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 included 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 maintain and troubleshoot failover clusters powered by Windows Server 2008. If you are considering an upgrade to Windows Server 2016, Progent can provide Windows Server 2016 failover clustering consulting to maximize the availability and performance of your system.
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 SPC3-compliant 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 - 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.
Additional High Availability Technologies Offered by Progent's Consultants
Progent's certified consultants can help your business to design a cost-effective, non-stop system that resolves key challenges covering a broad range of networking technologies and operations including:
Business Continuity Planning
Progent's business continuity professionals can help you design a business continuity plan that will allow you to resume network functionality in the event of an IT system catastrophe. Progent can help you to develop a complete disaster recovery plan that includes periodic disaster recovery evaluations and drills. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified engineers can also help you build an affordable, zero-downtime system architecture that takes into account availability issues involving a broad range of network technologies and procedures. To find out more, see Disaster Recovery Consulting.
Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services offer small and mid-sized businesses an affordable and fully managed service for secure backup/disaster recovery (BDR). For a fixed monthly rate, ProSight DPS automates and monitors your backup activities and enables fast restoration of vital files, applications and VMs that have become unavailable or corrupted as a result of component failures, software glitches, natural disasters, human error, or malicious attacks like ransomware. ProSight Data Protection Services can help you protect, recover and restore files, folders, apps, system images, as well as Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware images/. Important data can be backed up on the cloud, to an on-promises storage device, or mirrored to both. Progent's BDR consultants can provide advanced expertise to set up ProSight DPS to be compliant with government and industry regulatory standards such as HIPPA, FINRA, PCI and Safe Harbor and, whenever necessary, can assist you to restore your business-critical information. Learn more about ProSight Data Protection Services Managed Cloud Backup and Recovery.
Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery consultants can assist your organization to plan and deploy a disaster recovery system built around Microsoft's cloud-tested Failover Clustering tools such as Cluster OS Rolling Upgrade for non-intrusive migration to Windows Server 2016, Storage Replica for crash-consistent Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Storage Spaces Direct for enterprise-class storage clusters using commodity equipment, VM Load Balancing for improving the performance and fault-tolerance of Failover Clusters while minimizing TCO and management overhead, and Cloud Witness for easy, affordable deployment of a stretch cluster quorum witness. For details, visit Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Consulting.
Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced world-class fault tolerance and system recovery to Microsoft's clustering solution. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this foundation and provides significant new and enhanced features offering increased expandability, non-stop disk storage uptime for server applications, easier administration, faster automatic failover, and more flexibility for designing failover clusters. To learn more, see Windows Server 2012 Clustering Consulting and Support.
VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager is a component of VMware vCenter that allows you to define, automate and test a repeatable process for restoring services quickly after a breakdown. Site Recovery Manager provides centrally managed and automated recovery, application mobility, plus transparent site migration, failback and site re-protect. Site Recovery Manager also allows non-intrusive testing for site recovery, updates and fixes and can generate reports to confirm complete service restoration, validate Service Level Agreements and demonstrate compliance. Progent offers the support of a VCDX certified VMware Site Recovery Manager consultant to help you to design, configure, test and administer a DR solution powered by VMware SRM.
NetApp MetroCluster High Availability and Disaster Recovery Platform
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery software suite that uses failover storage clustering with synchronous replication to provide rapid, zero data loss disaster recovery (DR) between sites located as far as 185 miles apart from each other. Progent can provide online or on-premises access to a NetApp MetroCluster expert who can help you to design, deploy, manage, upgrade, test and repair a disaster recovery system based on NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can assist you to choose an architecture for your MetroCluster environment that meets your technical needs and IT budget. Progent can make sure you adhere to leading practices for installing your MetroCluster environment by providing guidance with tasks such as assigning disk pools, determining plexes layout, provisioning NetApp FlexVol volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, installing switches, implementing a tiebreaker mechanism, designing a TCP/IP configuration replication network between your storage clusters, and testing your DR system to prove adherence with information assurance standards and regulatory mandates.
Fault Tolerant Load Balancing
Progent provides high availability load balancing support covering system load balancing, load balanced programs, network infrastructure routing, and content dispatching technology including F5 Networks 3DNS. Non-stop load balancing products for which Progent can provide consulting services include Windows 2003 and 2008 Server Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Metaframe and Access Gateway, Cisco Content Services Switch, Cisco Distributed Director and Cisco CDN Software, and F5 Networks BIG-IP. To find out more, see High Availability Load Balancing.
Zero Downtime Internet Data Centers
Progent's Data Center engineers can help you identify fault-tolerant data centers that match the specific needs of your company. High availability Internet Data Centers are especially appealing to small and mid-size businesses due to of their low cost and convenience in comparison to taking a do-it-yourself approach. Trying to design an in-house data center that offers even a basic level of fault tolerance is too expensive for the majority of small organizations. Progent is ready to show you how to get all the advantages of non-stop Internet data centers by providing a full array of engineering and maintenance services. To learn more, visit High-Availability Internet Data Centers Solutions.
Fault Tolerant Inter-office Connectivity
Progentís multi-site connection consultants can help companies create non-stop multi-site connectivity solutions via redundant networks featuring automatic failover. Progentís Cisco-certified CCIE network engineers can plan and deploy fault-tolerant Inter-office connections based on non-stop EIGRP routers or zero-downtime OSPF deployment of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how multi-path connectivity and transparent fail-over offers affordable non-stop interoffice networking. To find out more, see Non-stop Inter-office Connectivity.
Fault Tolerant Internet Access
Progent's Cisco-authorized network experts can show you how to design an economical, fault tolerant Internet configuration architecture that can deliver non-stop Internet access via a broad array of fault tolerant Internet access solutions including high availability BGP, automatic fail-over, and multiple ISPs. Progent offers Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert consultants to help you apply the most advanced techniques for fault tolerant Internet connections to build an affordable, fully redundant Internet network with automatic failover and other capabilities to create fault tolerant Internet availability. For details, see Fault Tolerant Internet Access Solutions.
Backup and Restore Solutions Consulting Experts
Progent offers affordable remote support from IT engineers with expertise in a broad array of utilities and services that deliver solutions for protecting Windows, Mac, and Linux/UNIX servers and desktops plus laptops and handhelds. Progent offers expertise for all major backup platforms such as Acronis, Symantec Backup Exec, BackupAssist, CrashPlan, Double-Take, MozyPro, Retrospect for Macintosh, Time Machine, VMware Data Recovery (VDR), and FLARs. Progent can help your company to deploy, enhance, or maintain backup/restore systems for a variety of topologies including on-premises, edge to datacenter, cloud, or a mix. For details, go to Backup and Restore Solutions Consulting and Support Services.
System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) Backup and Restore Consulting
Progent's certified System Center Data Protection Manager support professionals can assist you to create a practical workplace recovery plan, design an affordable high-availability network infrastructure, deploy a System Center Data Protection Manager-powered backup and recovery solution, comprehensively test your system, train your IT personnel or local consultants how to manage Microsoft SCDPM, or provide complete information technology outsourcing such as off-site housing of SCDPM machines in Progent's world-class data center facility. To find out more, visit System Center Data Protection Manager Consulting.
Barracuda Backup Cloud and Offsite Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Barracuda Backup is an affordable, subscription backup/restore service for small and medium-size organizations. A Barracuda Backup deployment can incorporate a purpose-built hardware appliance manufactured by Barracuda or a software-based appliance with similar functionality but which utilizes your existing storage infrastructure. Barracuda Backup safeguards vital business data produced locally, at one or multiple remote locations, or in the cloud. For disaster protection, you can replicate data to the Barracuda Cloud, to Amazon Web Services (AWS), or to any site with a physical or virtual Barracuda Backup appliance. Progent is a Barracuda partner and Progent's Barracuda Backup consulting experts can provide a wide array of consulting services to assist your business to design, integrate, operate and repair a backup and disaster recovery system based on Barracuda Backup. For additional information, go to Barracuda Backup and disaster recovery consulting.
Altaro VM Backup Solutions for Data Protection and Disaster Recovery
Altaro VM Backup software provides small and mid-size businesses a reliable and affordable solution for backing up and restoring Hyper-V and VMware-based virtual machines. Altaro VM Backup can be deployed in on-premises, offsite, distributed, and cloud-hosted architectures and also enables low-cost cloud backup to Microsoft Azure Block Blob storage. Top capabilities include state-of-the-art inline deduplication to cut backup storage requirements, Continuous Data Protection with backup spacing as short as five minutes for minimizing your exposure to data loss, military-grade encryption, item-level restore options for specific files and emails, extensive support for Windows Cluster Shared Volumes and VMware vCenter for managing larger environments, and the ability to leverage Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service to back up online VMs without downtime. Progent is an Altaro partner and offers a wide array of consulting services to assist you to plan, install, optimize and troubleshoot a backup and disaster recovery system powered by Altaro VM Backup software. For details, go to Altaro VM Backup Certified Consultants.
Consulting for Double-Take Software for Data Backup and Recovery
Double-Take Software publishes a selection of products intended to deliver small and midsize businesses a range of affordable solutions for backing up and recovering business-critical workloads such as Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Blackberry, and Microsoft SharePoint. Progentís disaster recovery planning experts have extensive backgrounds incorporating Double-Take Software products into small business IT systems to create an advanced level of availability and disaster recovery readiness at an affordable price. To find out more, visit Consulting for Double-Take Software for Backup.
CRISC-Premier Network Risk Mitigation
The CRISC certification program was established by ISACA to validate an IT professional's ability to design, implement, and maintain information system control mechanisms to mitigate network risk. Progent offers the expertise of a CRISC-certified consultant to assist you to create and execute a business continuity or disaster recovery plan that follows industry best practices identified by CRISC and geared to align with your company's risk tolerance, business goals, and budgetary guidelines. For more information, see CRISC-Premier IT risk control experts.
Why Choose Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Since Progent is a Microsoft Certified Partner and offers high-level application consulting for a wide variety of business software programs, Progent can help clients to find comprehensive information technology solutions that optimize the productivity of your IT network. As a Registered Partner with Cisco, Progent offers the expertise of certified consultants and specialists with experience in architecting, installing and supporting networking environments based on Cisco products. The depth of Progent's IT know-how and Progent's familiarity with the requirements of small and midsize companies make Progent the ideal partner for creating and maintaining a cost-effective, high-availability information system.
How You Can Get Help from Progent's Engineers for High Availability Computing Support
To contact Progent about engineering support for non-stop architecture, call 1-800-993-9400 or go to Contact Progent.