 Internet connections to build an affordable, fully redundant Internet interface with automatic failover and other features to deliver zero-downtime Internet connections. To read more, go to Non-stop Internet Access Architecture.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced world-class fault tolerance and system recovery to Microsoft's failover clustering solution. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this foundation and delivers important enhancements that offer increased scalability, non-stop storage uptime for server applications, simpler management, quicker failover, and additional options for designing clusters. For more information, visit Windows Server 2012 Clustering Migration and Support.

VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager is an extension to VMware vCenter that lets you specify, automate and test a repeatable process for restoring services quickly following an outage. SRM supports centrally managed and automated recovery, application mobility, plus transparent site migration, failback and re-protect. SRM also supports non-disruptive testing for site recovery, upgrades and fixes and can generate audit reports to verify full service restoration, validate SLAs and demonstrate compliance. Progent can provide the skills of a VCDX certified VMware Site Recovery Manager consultant to assist you to design, deploy, test and maintain a disaster recovery system based on VMware SRM.

NetApp MetroCluster Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a high-availability and disaster recovery software suite that uses failover storage clustering with synchronous replication to deliver fast, zero RPO disaster recovery between sites that are up to 300km apart from each other. Progent can provide online or on-premises access to a certified NetApp MetroCluster consultant who can help you to design, configure, administer, upgrade, test and troubleshoot a disaster recovery system built around NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can assist you to choose a topology for your MetroCluster deployment that meets your technical needs and IT budget. Progent can ensure you follow best practices for installing your MetroCluster environment by providing help with procedures such as assigning disk pools, arranging aggregate layout, setting up volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, installing Cisco and Brocade switches, implementing a tiebreaker mechanism, designing a configuration replication network between your storage clusters, and verifying your DR solution to verify compliance with information assurance standards and government mandates.

Network Load Balancing
Progent provides high availability load balancing support covering system load balancing, load balanced applications, network backbone routing, and content delivery products including F5 Networks 3DNS. Fault tolerant load balancing solutions for which Progent can provide consulting services include Windows Server 2003 and 2008 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 High Availability Load Balancing.

Fault Tolerant Data Centers
Progent's Data Center engineers can show you how to identify fault-tolerant data centers that meet the specific needs of your company. Fault tolerant Internet Data Centers are especially attractive to small and mid-size businesses because of their affordability and simplified logistics compared to taking a do-it-yourself approach. Attempting to design an on-site data center that offers even a basic degree of fault tolerance is financially prohibitive for the majority of small organizations. Progent is ready to help you reap all the benefits of high-availability colo sites by providing a full array of consulting and support services. For more information, visit High-Availability Internet Data Centers Solutions.

High-Availability Branch Office Connectivity
Progentís inter-site network infrastructure professionals can help companies achieve zero-downtime multi-site connectivity by means of fully redundant system architectures with transparent failover. Progentís Cisco-certified CCIE network engineers can design and implement ultra-reliable Inter-office networks supported by zero-downtime EIGRP network routers or non-stop OSPF configurations of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how redundant connectivity and automatic fail-over offers affordable non-stop interoffice connectivity. For more information, go to Fault Tolerant Interoffice Connectivity.

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) Backup and Recovery Consulting
Progent's certified System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) consultants can help your company to develop a practical workplace recovery plan, design an affordable fault-tolerante network infrastructure, install a SCDPM-powered backup and restore system, comprehensively validate your system, train your IT staff or regular service providers how to manage System Center Data Protection Manager, or provide extensive information technology outsourcing services including off-site hosting of Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager machines in Progent's world-class data center. For more information, go to System Center Data Protection Manager Consulting and Support Services.

Fully Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services provide small and medium-sized businesses a low cost and fully managed solution for secure backup/disaster recovery. Available at a fixed monthly price, ProSight Data Protection Services automates and monitors your backup processes and allows fast recovery of vital data, apps and virtual machines that have become unavailable or damaged due to hardware breakdowns, software bugs, natural disasters, human error, or malware attacks like ransomware. ProSight DPS can help you protect, recover and restore files, folders, applications, system images, as well as Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware virtual machine images. Critical data can be backed up on the cloud, to an on-promises storage device, or mirrored to both. Progent's BDR consultants can provide world-class expertise to set up ProSight DPS to to comply with regulatory standards like IPPA, FIRPA, and PCI and, when needed, can assist you to restore your business-critical data. Read more about ProSight Data Protection Services Managed Backup and Recovery.

Backup and Recovery Technology Consulting
Progent can provide affordable remote access to consultants with expertise in a broad range of products and services that provide solutions for protecting Windows, Mac, and Linux/UNIX servers and workstations plus notebooks and handhelds. Progent offers help for all major backup platforms including Acronis Backup and Recovery, Backup Exec, BackupAssist Software, HP Data Protector, Double-Take Backup, MozyPro, Retrospect, Apple Time Machine, VMware Data Recovery, and FLARs. Progent can help you to design, enhance, or maintain data backup solutions for a range of architectures such as local, remote, cloud, or a mix. To learn more, see Backup and Recovery Technology Expertise.

Consulting for Double-Take Solutions for Data Backup/Restore
Double-Take publishes a selection of products designed to deliver small and midsize companies a range of cost-effective alternatives for backing up and recovering vital workloads including Exchange, Microsoft SQL Server, RIM Blackberry, and Microsoft SharePoint. Progentís business continuity planning consultants have extensive backgrounds incorporating Double-Take Software technology into small business information networks to create a high level of fault tolerance and business continuity capability at an affordable price. To find out more, go to Consulting Services Double-Take Solutions for Data Backup.

CRISC-qualified IT Risk Management
The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) program was established by ISACA to validate a consultant's ability to design, deploy, and support IS controls to mitigate network risk. Progent can provide the services of a CRISC-certified engineer to assist your company to create and execute a business continuity or disaster recovery plan that follows leading practices promoted by CRISC and crafted to align with your company's risk tolerance, business goals, and IT budget. To learn more, visit CRISC-certified network risk control experts.

Why Pick Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Since Progent is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner and offers specialized application support for a broad range of small business software programs, Progent can help clients to find efficient IT solutions that optimize the business value of your information system. As a Registered Partner for Cisco, Progent can provide the support of certified engineers and specialists with experience in architecting, configuring and supporting infrastructure environments built on Cisco technology. The broad scope of Progent's IT experience and Progent's familiarity with the needs of small businesses make Progent the ideal partner for creating and maintaining an affordable, fault-tolerant information system.

How to Get Help from Progent's Experts for High Availability Computing Support
If you wish to contact Progent about professional support for fault tolerant IT design, call 1-800-993-9400 or visit Contact Progent.
















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