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 SPC3Ėcompliant SCSI commands for persistent reservation/release. All multi-path solutions are Microsoft Multipath I/O (MPIO). The Device Specific Module (DSM) provided by the storage vendor is responsible for sending PR registration information down each path to the storage system. Closer integration with Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) makes the backup process easier. Failover clustering in Windows Server 2008 has its own VSS.

Greater Expandability
With Windows Server 2008, x64-based failover clusters support up to 16 nodes in a single cluster, as opposed to the maximum of 8 nodes in Windows Server 2003. Windows Server 2008 failover clusters also now support GPT disks, which use the GUID partition table (GPT) disk partitioning system. A GPT disk allows up to 128 primary partitions and a much larger volume size. In comparison, MBR disks can support up to four primary partitions and a volume size limit of up to 2 terabytes. For greater reliability, GPT disks offer replication and cyclical redundancy check (CRC) protection of the partition table. The increased number of nodes plus support for GPT disks dramatically extends the scalability of larger volumes in cluster environments.

A New Quorum Model
Windows Server 2008 introduces a new failover clustering quorum model that incorporates a combination of Microsoft's earlier shared disk and majority node set models. In Windows Server 2008 failover clustering there are now four ways to establish a quorum:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional High Availability Solutions Provided by Progent's Consultants
Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified support professionals can assist you to implement an affordable, zero-downtime IT architecture that resolves key problems encompassing a broad range of networking solutions and processes such as:

Workplace Recovery Planning
Progent's disaster recovery planning professionals can show you how to create a disaster recovery strategy that will allow you to restore network operations in the event of an information system disaster. Progent can assist you to define a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy that includes periodic disaster recovery evaluations and testing. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified engineers can also help you create an affordable, high-availability system architecture that takes into account reliability issues covering a wide array of infrastructure technologies and processes. For details, visit Workplace Recovery Consulting Services.

Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services from Progent provide small and medium-sized businesses an affordable end-to-end service for secure backup/disaster recovery. Available at a low monthly cost, ProSight DPS automates your backup processes and enables fast recovery of critical data, applications and virtual machines that have become lost or damaged as a result of hardware failures, software bugs, disasters, human mistakes, or malware attacks such as ransomware. ProSight DPS can help you back up, retrieve and restore files, folders, apps, system images, as well as Hyper-V and VMware images/. Critical data can be backed up on the cloud, to a local storage device, or to both. Progent's BDR consultants can provide advanced support to configure ProSight DPS to to comply with government and industry regulatory standards such as HIPPA, FINRA, PCI and Safe Harbor and, when needed, can help you to recover your critical information. Find out more about ProSight Data Protection Services Managed Cloud Backup.

Microsoft Server 2016 Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery/business continuity experts can help you to design a disaster recovery solution built around Microsoft's latest Failover Clustering tools such as Cluster OS Rolling Upgrade for non-disruptive migration to Windows Server 2016, Storage Replica for crash-consistent Recovery Point Objective (RPO), Storage Spaces Direct for high-performance storage clusters using industry-standard equipment, Virtual Machine Load Balancing for improving the performance and resilience of Failover Clusters while minimizing TCO and management overhead, and Cloud Witness for easy, economical deployment of a stretch cluster quorum arbitration point. For more information, see Microsoft Server 2016 Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity Help.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced world-class availability and system recovery to Microsoft's clustering platform. Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this foundation and delivers important new and enhanced features offering more expandability, better storage availability for server applications, simpler management, quicker failover, and more options for architecting clusters. To learn more, go to Windows Server 2012 Clustering Migration and Support.

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 consistent runbook for restoring services quickly after a breakdown. SRM supports centrally controlled and automated recovery, application mobility, plus non-disruptive site migration, failback and site re-protect. SRM also enables transparent testing for site recovery, upgrades and patches and can generate reports to verify full service recovery, validate SLAs and prove compliance. Progent offers the support of a VCDX certified VMware SRM consultant to help your organization to design, deploy, test and administer a DR system based on VMware SRM.

NetApp MetroCluster High Availability and Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery software suite that uses array-based storage clustering with continual replication to provide rapid, zero data loss disaster recovery (DR) between sites located as far as 185 miles (300km) away from one another. Progent can provide online or on-premises access to a NetApp MetroCluster expert who can help your business to design, deploy, manage, upgrade, test and repair a disaster recovery solution built around NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can assist you to choose an architecture for your MetroCluster deployment that meets your functional requirements and budget. Progent can make sure you adhere to best practices for configuring your MetroCluster solution by providing help with procedures like assigning disk pools and shelf IDs, arranging aggregate layout, provisioning volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, provisioning switches, implementing a tiebreaker mechanism, designing a TCP/IP configuration replication network, and verifying your disaster recovery system to prove adherence with information assurance standards and regulatory requirements.

High Availability Load Balancing
Progent offers high availability load balancing consulting covering network load balancing, load balanced programs, LAN/WAN backbone routing, and content dispatching technology such as Cisco Content Engine. Non-stop load balancing solutions for which Progent can provide consulting expertise include Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008 Server Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Metaframe and Presentation Server, Cisco Content Services Switch, Cisco Content Engine and LocalDirector 400 series, and F5 Networks BIG-IP. For more information, go to High Availability Load Balancing.

Non-stop Colocation
Progent's Data Center professionals can show you how to select fault-tolerant data centers that meet the particular requirements of your company. High availability co-location sites are especially appealing to small and mid-size companies due to of their low cost and simplified logistics in comparison to taking a do-it-yourself strategy. Trying to create an in-house data center that offers even a basic degree of fault tolerance is too costly for most small businesses. Progent is ready to help you get all the benefits of 24x7 colo centers by offering a complete range of engineering and support services. For details, go to High-Availability Colocation Solutions.

Non-stop Interoffice Connectivity
Progentís interoffice connectivity consultants can help organizations create fault tolerant multi-site connectivity solutions through fully redundant networks with transparent failover. Progentís Cisco-premier CCIE network engineers can design and implement high-availability Inter-office connections based on fault tolerant EIGRP network routers or zero-downtime OSPF deployment of Cisco routers. Progent can show you how redundant connections and transparent fail-over offers economical 24x7 interoffice connectivity. For more information, go to High-Availability Inter-office Connectivity.

Fault Tolerant Internet Connectivity
Progent's Cisco-certified IT consultants can help you build an economical, high availability Internet connection solution that can deliver 24x7 Internet access through a wide array of fault tolerant Internet network technologies including non-stop BGP, automatic fail-over, and multiple ISPs. Progent offers Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert engineers to show you how to apply the most advanced techniques for fault tolerant Internet connections to build a cost-effective, completely redundant Internet interface with automatic failover and other features to deliver fault tolerant Internet availability. To read more, see Non-stop Internet Connectivity Solutions.

Backup and Recovery Technology Consultants
Progent can provide economical online support from consultants with expertise in a wide range of products and services that provide solutions for protecting Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux/UNIX servers and workstations as well as notebooks and handhelds. Progent offers help for leading backup products such as Acronis Backup and Recovery, Symantec Backup Exec, BackupAssist, CrashPlan PRO, Double-Take Backup, MozyPro, Retrospect, Apple Time Machine, VMware vSphere Data Protection (VDP), and FLARs. Progent's consultants can assist you to install, upgrade, or troubleshoot backup/restore solutions for a variety of topologies such as on-premises, remote, cloud, or hybrid. For more information, go to Backup and Restore Solutions Expertise.

System Center Data Protection Manager Data Recovery Consulting Services
Progent's expert Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager support professionals can help you to develop a practical disaster recovery plan, implement a cost-effective high-availability network infrastructure, install a Microsoft SCDPM-based recovery system, thoroughly test your DPM system, educate your IT personnel or regular service providers how to manage Microsoft SCDPM, or provide complete IT outsourcing such as off-site housing of Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager machines in Progent's data center. For more information, see System Center Data Protection Manager Consulting and Support Services.

Barracuda Backup Local, Offsite and Cloud Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Barracuda Backup is an affordable, subscription-based backup and disaster recovery platform for small and mid-size businesses. A Barracuda Backup deployment can include a custom-designed physical appliance manufactured by Barracuda or a virtual appliance with similar functionality but which uses your own storage hardware. Barracuda Backup safeguards critical business data generated on-premises, at one or multiple remote sites, 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 appliance. Progent is a certified Barracuda partner and Progent's Barracuda Backup consultants can provide a wide range of consulting support services to assist your business to plan, integrate, operate and repair a BDR solution based on Barracuda Backup. For more information, visit Barracuda Backup and disaster recovery consulting.

Altaro VM Backup Solutions for Backup and Disaster Recovery
Altaro VM Backup provides small and mid-size businesses a dependable and budget-friendly platform for backing up and restoring Hyper-V and VMware-powered virtual machines. Altaro VM Backup can be deployed in on-premises, remote, distributed, and cloud architectures and also enables cost-effective cloud backup to Azure Block Blob storage. Top features include industry-leading inline deduplication to reduce backup storage requirements, Continuous Data Protection (CDP) with backup intervals as short as five minutes for reducing your Recovery Point Objective (RPO), advanced encryption, granular restore options for individual files and emails, extensive support for Windows Server Cluster Shared Volumes and vCenter for managing large-scale deployments, and support for Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to back up online VMs without downtime. Progent is an Altaro partner and can provide a broad range of services to help you to plan, deploy, 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 Solutions for Data Backup/Restore
Double-Take Software offers a family of tools intended to deliver small and midsize companies a range of cost-effective solutions for replicating and restoring vital workloads such as Exchange Server, SQL, Blackberry, and Microsoft Office SharePoint. Progentís disaster recovery planning experts have in-depth backgrounds integrating Double-Take Software products into small business IT systems to achieve an advanced state of availability and disaster recovery capability at an affordable cost. For details, see Consulting Services Double-Take Solutions for Backup.

CRISC-Premier Network Risk Control
The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) program was initiated by ISACA to verify an IT professional's skills to design, deploy, and support IS controls to mitigate risk. Progent can provide the expertise of a CRISC-certified engineer to help you to develop and execute a workplace continuity strategy based on industry best practices identified by CRISC and geared to align with your organization's risk tolerance, business goals, and budgetary guidelines. To read more, go to CRISC-Premier network risk mitigation experts.

Why Choose Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Since Progent is a Microsoft Certified Partner and provides specialized application consulting for a wide variety of business software programs, Progent can assist customers to arrive at efficient information technology solutions that maximize the business value of your IT network. As a Registered Partner for Cisco, Progent can provide the support of premier consultants and specialists with experience in designing, implementing and troubleshooting networking environments built on Cisco technology. The extent of Progent's technical experience and Progent's appreciation for the needs of small and midsize businesses make Progent a great resource for creating and maintaining an affordable, fault-tolerant information system.

How You Can Access Progent's Engineers for High Availability Network Services
In order to get in touch with Progent about technical support for high availability IT design, phone 1-800-993-9400 or go to Contact Progent.

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