Cluster Rolling Upgrade from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016
Posted by Boris Yurchenko on January 11, 2018
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During its lifetime, any system reaches a point when it needs to be upgraded, either in terms of hardware or software. Today, I will talk about such changes, in particular, about upgrading Windows Failover Cluster nodes from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016 with no production interruption. Thanks to Microsoft, we do have a Cluster Rolling Upgrade procedure at our fingertips, and I am going to get through it and confirm it works for virtualized disks as cluster shared volumes in Windows Failover Cluster. This procedure assumes rebuilding nodes with clean OS deployment one by one, while the production keeps running from the other cluster node.

To begin with, I have a 2-node Windows Failover Cluster with Windows Server 2012 R2 installed on the nodes. The cluster has got 2 CSVs along with the Quorum. The whole system is configured in a hyperconverged scenario.

Joining a node to a Windows Failover Cluster

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Improve your Cluster Shared Volume security with Microsoft BitLocker
Posted by Ivan Ischenko on January 4, 2018
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Introduction

Nowadays, every company is doing its best to protect its data, which is pretty much its most valuable asset. As you know, data is vulnerable to unauthorized access and that’s when Microsoft BitLocker saves the day. BitLocker is the encryption technology from Microsoft, which makes possible to encrypt the Logical Volume on the transparent blade-based level (not physical disk). In this article, we will see how to encrypt Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) using Microsoft BitLocker to protect your data against unauthorized access.

Starting from Windows Server 2012, Microsoft has added the BitLocker support for Cluster Shared Volumes to create an additional layer of protection for sensitive, highly available data. It allows adding an extra barrier to security by allowing only certain user accounts access to unlock the BitLocker volume. BitLocker uses the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) encryption algorithm with either 128-bit or 256-bit keys. As to authentication options…well, there are few to choose from. You can authenticate by specifying a PIN or by storing a key on a flash drive, which you would then need to insert in order to boot the system.

Bitlocker Drive Encryption status

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High-performing and highly available Scale-Out File Server with SMB3
Posted by Ivan Talaichuk on December 6, 2017
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There’s, probably, no IT administrator who hasn’t heard of SMB3 (Server Message Block). is an application-layer network protocol, developed by Microsoft mostly to provide shared access to the files, and allowing communication between nodes. SMB has been designed as a tool for the creation of a DOS-based network file system, but Microsoft took the initiative and renamed SMB into CIFS later on (Common Internet File System) and continued further developing it. The second version – SMB 2.0, has been introduced in Windows Vista with a wide range of new features, thus it became clear that Microsoft was working hard to improve this protocol.

Now, to SMB3. It’s an improved version of the previous Server Message Block protocol that Microsoft introduced as one of the key features in Windows Server 2012 operating system. SMB3 comes with a significant number of new capabilities like SMB Transparent Failover, SMB Encryption, VSS for SMB file shares, SMB Direct (SMB over RDMA) and SMB Multichannel. SMB Multichannel allows file servers to use multiple network connections simultaneously, therefore increasing performance and adding one more level of Fault Tolerance within the networking layer.

Failover Cluster Manager with SOFS roles

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Take a look at Storage QoS Policies in Windows Server 2016
Posted by Didier Van Hoye on November 21, 2017
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Introduction

In Windows Server 2016 Microsoft introduced storage Quality of Service (QoS) policies.  Previously in Windows Server 2012 R2, we could set minimum and maximum IOPS individually virtual hard disk but this was limited even if you could automate it with PowerShell. The maximum was enforced but the minimum not. That only logged a warning if it could be delivered and it took automation that went beyond what was practical for many administrators when it needed to be done at scale. While it was helpful and I used it in certain scenarios it needed to mature to deliver real value and offer storage QoS in environments where cost-effective, highly available storage was used that often doesn’t include native QoS capabilities for use with Hyper-V.

status of the flow via PoweShell

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Storage HA on the Cheap: Fixing Synology DiskStation flaky Performance with StarWind Free. Part 3 (Failover Duration)
Posted by Vladislav Karaiev on February 17, 2017
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We are continuing our set of articles dedicated to Synology’s DS916+ mid-range NAS units. Remember we don’t dispute the fact that Synology is capable of delivering a great set of NAS features. Instead of this, we are conducting a number of tests on a pair of DS916+ units to define if they can be utilized as a general-use primary production storage. In Part 1 we have tested the performance of DS916+ in different configurations and determined how to significantly increase the performance of a “dual” DS916+ setup by replacing the native Synology DSM HA Cluster with StarWind Virtual SAN Free.

Synology DS916 and StarWind

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Deploy VM Fleet to benchmark your storage system
Posted by Romain Serre on October 25, 2016
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VM Fleet is a collection of scripts that enables to deploy virtual machines which perform I/O to stress the underlying storage system. To achieve I/O, the VMs leverages DiskSpd which is a Microsoft tool.

When you implement an infrastructure based on Hyper-V, you usually want to get the maximum IOPS and MB/s that your storage can deliver. This tool helps you to get this information by stressing your storage. In this topic, we will see how to deploy a VM Fleet to benchmark the storage system.

windows server administrator

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How to Protect your Data on Nano Server using Storage Replica?
Posted by Charbel Nemnom on October 10, 2016
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sim card

Introduction

With the release of Windows Server 2016, there’s a lot of new features that have been added to increase availability and security. One hot feature that will add a lot of benefits for small, medium and enterprise business environments is Storage Replica (SR). Be sure that’s going to help you in your Disaster Recovery Plan and protect your data against catastrophic losses.

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Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V Backup Rises to the challenges
Posted by Didier Van Hoye on September 19, 2016
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Introduction

In Windows Sever 2016 Microsoft improved Hyper-V backup to address many of the concerns mentioned in our previous Hyper-V backup challenges Windows Server 2016 needs to address:

  • They avoid the need for agents by making the API’s remotely accessible. It’s all WMI calls directly to Hyper-V.
  • They implemented their own CBT mechanism for Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V to reduce the amount of data that needs to be copied during every backup. This can be leveraged by any backup vendor and takes away the responsibility of creating CBT from the backup vendors. This makes it easier for them to support Hyper-V releases faster. This also avoids the need for inserting drivers into the IO path of the Hyper-V hosts. Sure the testing & certification still has to happen as all vendors now can be impacted by a bug MSFT introduced.
  • They are no longer dependent on the host VSS infrastructure. This eliminates storage overhead as wells as the storage fabric IO overhead associated with performance issues when needing to use host level VSS snapshots on the entire LUN/CSV for even a single VM.
  • This helps avoid the need for hardware VSS providers delivered by storage vendors and delivers better results with storage solution that don’t offer hardware providers.
  • Storage vendors and backup vendors can still integrate this with their snapshots for speedy and easy backup and restores. But as the backup work at the VM level is separated from an (optional) host VSS snapshot the performance hit is less and the total duration significantly reduced.
  • It’s efficient in regard to the number of data that needs to be copied to the backup target and stored there. This reduces capacity needed and for some vendors the almost hard dependency on deduplication to make it even feasible in regards to cost.
  • These capabilities are available to anyone (backup vendors, storage vendors, home grown PowerShell scripts …) who wishes to leverage them and doesn’t prevent them from implementing synthetic full backups, merge backups as they age etc. It’s capable enough to allow great backup solutions to be built on top of it.

Let’s dive in together and take a closer look.

Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V backup
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Don’t Fear but Respect Redirected IO with Shared VHDX
Posted by Didier Van Hoye on August 25, 2016
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Introduction

When we got Shared VHDX in Windows Server 2012 R2 we were quite pleased as it opened up the road to guest clustering (Failover clustering in virtual machines) without needing to break through the virtualization layer with iSCSI or virtual Fibre Channel (vFC).

First of all, you need to be aware of the limits of using a shared VHDX in Windows Server 2012 R2.

  1. You cannot perform storage live migration
  2. You cannot resize the VHDX online
  3. You cannot do host based backups (i.e. you need to do in guest backups)
  4. No support for checkpoints
  5. No support for Hyper-V Replica

If you cannot live with these, that’s a good indicator this is not for you. But if you can, you should also take care of the potential redirected IO impact that can and will occur. This doesn’t mean it won’t work for you, but you need to know about it, design and build for it and test it realistically for your real life workloads.

active guest cluster node is running on the Hyper-V host

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