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.

Other Non-stop Solutions Offered by Progent's Consultants
Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-certified consultants can assist your company to design an affordable, high-availability network that resolves major problems encompassing a wide array of networking solutions and operations such as:

Disaster Recovery Planning
Progent's disaster recovery professionals can help you design a disaster recovery strategy that will allow you to restore network operations in the event of an IT system disaster. Progent can assist you to define a comprehensive disaster recovery strategy that incorporates scheduled disaster recovery evaluations and drills. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-authorized consultants can also help you create an affordable, zero-downtime network architecture that addresses reliability issues involving a wide array of network technologies and procedures. For more information, visit Disaster Recovery Expertise.

Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services from Progent provide small and mid-sized organizations a low cost end-to-end solution for reliable backup/disaster recovery (BDR). Available at a low monthly price, ProSight Data Protection Services automates your backup activities and allows rapid recovery of critical files, applications and virtual machines that have become unavailable or corrupted as a result of component breakdowns, software glitches, natural disasters, human error, or malware attacks like ransomware. ProSight Data Protection Services can help you back up, retrieve and restore files, folders, apps, system images, plus Hyper-V and VMware images/. Critical data can be backed up on the cloud, to a local device, or mirrored to both. Progent's BDR consultants can provide advanced support to configure ProSight DPS to be compliant with government and industry regulatory standards like HIPPA, FINRA, PCI and Safe Harbor and, whenever needed, can help you to restore your critical information. Learn more about ProSight Data Protection Services Managed Cloud Backup.

Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery consultants can help you to plan and deploy a disaster recovery system based on Microsoft's latest Failover Clustering technologies including Cluster Operating System 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 low-cost hardware, VM Load Balancing for enhancing the speed and resilience of Failover Clusters while minimizing capital investment and operational expenses, and Cloud Witness for easy, affordable creation of a stretch cluster quorum witness. To read more, see Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery Support.

Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 brought world-class fault tolerance and system recovery to Microsoft's clustering solution. Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 adds to this technology and delivers important improvements that offer more scalability, better storage availability for server applications, easier administration, quicker failover, and additional flexibility for designing clusters. For more information, go to Windows Server 2012 R2 Failover Clustering Consulting and Support.

VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager is an extension to VMware vCenter that lets you define, automate and verify a consistent runbook for restoring services quickly following a breakdown. Site Recovery Manager supports centrally controlled and automated recovery, application mobility, plus non-intrusive site relocation, failback and site re-protect. SRM also enables non-disruptive testing for disaster recovery, updates and patches and can generate audit reports to verify full service recovery, validate Service Level Agreements and prove compliance. Progent can provide the support of a VCDX certified VMware Site Recovery Manager consulting expert to assist your organization to design, deploy, test and manage a disaster recovery system based on VMware SRM.

NetApp MetroCluster Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery platform that uses array-based storage clustering with synchronous replication to provide fast, zero RPO disaster recovery between sites located up to 185 miles (300km) apart. Progent can provide the skills of a certified NetApp MetroCluster expert who can help you to plan, configure, manage, upgrade, test and repair a disaster recovery system built around NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can help you to choose an architecture for your MetroCluster environment that aligns with your technical requirements and budget. Progent can ensure you follow best practices for configuring your MetroCluster environment by providing guidance with procedures such as assigning disk pools, determining aggregate and plexes layout, setting up FlexVol volumes, setting up Data ONTAP configuration replication service, installing Cisco and Brocade switches, implementing a tiebreaker, setting up a configuration replication network between your storage clusters, and testing your MetroCluster disaster recovery system to verify adherence with information assurance standards and government mandates.

Network Load Balancing
Progent offers high availability load balancing support that addresses system load balancing, load balanced applications, network backbone routing, and content dispatching technology such as F5 Networks 3DNS. Fault tolerant load balancing technologies for which Progent offers consulting services include Windows Server 2003 and 2008 Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Access Suite and Access Gateway, Cisco Content Services Switch, Cisco Content Distribution Manager and LocalDirector 400 series, and F5 Networks 3-DNS. For more information, visit Fault Tolerant Load Balancing.

Fault Tolerant Colocation
Progent's Data Center consultants can show you how to find fault-tolerant data centers that match the particular requirements of your company. Fault tolerant collocation sites are particularly appealing to small and mid-size organizations due to of their low cost and convenience compared to pursuing a do-it-yourself strategy. Trying to design an on-site data center with even a minimum degree of fault tolerance is too expensive for typical small companies. Progent can show you how to reap all the advantages of non-stop colo centers by providing a full range of consulting and maintenance services. To find out more, see High-Availability Data Centers Solutions.

Fault Tolerant Branch Office Connectivity
Progentís interoffice connection engineers can help businesses achieve zero-downtime branch office connectivity solutions through fully redundant system architectures featuring transparent failover. Progentís Cisco-premier CCIE network engineers can plan and implement high-availability Inter-office connections based on fault tolerant EIGRP routers or zero-downtime OSPF deployment of Cisco routers. Progent can demonstrate how multi-path connections and automatic fail-over can provide affordable 24x7 interoffice networking. For more information, visit Failsafe Inter-office Networking.

24x7 Internet Access
Progent's Cisco-authorized IT professionals can help you design an affordable, high availability Internet connection architecture that can deliver 24x7 Internet access via a broad array of fault tolerant Internet access technologies including high availability BGP, transparent fail-over, and redundant ISPs. Progent can provide Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert consultants to help you apply the most up-to-date techniques for fault tolerant Internet connections to build an economical, fully redundant Internet interface with automatic failover and other features to deliver non-stop Internet access. To learn more, see Non-stop Internet Access Solutions.

Backup and Restore Technology Consulting
Progent offers economical remote support from engineers skilled in a broad range of utilities and services that provide solutions for protecting Windows, Apple Mac, and Linux physical and virtual servers and desktops as well as laptops and smartphones. Progent can provide expertise for leading backup platforms including Acronis, Symantec Backup Exec, BackupAssist Software, CrashPlan PRO, Double-Take Software, Mozy, Retrospect, Time Machine, vSphere Data Protection, and Oracle Solaris FLARs. Progent can help your company to deploy, upgrade, or troubleshoot backup/restore solutions for a range of architectures including on-premises, remote, cloud-based, or hybrid. For more information, visit Backup and Recovery Solutions Consulting.

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager (SCDPM) Data Recovery Consulting Experts
Progent's certified Microsoft SCDPM support professionals can assist your company to create an effective disaster recovery strategy, design a cost-effective fault-tolerante IT infrastructure, configure a Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager-powered recovery system, thoroughly test your system, educate your IT staff or regular consultants how to maintain Microsoft SCDPM, or provide complete information technology support outsourcing including remote housing of Microsoft SCDPM servers in Progent's secure data center. For more information, see Microsoft SCDPM Consulting and Support Services.

Barracuda Backup Local, Offsite and Cloud Backup and Disaster Recovery
Barracuda Backup is a low-cost, subscription-based backup/restore platform for small and medium-size organizations. A Barracuda Backup deployment can include a custom-designed physical storage device manufactured by Barracuda or a virtual appliance with similar features but which utilizes your existing storage infrastructure. Barracuda Backup protects critical company data generated locally, at one or multiple remote sites, or in the cloud. For disaster recovery, 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 broad array of consulting support services to assist your business to plan, configure, operate and troubleshoot a BDR system based on Barracuda technology. For details, go to Barracuda Backup and disaster recovery consultants.

Altaro VM Backup Software for Backup and Disaster Recovery
Altaro VM Backup provides small organizations a reliable and budget-friendly solution for backing up and recovering Hyper-V and VMware-powered VMs. Altaro VM Backup can be used for local, remote, distributed, and cloud environments and also enables low-cost backup to Azure storage. Headline features include industry-leading Augmented Inline Deduplication to reduce backup storage requirements, Continuous Data Protection with backup intervals as little as five minutes for reducing your Recovery Point Objective (RPO), advanced encryption, item-level recovery options for individual files and emails, extensive support for Windows Cluster Shared Volumes and for VMware vCenter for handling large-scale environments, and support for Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to back up online VMs with zero downtime. Progent is a certified Altaro partner and can provide a broad array of consulting services to assist you to plan, install, manage and troubleshoot a backup/restore system powered by Altaro VM Backup software. For details, go to Altaro VM Backup Certified Consultants.

Consulting Services Double-Take Solutions for Backup and Recovery
Double-Take Software offers a family of tools designed to provide small and midsize businesses a range of affordable alternatives for backing up and recovering vital applications including Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft SQL, RIM Blackberry, and SharePoint. Progentís disaster recovery planning experts have extensive experience integrating Double-Take technology into small company information systems to achieve a high level of availability and business continuity capability at an affordable price. To find out more, see Consulting for Double-Take Software for Data Backup.

CRISC-Premier IT Risk Management
The Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) program was initiated by ISACA to verify an IT professional's ability to design, implement, and support information system control mechanisms to reduce risk. Progent can provide the expertise of a CRISC-certified consultant to assist your company to create and execute a business continuity strategy based on industry best practices promoted by CRISC and geared to align with your organization's risk appetite, business objectives, and budgetary guidelines. For more information, see CRISC-Premier IT risk management experts.

Why Choose Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Because Progent is a Microsoft Partner and offers professional application expertise for a broad variety of business applications, Progent is able to assist customers to arrive at efficient IT solutions that substantially enhance 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, configuring and managing networking solutions built on Cisco products. The breadth of Progent's IT experience and Progent's familiarity with the requirements of small businesses make Progent the perfect resource for creating and running a cost-effective, high-availability information system.

How to Get in Touch with Progent's Engineers for Non-stop System Support
In order to contact Progent about technical support for fault tolerant computing, phone 1-800-993-9400 or go to Contact Progent.

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