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 Offered by Progent's Consultants
Progent's Microsoft and Cisco support professionals can help you to build an efficient, fault-tolerant information network that addresses major problems encompassing a wide range of infrastructure solutions and operations including:

Business Continuity Planning
Progent's business continuity planning professionals can help you design a disaster recovery strategy in order to resume network operations in case of an IT system catastrophe. Progent can help you to define a complete disaster recovery strategy that incorporates periodic disaster recovery evaluations and drills. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified consultants can also help you build an affordable, fault-tolerant system architecture that addresses availability issues covering a broad range of infrastructure technologies and procedures. For more information, see Business Continuity Expertise.

Fully Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services from Progent offer small and medium-sized businesses an affordable and fully managed solution for reliable backup/disaster recovery. For a low monthly cost, ProSight DPS automates your backup activities and allows fast restoration of vital data, apps and VMs that have become lost or damaged as a result of hardware breakdowns, software bugs, disasters, human mistakes, or malware attacks such as ransomware. ProSight Data Protection Services can help you protect, recover and restore files, folders, apps, system images, plus Hyper-V and VMware virtual machine images. Critical data can be backed up on the cloud, to an on-promises device, or mirrored to both. Progent's BDR consultants can deliver advanced expertise to configure ProSight DPS to to comply with government and industry regulatory requirements like HIPPA, FINRA, and PCI and, whenever necessary, can help you to restore your critical information. Learn more about ProSight Data Protection Services Managed Cloud Backup and Recovery.

Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery consultants can assist you to design a DR system based on Microsoft's most advanced Failover Clustering tools such as Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade for non-intrusive migration to Windows Server 2016, Storage Replica for crash-consistent recovery, Storage Spaces Direct for high-performance storage clusters using commodity equipment, VM Load Balancing for improving the performance and resilience of Failover Clusters while reducing TCO and operational expenses, and Cloud Witness for fast, affordable deployment of a stretch cluster quorum witness. For more information, go to Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Consulting.

Windows Server 2012 Failover Clustering
Windows Server 2008 R2 brought world-class fault tolerance and recoverability to Microsoft's failover clustering platform. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 adds to this foundation and delivers important enhancements that offer more scalability, better storage availability for server applications, easier administration, faster automatic failover, and more options for architecting failover clusters. To learn more, go to Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Clustering Integration.

VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager (SRM) is a component of VMware vCenter that lets you specify, automate and verify a repeatable workflow for recovering applications and services quickly following a breakdown. Site Recovery Manager provides centrally managed and automated disaster recovery, application mobility, plus non-disruptive site relocation, failback and re-protect. Site Recovery Manager also supports transparent testing for disaster recovery, upgrades and patches and can produce reports to verify complete service restoration, validate SLAs and prove disaster recovery compliance. Progent can provide the skills of a VCDX certified VMware Site Recovery Manager consultant to help your organization to design, configure, test and maintain a disaster recovery system powered by VMware SRM.

NetApp MetroCluster Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery platform that combines failover storage clustering along with synchronous replication to deliver fast, zero data loss disaster recovery (DR) between sites that are up to 300km apart. Progent offers access to a certified NetApp MetroCluster expert who can help you to design, deploy, manage, update, test and repair a disaster recovery solution built around NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can help you to choose a topology for your MetroCluster environment that aligns with your technical requirements and budget. Progent can ensure you follow best practices for installing your MetroCluster environment by providing guidance with tasks like assigning disk pools and shelf IDs, determining plexes layout, setting up volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, provisioning switches, implementing a tiebreaker mechanism, designing a configuration replication network between your peered clusters, and testing your disaster recovery system to verify adherence with industry standards and government requirements.

Network Load Balancing
Progent provides fault tolerant load balancing support covering system load balancing, load balanced programs, LAN/WAN infrastructure routing, and content dispatching technology such as Cisco Content Engine. Non-stop load balancing technologies for which Progent offers consulting expertise include Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008 Server Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Metaframe and Access Gateway, Cisco CSS, Cisco Content Engine and ACNS, and F5 Networks 3-DNS. To read more, see High Availability Load Balancing.

High-Availability Internet Data Centers
Progent's Data Center consultants can show you how to find zero-downtime data centers that meet the particular needs of your business. Fault tolerant co-location sites are particularly attractive to small and mid-size companies due to of their low cost and convenience compared to taking a do-it-yourself approach. Trying to create an on-site data center with even a basic level of fault tolerance is too costly for most small companies. Progent is ready to show you how to reap all the advantages of high-availability colocation centers by offering a complete array of engineering and maintenance services. For more information, go to Fault Tolerant Internet Data Centers Expertise.

Fault Tolerant Inter-office Networking
Progentís inter-site connectivity consultants can help companies achieve non-stop multi-site connections by means of fully redundant system architectures with transparent failover. Progentís Cisco-certified CCIE network engineers can design and implement high-availability Inter-office connections supported by fault tolerant EIGRP network routers or zero-downtime OSPF configurations of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how redundant connections and automatic fail-over can provide affordable 24x7 interoffice networking. To read more, see Fault Tolerant Inter-office Networking.

Fault Tolerant Internet Connectivity
Progent's Cisco-authorized IT professionals can help you design an economical, high availability Internet configuration architecture that can achieve non-stop Internet connectivity via a wide range of high availability Internet access solutions including high availability BGP, automatic fail-over, and redundant Internet Service Providers. Progent offers CCIE professionals to show you how to utilize the latest techniques for high availability Internet connectivity to implement an economical, completely redundant Internet interface with automatic failover and other capabilities to create zero-downtime Internet access. For details, visit Fault Tolerant Internet Access Architecture.

Backup and Recovery Technology Consulting Experts
Progent can provide affordable remote support from IT engineers skilled in a wide array of utilities and technologies that provide solutions for protecting Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux/UNIX servers and workstations plus laptops and handhelds. Progent offers consulting support for leading data protection products such as Acronis Backup and Recovery, Backup Exec, BackupAssist, HP Data Protector, Double-Take Backup, Mozy, Retrospect, Apple Time Machine, VMware Data Recovery, and Solaris FLARs. Progent can assist your company to install, enhance, or troubleshoot backup/restore solutions for a variety of architectures such as local, remote, cloud-based, or a mix. For more information, visit Backup and Recovery Solutions Consulting.

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) Backup and Restore Consulting Services
Progent's expert Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager engineers can help your company to create a practical disaster recovery plan, implement a cost-effective fault-tolerante IT infrastructure, install a Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager-based recovery system, comprehensively validate your system, train your IT staff or local consultants how to manage System Center Data Protection Manager, or provide complete IT outsourcing including remote hosting of System Center Data Protection Manager servers in Progent's world-class data center. For details, visit System Center Data Protection Manager Consulting and Support Services.

Barracuda Backup On-premises and Cloud Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Barracuda Backup is a low-cost, subscription backup and disaster recovery service for small and mid-size businesses. A Barracuda Backup solution can incorporate a purpose-built physical storage device manufactured by Barracuda or a software-based appliance with comparable features but which uses your own storage infrastructure. Barracuda Backup protects vital company data generated on-premises, at one or multiple remote locations, or in the cloud. For disaster preparedness, you can replicate data to the Barracuda Cloud, to Amazon AWS, or to any location with a Barracuda appliance. Progent is a Barracuda partner and Progent's Barracuda Backup consulting experts can provide a wide range of consulting services to help your business to plan, integrate, operate and repair a backup and disaster recovery solution built on Barracuda Backup. For additional information, see Barracuda Backup and disaster recovery consultants.

Altaro VM Backup Solutions for Backup and Disaster Recovery
Altaro VM Backup provides small and mid-size businesses a reliable and affordable solution for backing up and restoring Hyper-V and VMware-powered VMs. Altaro VM Backup can be deployed in on-premises, remote, distributed, and cloud environments and also supports cost-effective backup to Azure Block Blob storage. Headline capabilities include state-of-the-art Augmented Inline Deduplication to cut backup storage requirements, Continuous Data Protection with backup intervals as little as five minutes for reducing your exposure to data loss, military-grade encryption, item-level restore options for specific files and emails, support for Windows Server Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) and vCenter for managing larger environments, and support for Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to back up live virtual machines without downtime. Progent is a certified Altaro partner and offers a broad range of services to help you to design, deploy, optimize and troubleshoot a backup/restore system based on Altaro VM Backup. To learn more, see Altaro VM Backup Certified Consultants.

Consulting Services Double-Take Solutions for Data Backup and Recovery
Double-Take publishes a family of tools intended to provide small and midsize businesses a variety of affordable alternatives for replicating and recovering vital workloads such as Exchange, SQL, Blackberry, and Microsoft SharePoint. Progentís business continuity planning experts have extensive backgrounds incorporating Double-Take Software products into small company IT networks to create an advanced level of fault tolerance and disaster recovery readiness at a budget-friendly price. To read more, visit Consulting for Double-Take Software for Backup.

CRISC-Premier Network Risk Mitigation
The CRISC program was established by ISACA in 2010 to verify an IT professional's ability to plan, deploy, and support information system control mechanisms to mitigate network risk. Progent can provide the expertise of a CRISC-certified engineer to help your company to create and carry out a workplace continuity or disaster recovery plan based on leading practices promoted by CRISC and crafted to match your organization's risk appetite, business objectives, and IT budget. To find out more, go to CRISC-Premier IT risk control specialists.

Why Pick Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Since Progent is a Microsoft Partner and provides professional application support for a wide range of small business applications, Progent is able to assist customers to find complete information technology solutions that substantially enhance the productivity of your IT network. As a Registered Partner with Cisco, Progent offers the services of premier engineers and specialists with expertise in architecting, deploying and maintaining infrastructure solutions based on Cisco technology. The breadth of Progent's technical experience and Progent's sensitivity to the requirements of small businesses make Progent a great partner for building and maintaining a cost-effective, high-availability information system.

How to Get Help from Progent's Consultants for High Availability Network Services
In order to contact Progent about technical help for fault tolerant computing, call 1-800-993-9400 or see Contact Progent.

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