The main features of 2016 Failover Cluster
Posted by Vitalii Feshchenko on February 1, 2018
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storage-qos

In our support work very often we face different environments. They can range from three VMs to a hundred of those, with the number of nodes from two to ten.

Today, I will tell you about the main features of Failover Cluster 2016, which are applicable to any environment.

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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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Deploying SQL Server 2016 Basic Availability Groups Without Active Directory. Part 2: Configuring SQL Server
Posted by Edwin M Sarmiento on November 23, 2017
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In the previous blog post, I’ve walked you thru the process of creating the Windows Server 2016 Failover Cluster  (WSFC) that is not joined to an Active Directory Domain. It is very important that you get the underlying WSFC properly configured and stabilized before you even attempt to create the SQL Server 2016 Always On Basic Availability Group. The availability and reliability of your SQL Server 2016 Always On Basic Availability Group depends so much on the WSFC.

If you have previously configured Always On Availability Groups, you will notice that most of the steps provided are similar to configuring it with Active Directory. But because there is no centralized directory service for managing accounts, you will need to rely on certificates for authenticating communication between replicas. You need to use T-SQL to accomplish those tasks.

Microsoft SQL Server logo

 

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Deploying SQL Server 2016 Basic Availability Groups Without Active Directory. Part 1: Building the Platform
Posted by Edwin M Sarmiento on October 31, 2017
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Introduction

When Availability Groups were introduced in SQL Server 2012, they were only available in Enterprise Edition. This made it challenging to move from Database Mirroring to Availability Groups, especially if you’re running Standard Edition.  To upgrade and migrate from Database Mirroring in Standard Edition, you either choose to upgrade to a more expensive Enterprise Edition license and implement Availability Groups or stick with Database Mirroring and hope that everything works despite being deprecated.

SQL Server 2016 introduced Basic Availability Groups in Standard Edition, allowing customers to run some form of limited Availability Groups. Customers now have a viable replacement for Database Mirroring in Standard Edition. However, unlike Database Mirroring, Availability Groups require a Windows Server Failover Cluster (WSFC). SQL Server database administrators now need to be highly skilled in designing, implementing and managing a WSFC outside of SQL Server. Because the availability of the SQL Server databases relies heavily on the WSFC.

SQL Server 2016 logo

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Free SMB3 Failover File Server on Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2016
Posted by Ivan Ischenko on August 3, 2017
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In the previous article, we have created a free SMB3 file server. I decided to proceed with the testing of Microsoft Server Hyper-V 2016 free version possibilities. In this post, I will try to create Highly Available devices with StarWind Virtual SAN and then create a Microsoft Failover Cluster to make a Highly Available File Server.

We are using 2 servers with Microsoft Hyper-V 2016 added into a domain (Hyper-V-1; Hyper-V-2). Client node with Windows Server 2016 (2016-client-test).

Microsoft Hyper-V 2016 servers added into a domain

 

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Windows Server 2016 Core configuration. Part 1: step-by-step installation
Posted by Alex Khorolets on July 14, 2017
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This series of articles will guide you through the basic deployment of Microsoft Windows Server 2016 Core version, covering all the steps from an initial installation to the deployment of Hyper-V role and Failover Cluster configuration.

The first and the main thing you need to double-check before installing the Windows Server 2016 Core is whether your hardware meets the system requirements of WS 2016. This also is very important in the process of planning your environment, in order to be sure that you have enough amount of compute resources for running your production workload.

Windows Server installation

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Design a ROBO infrastructure (Part 2): Design areas and technologies
Posted by Andrea Mauro on February 24, 2017
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In the previous post, we have explained and described business requirements and constraints in order to support design and implementation decisions suited for mission-critical applications, considering also how risk can affect design decisions.

Now we will match the following technology aspects to satisfy design requirements:

  • Availability
  • Manageability
  • Performance and scaling
  • Recoverability
  • Security
  • Risk and budget management

ROBO Design areas and technologies

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How to Configure Storage Replication using Windows Server 2016? – Part 2
Posted by Charbel Nemnom on February 3, 2016
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Warning: This article is written with information related to Windows Server 2016 Technical Preview 4.

In part one of this multi part blog on How to Configure Storage Replication in Windows Server 2016, we covered an introduction into Storage Replica which is a new feature introduced in Windows Server 2016, and we covered step by step the implementation of Windows Volume Replication (Server-to-server). In this follow up post, we are going to cover the implementation of volume replication with stretch cluster. This type of cluster features uses Asymmetric storage, two sites, two sets of shared storage and uses volume replication to ensure that data is available to all nodes in the cluster.

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