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 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Zero-Downtime Solutions Provided by Progent's Consultants
Progent's certified engineers can assist you to build an affordable, high-availability environment that addresses critical issues encompassing a broad array of networking technologies and processes including:

Business Continuity Planning
Progent's business continuity planning consultants can help you design a disaster recovery plan that will allow you to restore network operations in case of an information network catastrophe. Progent can assist you to create a complete disaster recovery strategy that includes scheduled disaster recovery assessments and drills. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-authorized engineers can also help you create an affordable, high-availability system architecture that takes into account reliability issues involving a wide range of network technologies and processes. To learn more, see Business Continuity Expertise.

Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services from Progent provide small and medium-sized organizations a low cost end-to-end service for secure backup/disaster recovery (BDR). For a low monthly cost, ProSight DPS automates and monitors your backup processes and enables fast restoration of vital files, applications and virtual machines that have become lost or damaged due to hardware breakdowns, software glitches, natural disasters, human mistakes, or malware attacks such as ransomware. ProSight DPS can help you back up, recover and restore files, folders, applications, system images, as well as Hyper-V and VMware images/. Critical data can be protected on the cloud, to an on-promises storage device, or to both. Progent's backup and recovery specialists can provide advanced expertise to configure ProSight Data Protection Services to be compliant with regulatory standards such as HIPAA, FINRA, PCI and Safe Harbor and, whenever necessary, can assist you to restore your critical information. Read more about ProSight DPS Managed Cloud Backup and Recovery.

Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery experts can help your organization to design a disaster recovery system based on Microsoft's most advanced Failover Clustering technologies such as Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade for non-intrusive migration to Windows Server 2016, Storage Replica for zero-data-loss recovery, Storage Spaces Direct for enterprise-class storage clusters using commodity hardware, VM Load Balancing for enhancing the speed and fault-tolerance of Failover Clusters while minimizing TCO and management overhead, and Cloud Witness for easy, affordable deployment of a stretch cluster quorum arbitration point. To learn more, visit Microsoft Server 2016 Disaster Recovery Help.

Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Windows Server 2008 R2 brought world-class availability and recoverability to Microsoft's clustering solution. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this technology and provides important new and enhanced features that offer increased extensibility, non-stop storage uptime for server applications, simpler administration, quicker automatic failover, and additional flexibility for designing failover clusters. To find out more, see Windows Server 2012 Clustering Integration.

VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager is a component of VMware vCenter that lets you orchestrate, automate and verify a repeatable runbook for recovering applications and services quickly following an outage. Site Recovery Manager supports centrally controlled and automated recovery, application mobility, and non-intrusive site migration, failback and site re-protect. Site Recovery Manager also enables non-intrusive testing for disaster recovery, updates and patches 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 consulting expert to assist you to plan, deploy, test and manage a disaster recovery system 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 along with synchronous replication to deliver fast, zero RPO disaster recovery between sites that are up to 300km apart from each other. Progent can provide the skills of a certified NetApp MetroCluster expert who can help you to plan, deploy, manage, upgrade, test and troubleshoot a disaster recovery solution based on NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can help you to select an architecture for your MetroCluster deployment that meets your functional needs and IT budget. Progent can ensure you adhere to leading practices for configuring your MetroCluster solution by delivering guidance with tasks such as assigning shelf IDs, arranging aggregate layout, setting up NetApp FlexVol volumes, setting up Data ONTAP configuration replication service, provisioning switches, designing a tiebreaker, setting up a TCP/IP configuration replication network, and verifying your MetroCluster disaster recovery system to prove adherence with industry standards and government requirements.

High Availability Load Balancing
Progent offers fault tolerant load balancing support covering system load balancing, load balanced applications, LAN/WAN infrastructure routing, and content delivery technology such as F5 Networks 3DNS. High availability load balancing technologies for which Progent can provide consulting services include Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008 Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Access Suite and Access Gateway, Cisco CSS, Cisco Content Engine and ACNS, and F5 Networks 3-DNS. To learn more, see Fault Tolerant Load Balancing.

High-Availability Internet Data Centers
Progent's Data Center consultants can show you how to find fault-tolerant data centers that match the specific requirements of your company. High availability collocation sites are particularly attractive to small and mid-size companies because of their affordability and simplified logistics in comparison to pursuing a do-it-yourself strategy. Attempting to create an on-site data center with even a basic level of fault tolerance is too expensive for the majority of small companies. Progent is ready to help you get all the advantages of non-stop colo sites by offering a full array of consulting and support services. To learn more, go to High-Availability Data Centers Consulting.

High-Availability Interoffice Networking
Progentís inter-site connectivity consultants can help businesses create non-stop inter-site connectivity by means of fully redundant system architectures with automatic failover. Progentís Cisco-premier CCIE network engineers can design and implement ultra-reliable Inter-office networks based on non-stop EIGRP routers or zero-downtime OSPF configurations of Cisco routers. Progent can demonstrate how redundant connections and automatic fail-over can provide economical 24x7 interoffice connectivity. To learn more, see Non-stop Inter-office Connectivity.

Non-stop Internet Connections
Progent's Cisco-certified network professionals can help you build an economical, fault tolerant Internet connection solution that can deliver non-stop Internet access via a wide array of high availability Internet network technologies including high availability BGP, automatic fail-over, and redundant ISPs. Progent can provide Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert engineers to show you how to utilize the most up-to-date technology for 24x7 Internet connectivity to create a cost-effective, completely redundant Internet interface with automatic failover and other capabilities to deliver non-stop Internet connections. To read more, visit Non-stop Internet Access Solutions.

Backup and Recovery Solutions Consulting Services
Progent offers economical remote access to engineers skilled in a wide range of products and services that provide solutions for backing up Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Linux/UNIX physical and virtual servers and desktops plus notebooks and handhelds. Progent offers help for leading data protection platforms including Acronis Backup and Recovery, Symantec Backup Exec, BackupAssist Software, CrashPlan, Double-Take Software, Mozy, Retrospect, Time Machine, vSphere Data Protection, and FLARs. Progent can assist you to install, upgrade, or maintain backup/restore systems for a variety of architectures including local, remote, cloud, or a mix. For details, see Backup and Restore Technology Expertise.

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager Backup and Restore Consultants
Progent's expert Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager engineers can help your company to create a practical business continuity plan, design an affordable fault-tolerante IT infrastructure, deploy a Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager-powered backup and recovery solution, thoroughly validate your DPM system, educate your IT personnel or regular consultants how to manage Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager, or provide complete information technology outsourcing services such as remote housing of virtual or physical SCDPM servers in Progent's world-class data center facility. To read more, visit Microsoft SCDPM Consulting Services.

Barracuda Backup Multi-site and Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery
Barracuda Backup is an affordable, subscription backup and disaster recovery platform for small and mid-size organizations. A Barracuda Backup deployment can include a custom-designed physical storage device manufactured by Barracuda or a software-based appliance with similar functionality but which utilizes your own storage infrastructure. Barracuda Backup protects vital company data generated locally, at one or more remote sites, or in the cloud. For disaster preparedness, you can replicate data to the Barracuda Cloud, to Amazon Web Services (AWS), or to any site with a physical or virtual Barracuda appliance. Progent is a Barracuda partner and Progent's Barracuda Backup consulting experts offer a wide range of consulting support services to assist you to design, integrate, manage and repair a BDR solution built on Barracuda Backup. For additional information, see Barracuda Backup and disaster recovery consulting and management.

Altaro VM Backup Solutions for Data Protection and Disaster Recovery
Altaro VM Backup provides small organizations a reliable and affordable platform for backing up and recovering Hyper-V and VMware-based VMs. Altaro VM Backup can be used for on-premises, remote, multi-site, and cloud-hosted environments and also enables cost-effective cloud backup to Azure Block Blob storage. Top capabilities include state-of-the-art inline deduplication to cut backup storage needs, Continuous Data Protection with backup spacing as short as five minutes for reducing your Recovery Point Objective, military-grade encryption, item-level restore options for individual files and emails, extensive support for Windows Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) and vCenter for handling large-scale environments, and the ability to leverage Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service to back up online VMs with zero downtime. Progent is a certified Altaro partner and offers a broad range of services to assist you to plan, deploy, manage and troubleshoot a backup and disaster recovery system powered by Altaro VM Backup. For more information, go to Altaro VM Backup Certified Consultants.

Consulting for Double-Take Software for Data Backup and Recovery
Double-Take publishes a selection of tools intended to deliver small and midsize businesses a variety of affordable alternatives for replicating and recovering business-critical workloads such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Microsoft SQL Server, Blackberry, and Microsoft SharePoint. Progentís business continuity planning consultants have extensive backgrounds incorporating Double-Take Software technology into small company IT networks to create an advanced level of fault tolerance and business continuity readiness at a budget-friendly price. For details, go to Consulting for Double-Take Software for Backup.

CRISC-Certified Network Risk Management
The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) program was initiated by ISACA in 2010 to verify an IT professional's skills to design, deploy, and maintain IS controls to reduce risk. Progent offers the services of a CRISC-certified engineer to assist you to create and execute a workplace continuity strategy that follows industry best practices identified by CRISC and geared to align with your company's risk appetite, business objectives, and budgetary guidelines. For details, see CRISC-Certified IT risk control specialists.

Why Choose Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning Solutions?
Since Progent is a Microsoft Certified Partner and provides high-level application consulting for a wide variety of business software programs, Progent is able to assist clients to find efficient information technology solutions that optimize the business value of your network. As a Registered Partner with Cisco, Progent offers the expertise of premier consultants and specialists with experience in architecting, implementing and maintaining infrastructure solutions based on Cisco products. The breadth of Progent's technical know-how and Progent's appreciation for the requirements of small and midsize businesses make Progent a great partner for building and running an affordable, fault-tolerant information system.

How to Get Help from Progent's Engineers for High Availability Computing Support
To ask Progent about consulting assistance for fault tolerant computing, call 1-800-993-9400 or see Contact Progent.

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    Progent's Microsoft-certified consultants can provide network support and IT consulting services for Microsoft .NET Servers and programs and for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2008 R2 and Windows Server 2003. Progentís support team can help you plan, deploy, troubleshoot and manage the entire suite of Windows .NET Servers including Microsoft SQL Server 2012, ISA Server, Microsoft Small Business Server, Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 and Exchange Server 2010, SharePoint, Hyper-V, Microsoft Lync Server, Project Server, and System Center Operations Manager (SCOM).

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