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 Non-stop Technologies Supported by Progent
Progent's certified consultants can assist you to build a sensible, zero-downtime system that resolves major challenges covering a broad array of networking solutions and processes including:

Disaster Recovery Planning
Progent's disaster recovery engineers can help you design a business continuity strategy in order to resume network operations in case of an IT system catastrophe. Progent can assist you to create a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that incorporates scheduled disaster recovery evaluations and testing. Progent's Microsoft and Cisco-authorized professionals can also show you how to create an affordable, fault-tolerant network solution that addresses reliability issues involving a broad range of infrastructure technologies and procedures. To learn more, go to Workplace Recovery Expertise.

Managed Cloud Backup: ProSight Data Protection Services
ProSight Data Protection Services provide small and medium-sized businesses a low cost and fully managed solution for reliable backup/disaster recovery. For a fixed monthly price, ProSight DPS automates and monitors your backup processes and allows fast recovery of critical files, applications and VMs that have become unavailable or corrupted due to hardware breakdowns, software bugs, disasters, human mistakes, or malicious attacks such as ransomware. ProSight Data Protection Services can help you protect, recover and restore files, folders, applications, system images, plus Hyper-V and VMware virtual machine images. Critical data can be protected on the cloud, to a local storage device, or mirrored to both. Progent's backup and recovery consultants can deliver advanced expertise to set up ProSight DPS to be compliant with regulatory requirements such as HIPPA, FINRA, PCI and Safe Harbor and, when necessary, can assist you to restore your business-critical data. Find out more about ProSight Data Protection Services Managed Backup.

Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery
Progent's Windows Server 2016 disaster recovery consultants can help you to design a disaster recovery solution based on Microsoft's latest Failover Clustering tools including Cluster OS 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 performance and fault-tolerance of Failover Clusters while minimizing capital investment and operational expenses, and Cloud Witness for fast, economical deployment of a failover cluster quorum arbitration point. For more information, visit Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Disaster Recovery Consulting.

Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Failover Clusters
Windows Server 2008 R2 introduced world-class fault tolerance and recoverability to Microsoft's clustering solution. Windows Server 2012 R2 builds on this technology and delivers significant improvements that offer more scalability, better disk storage availability for server applications, easier management, faster automatic failover, and additional options for designing failover clusters. To find out more, visit Windows Server 2012 Clustering Migration and Support.

VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) Disaster Recovery Solutions
VMware's Site Recovery Manager is an extension to VMware vCenter that allows you to define, automate and test a repeatable process for restoring services rapidly following an outage. SRM supports centrally managed and automated disaster recovery, application mobility, and non-disruptive site relocation, failback and re-protect. SRM also allows non-intrusive testing for disaster recovery, updates and fixes and can produce reports to confirm full service restoration, validate SLAs and demonstrate disaster recovery compliance. Progent offers the support of a VCDX certified VMware SRM consulting expert to assist your organization to design, deploy, test and maintain a disaster recovery system based on VMware Site Recovery Manager.

NetApp MetroCluster High Availability and Disaster Recovery Software
NetApp MetroCluster is a disaster recovery platform that uses failover storage clustering along with synchronous replication to deliver fast, zero RPO disaster recovery between sites located as far as 185 miles apart from each other. Progent can provide access to a NetApp MetroCluster consultant who can help you to design, configure, manage, update, test and repair a disaster recovery system based on NetApp MetroCluster. Progent can help you to choose a topology for your MetroCluster deployment that aligns with your functional requirements and IT budget. Progent can ensure you follow leading practices for configuring your MetroCluster solution by providing guidance with procedures like assigning disk pools, arranging plexes layout, setting up NetApp FlexVol volumes, setting up NetApp Snapshot, installing Cisco and Brocade switches, implementing a tiebreaker mechanism, setting up a TCP/IP configuration replication network between your peered clusters, and testing your MetroCluster DR system to prove adherence with industry standards and regulatory mandates.

Network Load Balancing
Progent offers high availability load balancing support covering system load balancing, load balanced applications, LAN/WAN backbone routing, and content dispatching products including Cisco Content Engine. High availability load balancing solutions for which Progent offers consulting services include Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and 2008 Network Load Balancing Manager, Citrix Access Suite and Access Gateway, Cisco Content Services Switch, Cisco Distributed Director and ACNS, and F5 Networks BIG-IP. To read more, go to Fault Tolerant Load Balancing.

Fault Tolerant Colocation
Progent's Data Center consultants can help you select zero-downtime data centers that match the particular requirements of your business. High availability off-site data centers are particularly appealing to small and mid-size companies due to of their low cost and convenience compared to taking a do-it-yourself approach. Attempting to create an on-site data center with even a basic degree of fault tolerance is financially prohibitive for the majority of small companies. Progent is ready to help you get all the benefits of 24x7 colo centers by offering a full range of consulting and maintenance services. For more information, go to High-Availability Internet Data Centers Expertise.

Failsafe Interoffice Connectivity
Progentís multi-site network infrastructure professionals can help companies create fault tolerant multi-site connections by means of redundant system architectures with transparent failover. Progentís Cisco-certified CCIE network engineers can plan and implement ultra-reliable Inter-office networks supported by fault tolerant EIGRP routers or non-stop OSPF deployment of Cisco routers. Progent can demonstrate how redundant connections and transparent fail-over can provide affordable 24x7 interoffice connectivity. To read more, go to Non-stop Inter-office Networking.

24x7 Internet Connectivity
Progent's Cisco-authorized network experts can show you how to design an affordable, high availability Internet configuration solution that can deliver 24x7 Internet connectivity via a wide array of fault tolerant Internet access solutions including fault tolerant BGP, transparent fail-over, and multiple ISPs. Progent offers Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert engineers to show you how to utilize the most up-to-date technology for 24x7 Internet connectivity to create an economical, fully redundant Internet network with automatic failover and other capabilities to deliver fault tolerant Internet access. For more information, go to Non-stop Internet Access Architecture.

Backup and Recovery Solutions Consulting
Progent offers affordable remote access to engineers with expertise in a broad array of products and services that deliver solutions for protecting Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Linux servers and desktops as well as notebooks and smartphones. Progent offers help for all major data protection platforms such as Acronis, Backup Exec, BackupAssist, CrashPlan, Double-Take Software, Mozy, Retrospect for Macintosh, Time Machine, VMware vSphere Data Protection (VDP), and FLARs. Progent's consultants can help you to implement, upgrade, or maintain backup systems for a range of environments such as on-premises, remote, cloud-based, or a mix. For more information, visit Backup and Recovery Solutions Consulting.

Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager Backup and Recovery Consulting and Support Services
Progent's expert Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager engineers can assist you to create a practical business continuity strategy, implement a cost-effective high-availability network infrastructure, configure a Microsoft System Center Data Protection Manager-powered recovery system, comprehensively test your system, educate your administrative personnel or regular consultants how to maintain SCDPM, or provide complete information technology outsourcing such as remote hosting of Microsoft SCDPM machines in Progent's world-class data center. To learn more, see System Center Data Protection Manager Expertise.

Barracuda Backup Multi-site and Cloud Data Backup and Disaster Recovery
Barracuda Backup is a low-cost, subscription-based backup/restore service for small and mid-size organizations. A Barracuda Backup deployment can include a custom-designed physical appliance built by Barracuda or a virtual appliance with comparable features but which uses your existing storage infrastructure. Barracuda Backup protects vital business data produced locally, 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 Backup appliance. Progent is a Barracuda partner and Progent's Barracuda Backup consultants offer a wide range of consulting services to assist your business to plan, configure, operate and troubleshoot a backup and disaster recovery system built on Barracuda Backup. For more information, visit Barracuda Backup and disaster recovery consulting and management.

Altaro VM Backup Solutions for Backup and Disaster Recovery
Altaro VM Backup provides small and mid-size businesses a reliable and budget-friendly platform for backing up and recovering Hyper-V and VMware-based VMs. Altaro VM Backup can be deployed in on-premises, offsite, distributed, and cloud-hosted environments and also supports low-cost cloud backup to Azure Block Blob storage. Headline capabilities include state-of-the-art inline deduplication to reduce backup storage requirements, Continuous Data Protection with backup spacing as short as five minutes for reducing your Recovery Point Objective, advanced encryption, item-level recovery options for specific files and emails, support for Windows Cluster Shared Volumes and for vCenter for handling larger environments, and the ability to leverage Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) to back up online VMs with zero downtime. Progent is an Altaro partner and offers a broad range of consulting services to assist you to plan, install, optimize and troubleshoot a backup and disaster recovery system based on Altaro VM Backup. For details, go to Altaro VM Backup Consulting Services.

Consulting for Double-Take Software for Data Backup/Restore
Double-Take Software offers a family of tools intended to deliver small and midsize companies a range of affordable solutions for replicating and restoring business-critical applications such as Exchange Server, SQL Server, Blackberry, and SharePoint. Progentís disaster recovery planning consultants have in-depth backgrounds integrating Double-Take technology into small company IT systems to achieve a high state of availability and disaster recovery readiness at a budget-friendly cost. For more information, visit Consulting Services Double-Take Software for Backup.

CRISC-Certified IT Risk Management
The CRISC program was initiated by ISACA in 2010 to validate an IT professional's ability to design, deploy, and support IS controls to mitigate network risk. Progent can provide the expertise of a CRISC-certified consultant to help your company to develop and carry out a business continuity or disaster recovery strategy that follows industry best practices identified by CRISC and crafted to match your organization's risk tolerance, business goals, and IT budget. To read more, go to CRISC-Certified IT risk control specialists.

Why Choose Progent for Disaster Recovery/Business Continuity Planning?
Since Progent is a Microsoft Certified Partner and offers high-level application expertise for a broad range of business software programs, Progent is able to help customers to find comprehensive information technology solutions that maximize the business value of your information system. As a Registered Partner for Cisco, Progent offers the support of certified engineers and specialists with expertise in architecting, installing and troubleshooting infrastructure solutions built on Cisco products. The extent of Progent's technical know-how and Progent's sensitivity to the needs of small businesses make Progent a great partner for building and running an affordable, fault-tolerant network.

How You Can Get Help from Progent's Consultants for Fault Tolerant Computing Services
If you wish to ask Progent about consulting support for fault tolerant architecture, call 1-800-993-9400 or see Contact Progent.

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