Everything you ever wanted to know about the Microsoft Private Cloud

I’d like to thank Hakan Yuksel for pointing out this great video series produced by Microsoft. Hakan has a blog that focuses on HA, BC, DR and Cloud, you should check it out at http://yukselis.wordpress.com

Day 1

· Introduction to the Microsoft Private Cloud with System Center 2012

· Configure & Deploy Infrastructure Components

· Configure & Deploy the Private Cloud Infrastructure

· Configure & Deploy Service Delivery & Automation

· Configure & Deploy Application Management

· Day 2

· Monitor & Operate Infrastructure Components

· Monitor & Operate the Private Cloud Infrastructure

· Monitor & Operate Service Delivery & Automation

· Monitor & Operate Application Management

Everything you ever wanted to know about the Microsoft Private Cloud

SQL Server 2012 “Standard Edition” Availability Options

Microsoft has announced that some of the most widely anticipated availability options being introduced with SQL Server 2012, including AlwaysOn Availability Groups, will only be available with the Enterprise Edition of SQL. The cost of SQL Server Enterprise is $27,496 for any server that has up to 4 physical processors vs. $7,172 for Standard Edition. If you plan on taking advantage of the “Read-Only” replica, you can double the cost of the solution ($54,992) since you have to license both the source and the target server. When you start talking about that kind of money, you begin to wonder if there is an alternative to AlwaysOn Availability Groups.

The good news is that Microsoft still allows you to build 2-node clusters using SQL Server Standard Edition, and since this is generally deployed in an active-passive configuration you do not have to license the standby server. So for $7,172 you can build a pretty robust 2-node SQL cluster, assuming you have an enterprise class SAN that you can use to store your cluster data.

What’s that you say, you don’t have a SAN? Or you’d rather build a solution that eliminates the SAN as a single point of failure and instead allows you to use data replication to keep the data in sync between cluster nodes the way that AlwaysOn Availability Groups allows you to? Or perhaps you want to use take advantage of the speed offered by local attached SSD drives such as those offered by Fusion-IO, but yet don’t want to give up on availability?

You’ll be glad to know that for the cost of a single copy of SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition and the very affordable addition of SteelEye DataKeeper Cluster Edition, you’ll be able to deploy 2-node SQL Server 2012 Standard Edition clusters with data replication for about half the cost of a 2-node SQL Server Enterprise Edition AlwaysOn Availability Group and about ¼ of the price of a AlwaysOn Availability Group with read-only targets.

Not only will you be able to save money, but if you answer yes to any of the following questions, AlwaysOn Availability Groups probably wasn’t the best solution for you to begin with and you would be better served by Windows Server Failover Clustering and DataKeeper Cluster Edition.

  • Am I concerned about the cost of SQL Server Enterprise Edition?
  • Do I use replication or log shipping?
  • Do I need to support Lync Server or other applications that use distributed transactions?
  • Do I need to ensure that SQL Agent jobs such as database backups, optimizations, DTS and others continue to run regardless of the node in service?
  • Do I need to ensure that SQL login accounts are kept in sync between cluster nodes?
  • Do I want to minimize my administrative burden?

The following chart summarizes your SQL Server 2012 availability options, including the 3rd option which is to build a traditional SQL cluster using Windows Server Failover Clustering with DataKeeper Cluster Edition.

As you can see, Failover Clustering with DataKeeper Cluster Edition is not only going to save you money, it also is going to help you overcome some of the inherent limitations of AlwaysOn Availability Groups.

About the only thing you can’t do with the DataKeeper solution is to have read-only targets. As I mentioned earlier, read-only targets requires a second SQL license, so to have that feature will cost you minimally $54,938. If you really must have read-only targets you’ll be glad to know that you can mix AlwaysOn Failover Clusters with DataKeeper and AlwaysOn Availability Groups if you like. Basically you would wind up with a 2-node SQL failover cluster with DataKeeper and a single standalone SQL Server acting as a read-only target for an AlwaysOn Availability Group. In that case, you would still need two copies of SQL Server Enterprise Edition, one for the cluster and one for the read-only target.

I demonstrated this solution at Tech-Ed 2011 in Atlanta last year and got a lot of really positive feedback. This particular demonstration shows a 2-node multisite cluster, but the same concept can be applied to single site clusters.


If you have any questions about this article please leave me a comment, I’d be glad to discuss it with you further.

SQL Server 2012 “Standard Edition” Availability Options

Windows Server 8 Failover Clustering – New Features and Relevant Blog Articles

Elden Christensen recently blogged about some of the new features of Windows Server Failover Clustering in Windows Server 8. You can read the entire post here: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/clustering/archive/2012/03/19/10285168.aspx

All of these features are welcome additions, but my personal favorite is the “Dynamic Clusters” or what I think is probably better described as “Dynamic Quorum”. It basically allows the quorum to reconfigure itself dynamically so that if configured properly you could actually withstand the failure of all but one remain node (last man standing) and still have a functional cluster. Previously this was only possible if you used the “Disk Only” quorum model which is not recommended as the disk quorum represented a single point of failure.

With the new dynamic quorum model as nodes are removed from the cluster the remaining nodes reconfigure themselves in the most resilient manner. For example, previously if you had a 5 node cluster using the “Node Majority” quorum model if you happen to lose three nodes the remaining two nodes would shut down as they no longer had a majority vote (2 out of 5 is not a majority). With the new model, as nodes leave the cluster the quorum reconfigures itself so that the remaining two nodes would remain online.

The description above is really an over simplification of what actually happens under the covers and I plan to write more about it in the future, but it is definitely a welcome feature that you should check out!

There are a few other blog articles relevant to clustering in Windows Server 8 that you will definitely want to check out as well….

How to Enable Failover Clustering and Network Load Balancing PowerShell Help on Windows Server “8”:

How to Enable CSV Cache:

How to Create a Cluster in a Restrictive Active Directory Environment: http://blogs.msdn.com/b/clustering/archive/2012/03/30/10289577.aspx

Windows Server 8 Failover Clustering – New Features and Relevant Blog Articles