Windows Server 2016 Migration and IntegrationWindows Server 2016 Datacenter Edition includes significant enhancements to Failover Clustering, a key technology that supports disaster recovery (DR) and high availability by allowing you to combine multiple servers to form a fault-tolerant cluster on physical hardware or in virtual machines. A major enhancement is Storage Replica, Microsoft's first native solution for zero-data-loss disaster recovery, Storage Replica allows organizations to configure separate sites within a metro area to mirror data with crash-consistent volumes in order to ensure full data recovery in the event of a site outage. Windows Server 2016 includes a number of other important new and enhanced features for Failover Clusters, offering significant benefits in areas including availability and fault tolerance, Hyper-V virtualization, storage and infrastructure costs, ease of deployment, manageability, security, scale, performance, hybrid cloud support, health monitoring and audit reporting.

Windows Server 2016 is a cloud-tested platform that takes technology proven in Microsoft's vast Azure public cloud, including Azure's software-defined data plane, and makes it available for on premises deployments. As hybrid networks have become the norm, the migration of cloud technology to private data centers has made enterprise-class disaster recovery solutions practical for organizations of virtually any size.

Progent's team of disaster recovery consultants and certified Windows Server experts have the knowledge and experience to help you plan, deploy, test, maintain and troubleshoot a disaster recovery solution based on Windows Server 2016 that aligns with your business goals and IT budget. Progent's information assurance experts can help you prove compliance with regulatory requirements for disaster recovery, and Progent's business continuity consultants can help you integrate your disaster recovery strategy into a broader plan to keep your business operating at an acceptable level in the event of a predictable widespread catastrophe. By showing you practical and affordable ways to deploy Windows Server 2016 to improve your Recovery Point Objective (RPO) and Recovery Time Objective (RTO), Progent can help ensure that your investment in current disaster recovery and clustering technology adds maximum business value to your information network.

Windows Server 2016 Storage Replica
The headline disaster recovery feature of Windows Server 2016 is Storage Replica, Microsoft's first foray into zero-data-loss DR. Storage Replica allows you to mirror data between sites located within metro distances by using synchronous replication over a low-latency (5 ms or better round trip) TCP/IP or RDMA network using an SMB3 transport. If a protected site (also called a source or primary site) suffers a complete shutdown, you can switch quickly to the recovery site (also called destination or secondary site) without losing any data written to disk storage. Storage Replica can also be used for disaster avoidance, where users are seamlessly switched over to a recovery site in expectation of an imminent catastrophe such as a flood, wildfire or hurricane. For sites separated by longer distances or otherwise subject to higher latencies, Storage Replica supports an asynchronous replication mode that provides minimal data loss.

Storage Replica uses block-level replication between clusters or servers. This means that protected applications write data to at least two locations before the completion of any write operation. Because Storage Replica operates below the file level, it avoids the restrictions of technologies like DFS Replication, which requires that files be closed before replication and is subject to issues like files locks and open handles. Progent can help you upgrade from low-end disaster recovery solutions like DFS Replication to a zero-data-loss DR solution based on Windows Server 2016 Storage Replica.

For higher latency networks that span longer distances, Storage Replica supports asynchronous replication. Since Storage Replica asynchronous replication is continuous, not checkpoint based, the amount of data at risk of being lost is far lower than DR solutions based on snapshots. In addition, Storage Replica works at the partition layer, so it replicates all Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) snapshots, allowing application-consistent data snapshots for point-in-time recovery.

Windows Server 2016 Storage Replica Consulting

Storage Replica allows replication between clusters with zero data loss at the file-system level

Topologies supported by Storage Replica include stretch clusters, cluster-to-cluster, and server-to-server. These configurations can run on physical hardware or VMs based on Hyper-V, VMware, Citrix XenServer, or other leading virtualization platforms. Stretch cluster configurations allow you to orchestrate and automate the failover process for workloads like Hyper-V private cloud clusters and SQL Server Failover Cluster Instance (FCI) and can be managed with Failover Cluster Manager. Storage Replica with stretched clusters can use Storage Spaces, SAN, iSCSI, and RAID through persistent reservation and can be run with two or more nodes.

The cluster-to-cluster configuration utilizes uses two distinct clusters and allows administrators to control the failover process manually. This topology is suited for environments where the secondary site set up solely for disaster recovery rather than as an active data center. With a cluster-to-cluster configuration, Storage Replica supports the cost-saving Storage Spaces feature of Windows Server 2016 and can be run with four or more nodes.

If your hardware does not support clustering, you can run Storage Replica in a server-to-server configuration. In this case the failover process must be performed manually. This can be a cost-effective DR solution between branch offices and data centers, and with asynchronous replication can support significantly better RPO than can be achieved with DFS Replication.

Progent can help you determine which Storage Replica topology makes the most sense for you business and can also help you plan, deploy, manage and troubleshoot your Storage Replica solution. For other zero-data-loss disaster recovery platforms supported by Progent, see VMware Site Recovery Manager consulting and NetApp MetroCluster disaster recovery consulting.

Additional Features of Windows Server 2016 for Failover Clustering
Important new and enhanced features of Windows Server 2016 include:

  • Storage Spaces Direct allows you to pool low-cost commodity servers running Windows Server 2016 to create network attached failover storage clusters. The rotating and solid-state disks (SSDs) integrated with each server are automatically onboarded to the Failover Cluster by Storage Spaces Direct (S2D), and you can combine as many as 16 servers and 400 drives for up to 1 petabyte of storage per cluster. New servers can be added in minutes, and with Microsoft System Center require only a checkbox to install. The scale-out servers use their built-in Ethernet RDMA controllers and Microsoft's SMB3 transport to interconnect, eliminating the expense and management overhead associated with deploying a SAN solution with FC fabric.

    When you create volumes from the storage pool, Storage Spaces Direct automatically generates a virtual disk and takes care of partitioning, formatting, and adding it to your Failover Cluster so it can be accessed by any node as a CSV. These shared volumes can tolerate drive, server, or component failures with uninterrupted availability, and you can replace failed hardware without downtime or complex management intervention. Performance can exceed 150,000 mixed random IOPS per server thanks to an integrated read/write cache and support for NVMe drives mounted directly on the PCIe bus. Storage Spaces Direct automatically utilizes the fastest storage available, such as SSDs, for its always-on cache.

    Windows Server 2016 Storage Replica Consulting

    Hyper-converged deployments of Storage Spaces Direct are a good fit for SMBs or branch offices

    System Center 2016 Virtual Machine Manager supports two models for configuring and managing Storage Spaces Direct clusters. In a converged deployment, also called disaggregated, compute and storage resources run on different clusters. This provides administrators with the flexibility to scale compute resources independently from storage and is suitable for enterprises with larger environments and the skills to manage complex deployments. With a hyper-converged deployment model, Hyper-V compute and storage share the same cluster. This model, which minimizes hardware costs and is easier to configure and manage, is appropriate for smaller organizations or branch offices.

  • Health Service is a feature introduced in Windows Server 2016 for monitoring the performance and capacity of Storage Spaces Direct clusters. Metrics reported by Health Service include IOPS, IO throughput and latency, physical (raw) storage and storage pool capacity, volume capacity, processor utilization, and memory. Health Service also continually monitors Storage Spaces Direct clusters and generates fault alerts ranked by severity and covering cluster and storage hardware, the Storage Spaces software stack, storage Quality of Service, and Storage Replica. For conciseness, fault alerts report root causes, such as a failed enclosure, rather than all the components affected by the failure.

    Health Service can automate workflows in the disk retirement/replacement cycle by reporting a failed disk, copying data from the retired disk to the remaining disks to restore full resiliency, indicating a failed disk by blinking its disk or slot indicator light, verifying a replacement disk against a Supported Components Document, and substituting the replacement disk into the storage pool previously occupied by the retired disk.

  • Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade is a new feature of Windows Server 2016 that allows the live migration of all virtual machines in a cluster from a Windows Server 2012 R2 host to Windows Server 2016 host. This lets you move Hyper-V and scale-out file server workloads to the latest version of Windows Server with zero interruption of service, avoiding downtime penalties against SLAs. Other cluster workloads like SQL Server are paused only for the few minutes required to failover to Windows Server 2016. The rolling upgrade process requires no extra hardware and the upgraded cluster continues using the existing cluster objects stored in Active Directory.

    Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade utilizes a new mixed-OS mode that allows nodes with different host operating system versions to run within the same cluster. This allows you to pause, drain, evict, and reformat any node in the cluster, install Windows Server 2016 on the node, and bring the node back online. The Failover Cluster continues operating during this procedure as it would during any node outage. You can then use Failover Cluster Manager or PowerShell to add the upgraded node back into the cluster. All nodes operate at the older Windows Server 2012 R2 functional level until every node in the cluster has been upgraded. When all nodes have been migrated to Windows Server 2016, the entire cluster can be upgraded at once to the new functionality level with a single PowerShell cmdlet.

    Windows Server 2016 Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade Consulting

    Rolling Upgrades allow you to stage a migration to Windows Server 2016 VMs without incurring cluster downtime

    Progent can guide you through the Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade process following best practices, help you load balance the upgraded cluster, and show you how to take advantage of the new features provided by Windows Server 2016.

  • Fault Domains are hardware entities that share a single point of failure. Servers, or nodes, are the original fault domain supported by Windows Server Failover Clustering. Windows Server 2016 adds support for fault domains at the chassis, rack and site levels. Fault domain awareness improves fault tolerance by helping to distribute data across multiple vulnerable components so copies of protected data reside in different fault domains. Windows Server 2016 allows you to define fault domains with PowerShell or XML markup. Storage Spaces Direct uses fault domains to optimize data protection by automatically placing copies of data on different drives, nodes, chasses and racks. Windows Server 2016 Health Service uses fault domains to improve the usefulness of alerts. Stretch clustering uses fault domains for storage affinity, improving performance by running applications or VMs on servers in closest proximity to their storage servers.

  • Virtual Machine Load Balancing is a new integrated feature of Windows Server 2016 that allows automatic live migration of virtual machines between nodes within a Failover Cluster. This helps maximize availability and performance of Failover Clusters and reduces the need to deploy additional physical servers to handle critical workloads during peak periods. VM Load Balancing improves performance, fault tolerance and resource utilization by automatically determining whether a node has become overloaded and assigning VMs from that node to an under-committed one, such as a server that has just been rebooted. This process requires no downtime, takes into account failure policies like fault domains, and is based on heuristics for weighing VM memory pressure, which is the most common resource constraint on a Hyper-V host, and CPU utilization of the node. VM Load Balancing can be configured to run every 30 minutes or on demand, and you can use PowerShell to select one of three thresholds for determining the aggressiveness of load balancing.

    Windows Server 2016 Virtual Machine Load Balancing Consulting

    VM Load Balancing automatically and non-disruptively moves VMs from over-utilized to under-utilized nodes

  • Virtual Machine Start Order is a new feature in Windows Server 2016 Failover Clustering that allows you to orchestrate the priority in which VMs and all groups in a cluster are activated or re-activated. You can group VMs into tiers and define dependencies between different tiers. This can ensure, for example, that VM domain controllers are started first. This avoids scenarios where VMs that require services are activated before the VMs that deliver those services.

  • Cloud Witness is a new type of quorum witness for Windows Server 2016 Failover Clusters that uses Microsoft Azure Blob Storage to maintain a blob file to act as the quorum arbitration point. The quorum witness has a vote in determining whether to keep a stretch cluster running after a datacenter experiences an outage and is an important component of an enterprise-class disaster recovery solution. Leveraging the Microsoft Azure cloud infrastructure is an easy and affordable way to host an offsite quorum witness without the cost and management overhead of deploying a separate datacenter. This also adheres to best practices when designing the topology of a quorum witness. You can use a single Azure Storage Account for multiple clusters, with one blob file required for each cluster. Since only a small amount of data is written to the blob file, which is updated only when the state of the cluster nodes change, the ongoing costs of the Azure storage account is low.

    Windows Server 2016 Cloud Witness Consulting

    Azure-based Cloud Witness is a fast, affordable way to configure a Failover Cluster quorum witness

  • Support for Workgroup and Multi-domain Clusters makes it possible to create Windows Server 2016 Failover Clusters without Active Directory dependencies. In previous releases of Windows Server, Failover Clusters could only be created with server nodes joined to the same domain. Windows Server 2016 still lets you create single-domain clusters but you can also deploy Workgroup clusters and Multi-domain clusters with nodes that are members of different domains. You can use Failover Cluster Manager or PowerShell to create Workgroup clusters and Multi-domain clusters. The recommended witness type for Workgroup clusters and Multi-domain clusters is Disk Witness or the new Windows Server 2016 Cloud Witness. File Share Witness is unsupported for clusters with nodes that are not domain joined.
How Progent Can Help You with Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Microsoft Gold-certified consulting team can help organizations of any size to design a non-disruptive migration to Windows Server 2016 based on the new Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade feature. Progent can help you configure Windows Server 2016 for one or multiple physical datacenters, for a cloud-centric deployment, or for a hybrid environment that seamlessly combines local and cloud resources. Progent's disaster recovery and business continuity consultants can help you design and validate a disaster recovery plan that incorporates Microsoft's latest high-availability technology for Failover Clusters including Storage Replica for zero-data-loss Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Storage Spaces Direct for enterprise-class network-attached storage using commodity hardware, Virtual Machine Load Balancing for improving the performance and fault-tolerance of Failover Clusters while minimizing capital investment and management overhead, and Cloud Witness for fast, low-cost deployment of a stretch cluster quorum witness.

Progent's information assurance consultants can help you achieve and prove compliance with regulatory and industry data security requirement such as SOX, ISO 27001, PCI DSS 3.2 and FedRAMP by showing you how to configure the powerful new security tools available with Windows Server 2016 including Windows Containers, Shielded Virtual Machines, Credential Guard, Remote Credential Guard and Just In Time (JIT) Privileged Access Management. (For a description of these security enhancements, see Windows Server 2016 integration consulting.)

Progent's information assurance consultants can help you deploy new security feature like Windows and Hyper-V Containers, Shielded Virtual Machines, Credential Guard, Remote Credential Guard and Just In Time (JIT) Privileged Access Management to make it easier for you to comply with regulatory and industry data security requirement such as SOX, ISO 27001, PCI DSS 3.2, and FedRAMP. Progent's roster of Cisco CCIE-certified network infrastructure consultants is one of the largest of any independent IT services firm in the U.S., and Progent can help you design, deploy and manage a hybrid network ecosystem that fully delivers the high-availability and disaster recovery capabilities of Windows Server 2016. To streamline the management of your Windows Server 2016 Failover Clusters, Progent can provide expertise with PowerShell scripting, Failover Cluster Manager, Hyper-V Manager, System Center 2016 migration, System Center 2016 Operations Manager (SCOM 2016) integration and Virtual Machine Manager 2016 (VVM 2016) hybrid cloud management consulting.

To help you protect critical Microsoft workloads with Windows Server 2016's disaster recovery solutions, Progent offers services that include Exchange 2016 integration consulting, SQL Server 2016 consulting, and SharePoint development and integration. For hybrid environments that use public cloud services, Progent offers Office 365 Exchange Online consulting and Amazon AWS integration.

Progent's Online Consulting and Troubleshooting Expertise
Progent is a pioneer in delivering online consulting and troubleshooting expertise and has provided remote solutions to organizations in every state in the U.S. (See Progent's Customer Testimonials.) Progent also offers onsite consulting services in major metropolitan areas across the United States and parts of Canada. Progent can provide as-needed guidance to help you resolve occasional technical issues or full project management outsourcing or co-sourcing services to make sure your Windows Server 2016 initiative is successfully completed on time and within budget.

If you need immediate online help from a Progent consultant, visit Progent's Online Technical Response Center.

Contact Progent for Windows Server 2016 Expertise
For more information about Progent's consulting and troubleshooting support for Windows Server 2016, call 1-800-993-9400 or go to Contact Progent.

Additional Zero-Downtime Technologies Provided by Progent's Consultants
Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified consultants can help you to create a cost-effective, high-availability information network that addresses key issues covering a wide range of networking technologies and processes such as:

Business Continuity Planning
Progent's disaster recovery professionals can show you how to design a business continuity plan that will allow you to restore network functionality in the event of an information network disaster. Progent can help you to define a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy that incorporates scheduled disaster recovery assessments and drills. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified consultants can also help you create an affordable, non-stop system architecture that addresses availability issues covering a wide range of network technologies and processes. To find out more, see Business Continuity Expertise.

Fully Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services offer small and mid-sized businesses a low cost and fully managed solution for reliable backup/disaster recovery (BDR). Available at a low monthly price, ProSight DPS automates and monitors your backup activities and enables rapid recovery of vital data, applications and virtual machines that have become unavailable or damaged as a result of component breakdowns, software glitches, natural disasters, human mistakes, or malicious attacks like ransomware. ProSight Data Protection Services can help you back up, recover and restore files, folders, apps, system images, as well as Hyper-V and VMware virtual machine images. Critical data can be protected on the cloud, to a local device, or to both. Progent's backup and recovery specialists can provide advanced support to set up ProSight Data Protection Services to to comply with government and industry regulatory standards such as HIPPA, FIRPA, PCI and Safe Harbor and, whenever needed, can help you to recover your business-critical data. Find out more about ProSight Data Protection Services Managed Backup and Recovery.

Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced world-class fault tolerance and recoverability to Microsoft's failover clustering platform. Windows Server 2012 R2 adds to this technology and provides important enhancements offering increased expandability, better storage uptime for server applications, streamlined management, quicker automatic failover, and more options for architecting failover clusters. For details, visit Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Clustering Consulting Services.

VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager (SRM) is an extension to VMware vCenter that lets you specify, automate and test a repeatable workflow for restoring services quickly after a breakdown. SRM provides centrally controlled and automated disaster recovery, application mobility, and non-intrusive site relocation, failback and site re-protect. SRM also allows non-disruptive testing for disaster recovery, updates and fixes and can generate reports to verify full service restoration, validate SLAs and prove compliance. Progent can provide the skills of a VCDX certified VMware Site Recovery Manager consulting expert to assist you to design, configure, test and manage a DR system powered by VMware Site Recovery Manager.

NetApp MetroCluster Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery software suite that uses failover storage clustering with synchronous replication to provide rapid, zero RPO disaster recovery (DR) between datacenters that are as far as 300km apart. Progent offers access to a certified NetApp MetroCluster expert who can help you to design, deploy, administer, upgrade, test and repair a disaster recovery solution based on NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can assist you to choose an architecture for your MetroCluster deployment that aligns with your technical needs and IT budget. Progent can ensure you follow best practices for configuring your MetroCluster environment by delivering guidance with tasks such as assigning shelf IDs, arranging aggregate layout, provisioning volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, installing switches, implementing a tiebreaker mechanism, designing a configuration replication network between your storage clusters, and verifying your MetroCluster disaster recovery system to verify compliance with industry standards and regulatory mandates.

Fault Tolerant Load Balancing
Progent provides high availability load balancing consulting covering network load balancing, load balanced applications, network backbone routing, and content dispatching technology including F5 Networks 3DNS. Fault tolerant load balancing technologies for which Progent can provide consulting services include Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008 Server Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Access Suite and Presentation Server, Cisco CSS, Cisco Content Distribution Manager and Cisco CDN Software, and F5 Networks 3-DNS. To learn more, see Non-stop Load Balancing.

High-Availability Internet Data Centers
Progent's Data Center engineers can help you select fault-tolerant data centers that meet the particular needs of your company. Fault tolerant collocation sites are especially appealing to small and mid-size organizations because of their low cost and simplified logistics in comparison to pursuing a do-it-yourself approach. Attempting to design an in-house data center that offers even a minimum level of fault tolerance is financially prohibitive for the majority of small organizations. Progent is ready to help you get all the advantages of non-stop colo centers by providing a complete array of consulting and support services. For more information, go to Non-stop Colocation Solutions.

Fault Tolerant Inter-office Networking
Progentís branch office connection engineers can help organizations create non-stop branch office connections by means of redundant system architectures featuring transparent failover. Progentís Cisco-qualified CCIE network engineers can plan and deploy ultra-reliable Inter-office connections based on fault tolerant EIGRP routers or zero-downtime OSPF deployment of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how redundant connections and automatic fail-over offers affordable non-stop interoffice connectivity. To find out more, visit Non-stop Interoffice Connectivity.

Non-stop Internet Access
Progent's Cisco-authorized network engineers can help you design an economical, fault tolerant Internet configuration architecture that can deliver 24x7 Internet connectivity through a broad range of fault tolerant Internet network technologies including non-stop BGP, transparent fail-over, and multiple Internet Service Providers. Progent offers CCIE professionals to help you utilize the most up-to-date techniques for 24x7 Internet connections to implement an affordable, completely redundant Internet interface with automatic failover and other capabilities to deliver non-stop Internet availability. For details, visit High Availability Internet Access Solutions.

Backup and Recovery Solutions Consulting Experts
Progent can provide economical remote access to IT engineers skilled in a wide range of products and technologies that deliver solutions for protecting Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux physical and virtual servers and desktops as well as notebooks and smartphones. Progent can provide expertise for all major data protection products such as Acronis, Symantec Backup Exec, BackupAssist, HP Data Protector, Double-Take Software, MozyPro, Retrospect for Macintosh, Time Machine, VMware vSphere Data Protection (VDP), and Solaris FLARs. Progent's consultants can assist you to deploy, upgrade, or troubleshoot backup solutions for a variety of environments including on-premises, remote, cloud, or a mix. For more information, go to Backup and Recovery Technology Consulting and Support Services.

System Center Data Protection Manager Backup and Restore Consulting Services
Progent's expert Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager engineers can help your company to create an effective workplace recovery strategy, design a cost-effective fault-tolerante IT architecture, install a System Center Data Protection Manager-powered backup and recovery system, comprehensively validate your DPM system, train your IT personnel or local consultants how to manage System Center Data Protection Manager, or provide extensive IT outsourcing including off-site housing of SCDPM machines in Progent's world-class data center facility. For details, visit System Center Data Protection Manager Consulting.

Consulting Services Double-Take Software for Data Backup/Restore
Double-Take publishes a selection of tools designed to deliver small companies a range of cost-effective solutions for replicating and recovering business-critical workloads such as Microsoft Exchange Server, SQL Server, RIM Blackberry, and SharePoint. Progentís business continuity planning consultants have in-depth experience incorporating Double-Take Software products into small business information networks to achieve an advanced level of fault tolerance and business continuity readiness at an affordable cost. To learn more, see Consulting for Double-Take Solutions for Backup.

CRISC-qualified IT Risk Mitigation
The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) certification program was established by ISACA to verify a consultant's skills to design, implement, and maintain information system control mechanisms to reduce risk. Progent can provide the services of a CRISC-certified consultant to assist you to develop and execute a business continuity or disaster recovery strategy based on industry best practices identified by CRISC and geared to align with your organization's risk tolerance, business goals, and IT budget. For details, go to CRISC-qualified IT risk mitigation specialists.

Why Pick Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Since Progent is a Microsoft Gold Partner and provides high-level application support for a wide variety of business software programs, Progent can assist customers to arrive at efficient IT solutions that substantially enhance the productivity of your network. As a Registered Partner for Cisco, Progent offers the services of certified engineers and specialists with expertise in architecting, implementing and managing networking environments based on Cisco products. The breadth of Progent's IT experience and Progent's appreciation for the requirements of small and midsize businesses make Progent the perfect partner for creating and maintaining a cost-effective, fault-tolerant network.

How to Contact Progent's Experts for Fault Tolerant Computing Services
If you wish to get in touch with Progent about engineering support for fault tolerant computing, call 1-800-993-9400 or see Contact Progent.

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