Step-by-Step: How to Trigger an Email Alert when a Specific Windows Service Starts or Stops on Windows Server 2016

Introduction

In my last post. Step-by-Step: How to Trigger an Email Alert from a Windows Event that Includes the Event Details using Windows Server 2016, I showed you how to send an email alert based upon specific Windows EventIDs being logged in a Windows Event Log. While that works great for most events it is not ideal if you want to be notified when a specific Windows Service starts or stops.

When a Windows Service starts or stops an EventID 7036 from the Source “Service Control Manager” is logged in the Windows System Log. Now we could simply set up a trigger to send an email whenever that EventID is logged as I described in my previous post, however you might not want to receive an email when EVERY Windows Service starts or stops.

To get a little more specific we will have to edit the XML data associated with the Windows Event Filter when we set up the trigger to look a little deeper at the Event Properties and filter on the EventData that is only shown when you view the XML View on the Details tab of a Windows Event.

This work was verified on Windows Server 2016, but I suspect it should work on Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2019 as well. If you get it working on any other platforms please comment and let us know if you had to change anything.

Step 1 – Write a Powershell Script

The first thing that you need to do is write a Powershell script that when run can send an email. While researching this I discovered many ways to accomplish this task, so what I’m about to show you is just one way, but feel free to experiment and use what is right for your environment.

In my lab I do not run my own SMTP server, so I had to write a script that could leverage my Gmail account. You will see in my Powershell script the password to the email account that authenticates to the SMTP server is in plain text. If you are concerned that someone may have access to your script and discover your password then you will want to encrypt your credentials. Gmail requires and SSL connection so your password should be safe on the wire, just like any other email client.

Here is an example of a Powershell script that when used in conjunction with Task Scheduler which will send an email alert automatically when any specified Event is logged in the Windows Event Log. In my environment I saved this script to C:\Alerts\ServiceAlert.ps1

$filter="*[System[EventID=7036] and EventData[Data='SIOS DataKeeper']]"
$A = Get-WinEvent -LogName System -MaxEvents 1 -FilterXPath $filter
$Message = $A.Message
$EventID = $A.Id
$MachineName = $A.MachineName
$Source = $A.ProviderName


$EmailFrom = "sios@medfordband.com"
$EmailTo = "sios@medfordband.com"
$Subject ="Alert From $MachineName"
$Body = "EventID: $EventID`nSource: $Source`nMachineName: $MachineName `n$Message"
$SMTPServer = "smtp.gmail.com"
$SMTPClient = New-Object Net.Mail.SmtpClient($SmtpServer, 587)
$SMTPClient.EnableSsl = $true
$SMTPClient.Credentials = New-Object System.Net.NetworkCredential("sios@medfordband.com", "MySMTPP@55w0rd");
$SMTPClient.Send($EmailFrom, $EmailTo, $Subject, $Body)

An example of an email generated from that Powershell script looks like this.

Service Alert Email

You probably noticed that this Powershell script uses the Get-WinEvent cmdlet to grab the most recent Event Log entry based upon the LogName, EventID and EventData specified. It then parses that event and assigns the EventID, Source, MachineName and Message to variables that will be used to compose the email. You will see that the LogName, EventID and EventData specified is the same as what you will specify when you set up the Scheduled Task in Step 2.

While EventID, LogName are probably familiar to you, EventData may not be as familiar. To see the EventData associated with a particular Event you will need to open the Event in Event Viewer, look at the Details tab and then select XML view. From the XML view you can see all the data included with an event. Near the bottom of the XML you will see an array of data called <EventData>. Within there you will find additional Event Data stored as parameters. As show below, in the “param1” we will find the name of the Service being that either stopped or started.

Event Data

Step 2 – Set Up a Scheduled Task

In Task Scheduler Create a Task as show in the following screen shots.

  1. Create Task
    Create TaskMake sure the task is set to Run whether the user is logged on or not.
    Service - General
  2.  On the Triggers tab choose New to create a Trigger that will begin the task “On an Event”. In my example I will be creating an event that triggers any time DataKeeper (extmirr) logs an important event to the System log.
    Create Task 3
    Create a custom event and New Event Filter as shown below…

    Create Task - Trigger

    For my trigger you can start my setting up a trigger that monitors 7036 as I describe in my previous article. However, the Filter GUI interface does not allow us to specify the Service Name stored in Param1 of EventData as I described earlier. In order to monitor for just the specific service we are interested in we will need to edit the XML directly as shown below.

    Service - XML
    If you rather just skip straight to the chase feel free to copy my XML below and replace ‘SIOS DataKeeper’ with the event data stored in param1 of the Event you want to monitor.

    <QueryList>
    <Query Id="0" Path="System">
    <Select Path="System">*[System[(Level=4 or Level=0) and (EventID=7036)]] and *[EventData[Data[1]='SIOS DataKeeper']]</Select>
    </Query>
    </QueryList>
  3. Once the Event Trigger is configured, you will need to configure the Action that occurs when the event is run. In our case we are going to run the Powershell script that we created in Step 1.
    Actions - 2

    Service - Task

  4. The default Condition parameters should be sufficient.
    Conditions - 1
  5. And finally, on the Settings tab make sure you allow the task to be run on demand and to “Queue a new instance” if a task is already running.

    2018-10-28_00-17-27

Step 3 (if necessary) – Fix the Microsoft-Windows-DistributedCOM Event ID: 10016 Error

In theory, if you did everything correctly you should now start receiving emails any time one of the events you are monitoring gets logged in the event log.  However, I ran into a weird permission issue on one of my servers that I had to address before everything worked. I’m not sure if you will run into this issue, but just in case here is the fix.

In my case when I manually triggered the event, or if I ran the Powershell script directly, everything worked as expected and I received an email. However, if one of the EventIDs being monitored was logged into the event log it would not result in an email being sent. The only clue I had was the Event ID: 10016 that was logged in my Systems event log each time I expected the Task Trigger to detect a logged event.

Log Name: System
Source: Microsoft-Windows-DistributedCOM
Date: 10/27/2018 5:59:47 PM
Event ID: 10016
Task Category: None
Level: Error
Keywords: Classic
User: DATAKEEPER\dave
Computer: sql1.datakeeper.local
Description:
The application-specific permission settings do not grant Local Activation permission for the COM Server application with CLSID 
{D63B10C5-BB46-4990-A94F-E40B9D520160}
and APPID 
{9CA88EE3-ACB7-47C8-AFC4-AB702511C276}
to the user DATAKEEPER\dave SID (S-1-5-21-25339xxxxx-208xxx580-6xxx06984-500) from address LocalHost (Using LRPC) running in the application container Unavailable SID (Unavailable). This security permission can be modified using the Component Services administrative tool.

Many of the Google search results for that error indicate that the error is benign and include instructions on how to suppress the error instead of fixing it. However, I was pretty sure this error was the cause of my current failure to be able to send an email alert from a Scheduled Event that was triggered from a monitored Event Log entry, so I needed to fix it.

After much searching, I stumbled upon this newsgroup discussion.  The response from Marc Whittlesey pointed me in the right direction. This is what he wrote…

There are 2 registry keys you have to set permissions before you go to the DCOM Configuration in Component services: CLSID key and APPID key.

I suggest you to follow some steps to fix issue:

1. Press Windows + R keys and type regedit and press Enter.
2. Go to HKEY_Classes_Root\CLSID\*CLSID*.
3. Right click on it then select permission.
4. Click Advance and change the owner to administrator. Also click the box that will appear below the owner line.
5. Apply full control.
6. Close the tab then go to HKEY_LocalMachine\Software\Classes\AppID\*APPID*.
7. Right click on it then select permission.
8. Click Advance and change the owner to administrators.
9. Click the box that will appear below the owner line.
10. Click Apply and grant full control to Administrators.
11. Close all tabs and go to Administrative tool.
12. Open component services.
13. Click Computer, click my computer, and then click DCOM.
14. Look for the corresponding service that appears on the error viewer.
15. Right click on it then click properties.
16. Click security tab then click Add User, Add System then apply.
17. Tick the Activate local box.

So use the relevant keys here and the DCOM Config should give you access to the greyed out areas:
CLSID {D63B10C5-BB46-4990-A94F-E40B9D520160}

APPID {9CA88EE3-ACB7-47C8-AFC4-AB702511C276}

I was able to follow Steps 1-15 pretty much verbatim. However, when I got to Step 16 I really couldn’t tell exactly what he wanted me to do. At first I granted the DATAKEEPER\dave user account Full Control to the RuntimeBroker, but that didn’t fix things. Eventually I just selected “Use Default” on all three permissions and that fixed the issue.

RuntimeBroker
I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I figured I better write it all down in case it happens again because it took me a while to figure it out.

Step 4 – Automating the Deployment

If you need to enable the same alerts on multiple systems you can simply export your Task to an XML file and Import it on your other systems.

ExportImport

Or even better yet, automate the Import as part of your build process through a Powershell script after making your XML file available on a file share as shown in the following example.

PS C:\> Register-ScheduledTask -Xml (get-content '\\myfileshare\tasks\DataKeeperAlerts.xml' | out-string) -TaskName "DataKeeper Service Alerts" -User datakeeper\dave -Password MyDomainP@55W0rd –Force

 

In Summary

Hopefully what I have provided will give you everything you need to start receiving alert notification emails on whichever Windows Services keep you up at night.

This concludes my series on configuring email alerts. In this series I covered covered configuring alerts based on Perfmon counters, Event Log Entries and in this article Windows Service Start and Stop events. Of course you can extend these Powershell scripts described in these articles to do more than just send emails. Many alerts or unexpected service stoppages generally require some remediation, so why not just script out the recovery steps and let the triggered task take care of the issue for you?

Personally I recommend that you invest in SCOM , SolarWinds or some other Enterprise Management System, but if that is not in the cards where you work then these articles can help in a pinch.

Step-by-Step: How to Trigger an Email Alert when a Specific Windows Service Starts or Stops on Windows Server 2016

Step-by-Step: How to Trigger an Email Alert from a Windows Event that Includes the Event Details using Windows Server 2016

Introduction

Setting up an email alert is as simple as creating a Windows Task that is triggered by an Event. You then must specify the action that will occur when that Task is triggered. Since Microsoft has decided to deprecate the “Send an e-mail” option the only choice we have is to Start a Program. In our case that program will be a Powershell script that will collect the Event Log information and parse it so that we can send an email that includes important Log Event details.

This work was verified on Windows Server 2016, but I suspect it should work on Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2019 as well. If you get it working on any other platforms please comment and let us know if you had to change anything.

Step 1 – Write a Powershell Script

The first thing that you need to do is write a Powershell script that when run can send an email. While researching this I discovered many ways to accomplish this task, so what I’m about to show you is just one way, but feel free to experiment and use what is right for your environment.

In my lab I do not run my own SMTP server, so I had to write a script that could leverage my Gmail account. You will see in my Powershell script the password to the email account that authenticates to the SMTP server is in plain text. If you are concerned that someone may have access to your script and discover your password then you will want to encrypt your credentials. Gmail requires and SSL connection so your password should be safe on the wire, just like any other email client.

Here is an example of a Powershell script that when used in conjunction with Task Scheduler which will send an email alert automatically when any specified Event is logged in the Windows Event Log. In my environment I saved this script to C:\Alerts\DataKeeper.ps1

$EventId = 16,20,23,150,219,220

$A = Get-WinEvent -MaxEvents 1  -FilterHashTable @{Logname = "System" ; ID = $EventId}
$Message = $A.Message
$EventID = $A.Id
$MachineName = $A.MachineName
$Source = $A.ProviderName


$EmailFrom = "sios@medfordband.com"
$EmailTo = "sios@medfordband.com"
$Subject ="Alert From $MachineName"
$Body = "EventID: $EventID`nSource: $Source`nMachineName: $MachineName `nMessage: $Message"
$SMTPServer = "smtp.gmail.com"
$SMTPClient = New-Object Net.Mail.SmtpClient($SmtpServer, 587)
$SMTPClient.EnableSsl = $true
$SMTPClient.Credentials = New-Object System.Net.NetworkCredential("sios@medfordband.com", "mySMTPP@55w0rd");
$SMTPClient.Send($EmailFrom, $EmailTo, $Subject, $Body)

An example of an email generated from that Powershell script looks like this.

Email1

You probably noticed that this Powershell script uses the Get-WinEvent cmdlet to grab the most recent Event Log entry based upon the LogName, Source and eventIDs specified. It then parses that event and assigns the EventID, Source, MachineName and Message to variables that will be used to compose the email. You will see that the LogName, Source and eventIDs specified are the same as the ones you will specify when you set up the Scheduled Task in Step 2.

Step 2 – Set Up a Scheduled Task

In Task Scheduler Create a Task as show in the following screen shots.

  1. Create Task
    Create Task

    Make sure the task is set to Run whether the user is logged on or not.
    DataKeeper Alerts

  2.  On the Triggers tab choose New to create a Trigger that will begin the task “On an Event”. In my example I will be creating an event that triggers any time DataKeeper (extmirr) logs an important event to the System log.
    Create Task 3
    Create a custom event and New Event Filter as shown below…

    Create Task - Trigger

    For my trigger I am triggering on commonly monitored SIOS DataKeeper (ExtMirr) EventIDs 16, 20, 23,150,219,220 . You will need to set up your event to trigger on the specific Events that you want to monitor. You can put multiple Triggers in the same Task if you want to be notified about events that come from different logs or sources.

    Edit Event Filter
    Create a New Event Filter

     

  3. Once the Event Trigger is configured, you will need to configure the Action that occurs when the event is run. In our case we are going to run the Powershell script that we created in Step 1.
    Actions - 2

    Edit - Actions

  4. The default Condition parameters should be sufficient.
    Conditions - 1
  5. And finally, on the Settings tab make sure you allow the task to be run on demand and to “Queue a new instance” if a task is already running.

    2018-10-28_00-17-27

Step 3 (if necessary) – Fix the Microsoft-Windows-DistributedCOM Event ID: 10016 Error

In theory, if you did everything correctly you should now start receiving emails any time one of the events you are monitoring gets logged in the event log.  However, I ran into a weird permission issue on one of my servers that I had to address before everything worked. I’m not sure if you will run into this issue, but just in case here is the fix.

In my case when I manually triggered the event, or if I ran the Powershell script directly, everything worked as expected and I received an email. However, if one of the EventIDs being monitored was logged into the event log it would not result in an email being sent. The only clue I had was the Event ID: 10016 that was logged in my Systems event log each time I expected the Task Trigger to detect a logged event.

Log Name: System
Source: Microsoft-Windows-DistributedCOM
Date: 10/27/2018 5:59:47 PM
Event ID: 10016
Task Category: None
Level: Error
Keywords: Classic
User: DATAKEEPER\dave
Computer: sql1.datakeeper.local
Description:
The application-specific permission settings do not grant Local Activation permission for the COM Server application with CLSID 
{D63B10C5-BB46-4990-A94F-E40B9D520160}
and APPID 
{9CA88EE3-ACB7-47C8-AFC4-AB702511C276}
to the user DATAKEEPER\dave SID (S-1-5-21-25339xxxxx-208xxx580-6xxx06984-500) from address LocalHost (Using LRPC) running in the application container Unavailable SID (Unavailable). This security permission can be modified using the Component Services administrative tool.

Many of the Google search results for that error indicate that the error is benign and include instructions on how to suppress the error instead of fixing it. However, I was pretty sure this error was the cause of my current failure to be able to send an email alert from a Scheduled Event that was triggered from a monitored Event Log entry, so I needed to fix it.

After much searching, I stumbled upon this newsgroup discussion.  The response from Marc Whittlesey pointed me in the right direction. This is what he wrote…

There are 2 registry keys you have to set permissions before you go to the DCOM Configuration in Component services: CLSID key and APPID key.

I suggest you to follow some steps to fix issue:

1. Press Windows + R keys and type regedit and press Enter.
2. Go to HKEY_Classes_Root\CLSID\*CLSID*.
3. Right click on it then select permission.
4. Click Advance and change the owner to administrator. Also click the box that will appear below the owner line.
5. Apply full control.
6. Close the tab then go to HKEY_LocalMachine\Software\Classes\AppID\*APPID*.
7. Right click on it then select permission.
8. Click Advance and change the owner to administrators.
9. Click the box that will appear below the owner line.
10. Click Apply and grant full control to Administrators.
11. Close all tabs and go to Administrative tool.
12. Open component services.
13. Click Computer, click my computer, and then click DCOM.
14. Look for the corresponding service that appears on the error viewer.
15. Right click on it then click properties.
16. Click security tab then click Add User, Add System then apply.
17. Tick the Activate local box.

So use the relevant keys here and the DCOM Config should give you access to the greyed out areas:
CLSID {D63B10C5-BB46-4990-A94F-E40B9D520160}

APPID {9CA88EE3-ACB7-47C8-AFC4-AB702511C276}

I was able to follow Steps 1-15 pretty much verbatim. However, when I got to Step 16 I really couldn’t tell exactly what he wanted me to do. At first I granted the DATAKEEPER\dave user account Full Control to the RuntimeBroker, but that didn’t fix things. Eventually I just selected “Use Default” on all three permissions and that fixed the issue.

RuntimeBroker
I’m not sure how or why this happened, but I figured I better write it all down in case it happens again because it took me a while to figure it out.

Step 4 – Automating the Deployment

If you need to enable the same alerts on multiple systems you can simply export your Task to an XML file and Import it on your other systems.

ExportImport

Or even better yet, automate the Import as part of your build process through a Powershell script after making your XML file available on a file share as shown in the following example.

PS C:\> Register-ScheduledTask -Xml (get-content '\\myfileshare\tasks\DataKeeperAlerts.xml' | out-string) -TaskName "DataKeeperAlerts" -User datakeeper\dave -Password MyDomainP@55W0rd –Force

 

In Summary

Hopefully what I have provided will give you everything you need to start receiving alert notification emails on whichever Event Log entries keep you up at night.

In my next post I will show you how to be notified when a specified Service either starts or stops. Of course you could just monitor for EventID 7036 from Service Control Monitor, but that would notify you whenever ANY service starts or stops. We will need to dig a little deeper to make sure we get notified only when the services we care about start or stop.

Step-by-Step: How to Trigger an Email Alert from a Windows Event that Includes the Event Details using Windows Server 2016

Moving SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 clusters to #Azure for Extended Support

Earlier this year Microsoft announced extended support for SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 at no additional cost. However, the catch is that you must migrate your SQL Server installation to Azure in order to take advantage of the extended support. For all the details, check out https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/sql-server/sql-server-2008. If you choose not to move, your extended support ends on July 9th, 2019, just about 9 months from now.

2018-10-05_16-45-37

Chances are if you are still running SQL Server 2008 R2 it’s simply because you never upgraded your application, so newer versions of SQL are not supported. Or you simply decided not to fix what isn’t broken. Regardless of these reason, you have just bought yourself another three years of support, if you migrate to Azure.

Now migrating workloads to Azure is a pretty well documented procedure, using Azure Site Recovery, so that process should be pretty seamless for you for your standalone instances of SQL Server.

But what about those clustered instances of SQL Server? You certainly don’t want to give up availability when you move to the Azure. Part of the beauty of Azure is that they have infrastructure that you can only dream of. However, it is incumbent upon the user to configure their applications to take full advantage of the infrastructure to ensure that your deployments are highly available.

With SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2, high availability commonly means SQL Server Failover Clustering on either Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012 R2. If you are new to Azure you will quickly discover that there is no native option that supports  shared storage clusters. Instead, you will need to look at a SANLess cluster solution such as SIOS DataKeeper. Microsoft list SIOS DataKeeper as the HA solution for SQL Server Failover CLustering in their documentation.

2018-10-05_16-59-39
https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/virtual-machines/windows/sql/virtual-machines-windows-sql-high-availability-dr

 

In order to facilitate a simple migration of your existing SQl Server 2008 or 2008 R2 cluster to Azure here are the high level steps you will need to take.

  • Replace the Physical Disk Resource in your existing on premise SQL Server cluster with a DataKeeper Volume Resource. Do the same for MSDTC resources if you use MSDTC.
  • Remove your Disk Witness and replace it with a File Share Witness
  • Use Azure Site Recovery to replicate your cluster nodes into Azure, making sure each replicated node resides in a different Fault Domain or in different Availability Zones in Azure
  • Recovery your replicate cluster nodes in Azure
  • Replace the File Share Witness with a File Share hosted in Azure
  • Configure the Internal Load Balancer in Azure for client redirection, this includes running the Powershell script on the local nodes to update the SQL Cluster IP resource to listen for the ILB probe
  • Assuming the IP addresses and subnet of the SQL Server cluster instances changed as part of this migration you will also need to do some cleanup of the cluster IP address and the DataKeeper job endpoints to reflect the new IP addresses

I know I left out a lot of the details, but if you find yourself in the position of having to do a lift and shift of SQL Server to Azure, or any cloud for that matter, I’d be glad to get on the phone with you to answer any questions you may have. Keep in mind, the same steps apply for any version of SQL that you plan to migrate to Azure.

 

Moving SQL Server 2008 and 2008 R2 clusters to #Azure for Extended Support

#Ignite2018 Session: Ensure application availability with cloud-based disaster recovery, Azure Site Recovery #SAP #BusinessContinuity

I’m a big fan of Azure Site Recovery for Disaster Recovery and was glad to attend the Ignite session today presented by Rochak Mittal and Ashish Gangwar

BRK3304 – Architecting mission-critical, high-performance SAP workloads on Azure

In one of the architecture slides they showed how an entire SAP deployment could be protected by Azure Site Recovery (ASR) and recovered in the event of a disaster in just a few minutes. Using Azure Recovery Plans allows you to have explicit control over recovery, including creating dependencies on resources as well as invoking scripts within a VM to help facilitate the complete recovery.

It seems like yesterday, but it was back in May of 2014 when I first started assisting Microsoft with providing a HA solution for SAP ASCS in Azure. That solution involves using DataKeeper to build a SANless cluster solution for ASCS and still stands today as the only HA solution that also works with ASR for disaster recovery configurations such as the one shown in this demo at Ignite.

1002-wsfc-sios-on-azure-ilb.png
Shared disks in Azure with SIOS DataKeeper

If you need help planning your highly available SAP deployment is Azure definitely reach out to me, I’d be glad to assist.

 

 

#Ignite2018 Session: Ensure application availability with cloud-based disaster recovery, Azure Site Recovery #SAP #BusinessContinuity

Azure Outage Post-Mortem Part 3

My previous blog posts, Azure Outage Post-Mortem – Part 1 and Azure Outage Post-Mortem Part 2,made some assumptions based upon limited information coming from blog posts and twitter. I just attended a session at Ignite which gave a little more clarity as to what actually happened. Sometime tomorrow you should be able to view the session for yourself.

BRK3075 – Preparing for the unexpected: Anatomy of an Azure outage

The official Root Cause Analysis they said will be published soon, but in the meantime here are some tidbits of information gleaned from the session.

The outage was NOT caused by a lightning strike as previously reported. Instead, due to the nature of the storm there were electrical storm sags and swells, which locked out a chiller plant in the 1st datacenter. During this first outage they were able to recover the chiller quickly with no noticeable impact. Shortly thereafter, there was a second outage at a second datacenter which was not recovered properly, which began an unfortunate series of events.

During this 2nd outage, Microsoft states that “Engineers didn’t triage alerts correctly – chiller plant recovery was not prioritized”. There were numerous alerts being triggered at this time, and unfortunately the chiller being offline did not receive the priority it should have. The RCA as to why that happened is still being investigated.

Microsoft states that of course redundant chiller systems are in place. However, the cooling systems were not set to automatically failover. Recently installed new equipment had not been fully tested, so it was set to manual mode until testing had been completed.

After 45 minutes the ambient cooling failed, hardware shutdown, air handlers shut down because they thought there was a fire, and staff had been evacuated due to the false fire alarm. During this time temperature in the data center was increasing and some hardware was not shut down properly, causing damage to some storage and networking.

After manually resetting the chillers and opening the air handlers the temperature began to return to normal. It took about 3 hours and 29 minutes before they had a complete picture of the status of the datacenter.

The biggest issue was there was damage to storage. Microsoft’s primary concern is data protection, so short of the enter datacenter sinking into a sinkhole or a meteor strike taking out the datacenter, Microsoft will work to recover data to ensure no data loss. This of course took some time, which extend the overall length of the outage. The good news is that no customer data was lost, the bad news is that it seemed like it took 24-48 hours for things to return to normal, based upon what I read on Twitter from customers complaining about the prolonged outage.

Everyone expected that this outage would impact customers hosted in the South Central Region, but what they did not expect was that the outage would have an impact outside of that region. In the session, Microsoft discusses some of the extended reach of the outage.

Azure Service Manager (ASM) – This controls Azure “Classic” resources, AKA, pre-ARM resources. Anyone relying on ASM could have been impacted. It wasn’t clear to me why this happened, but it appears that South Central Region hosts some important components of that service which became unavailable.

Visual Studio Team Service (VSTS) – Again, it appears that many resources that support this service are hosted in the South Central Region. This outage is described in great detail by Buck Hodges (@tfsbuck), Director of Engineering, Azure DevOps this blog post.

Postmortem: VSTS 4 September 2018

Azure Active Directory (AAD) – When the South Central region failed, AAD did what it was designed to due and started directing authentication requests to other regions. As the East Coast started to wake up and online, authentication traffic started picking up. Now normally AAD would handle this increase in traffic through autoscaling, but the autoscaling has a dependency on ASM, which of course was offline. Without the ability to autoscale, AAD was not able to handle the increase in authentication requests. Exasperating the situation was a bug in Office clients which made them have very aggressive retry logic, and no backoff logic. This additional authentication traffic eventually brought AAD to its knees.

They ran out of time to discuss this further during the Ignite session, but one feature that they will be introducing will be giving users the ability to failover Storage Accounts manually in the future. So in the case where recovery time objective (RTO) is more important than (RPO) the user will have the ability to recover their asynchronously replicated geo-redundant storage in an alternate data center should Microsoft experience another extended outage in the future.

Until that time, you will have to rely on other replication solutions such as SIOS DataKeeper Azure Site Recovery, or application specific replication solutions which give you the ability to replicate data across regions and put the ability to enact your disaster recovery plan in your control.

 

 

Azure Outage Post-Mortem Part 3

Azure Outage Post-Mortem Part 2

My previous blog post says that Cloud-to-Cloud or Hybrid-Cloud would give you the most isolation from just about any issue a CSP could encounter. However, in this particular failure had Availability Zones been available in the South Central region most of the downtime caused by this natural disaster could have been avoided. Microsoft published a Preliminary RCA of the September 4th South Central Outage.

The most important part of that whole summary is as follows…

“Despite onsite redundancies, there are scenarios in which a datacenter cooling failure can impact customer workloads in the affected datacenter.”

What does that mean to you? If your applications all run in the same datacenter you are susceptible to the same type of outage in the future. In Microsoft’s defense, this really shouldn’t be news to you as this has always been true whether you run in Azure, AWS, Google or even your own datacenter. Failure to plan ahead with data replication to a different datacenter and a plan in place to quickly recover your applications in those datacenters in the event of a disaster is simply a lack of planning on your part.

While Microsoft doesn’t publish exact Availability Zone locations, if you believe this map published here you could guess that they are probably anywhere from a 2-10 miles apart from each other.

Azure Datacenters.png

In all but the most extreme cases, replicating data across Availability Zones should be sufficient for data protection. Some applications such as SQL Server have built in replication technology, but for a broad range of applications, operating systems and data types you will want to investigate block level replication SANless cluster solutions. SANless cluster solutions have traditionally been used for multisite clusters, but the same technology can also be used in the cloud across Availability Zones, Regions, or Hybrid-Cloud for high availability and disaster recovery.

Implementing a SANless cluster that spans Availability Zones, whether it is Azure, AWS or Google, is a pretty simple process given the right tools. Here are a few resources to help get you started.

Step-by-Step: Configuring a File Server Cluster in Azure that Spans Availability Zones

How to Build a SANless SQL Server Failover Cluster Instance in Google Cloud Platform

MS SQL Server v.Next on Linux with Replication and High Availability #Azure #Cloud #Linux

Deploying Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Failover Clusters in #Azure Resource Manager (ARM)

SANless SQL Server Clusters in AWS

SANless Linux Cluster in AWS Quick Start

If you are in Azure you may also want to consider Azure Site Recovery (ASR). ASR lets you replicate the entire VM from one Azure region to another region. ASR will replicate your VMs in real-time and allow you to do a non-disruptive DR test whenever you like. It supports most versions of Windows and Linux and is relatively easy to set up.

You can also create replication jobs that have “Multi-VM Consistency”, meaning that servers that must be recovered from the exact same point in time can be put together in this consistency group and they will have the exact same recovery point. What this means is if you wanted to build a SANless cluster with DataKeeper in a single region for high availability you have two options for DR. One is you could extend your SANless cluster to a node in a different region, or else you could simply use ASR to replicate both nodes in a consistency group.

asr

The trade off with ASR is that the RPO and RTO is not as good as you will get with a SANless multi-site cluster, but it is easy to configure and works with just about any application. Just be careful, if your application exceeds 10 MBps in disk write activity on a regular basis ASR will not be able to keep up. Also, clusters based on Storage Spaces Direct cannot be replicated with ASR and in general lack a good DR strategy when used in Azure.

For a while after Managed Disks were released ASR did not fully support them until about a year later. Full support for Managed Disks was a big hurdle for many people looking to use ASR. Fortunately since about February of 2018 ASR fully supports Managed Disks. However, there is another problem that was just introduced.

With the introduction of Availability Zones ASR is once again caught behind the times as they currently don’t support VMs that have been deployed in Availability Zones.

2018-09-25_00-10-24
Support matrix for replicating from one Azure region to another

I went ahead and tried it anyway. I seemed to be able to configure replication and was able to do a test failover.

ASR-and-AZ
I used ASR to replicate SQL1 and SQL3 from Central to East US 2 and did a test failover. Other than not placing the VMs in AZs in East US 2 it seems to work.

I’m hoping to find out more about this limitation at the Ignite conference. I don’t think this limitation is as critical as the Managed Disk limitation was, just because Availability Zones aren’t widely available yet. So hopefully ASR will pick up support for Availability Zones as other regions light up Availability Zones and they are more widely adopted.

 

 

Azure Outage Post-Mortem Part 2

Step-by-Step: Configuring a File Server Cluster in Azure that Spans Availability Zones

In this post we will detail the specific steps required to deploy a 2-node File Server Failover Cluster that spans the new Availability Zones a single region of Azure. I will assume you are familiar with basic Azure concepts as well as basic Failover Cluster concepts and will focus this article on what is unique about deploying a File Server Failover Cluster in Azure across Availability Zones.  If your Azure region doesn’t support Availability Zones yet you will have to use Fault Domains instead as described in an earlier post.

With DataKeeper Cluster Edition you are able to take the locally attached Managed Disks, whether it is Premium or Standard Disks, and replicate those disks either synchronously, asynchronously or a mix or both, between two or more cluster nodes. In addition, a DataKeeper Volume resource is registered in Windows Server Failover Clustering which takes the place of a Physical Disk resource. Instead of controlling SCSI-3 reservations like a Physical Disk Resource, the DataKeeper Volume controls the mirror direction, ensuring the active node is always the source of the mirror. As far as Failover Clustering is concerned, it looks, feels and smells like a Physical Disk and is used the same way Physical Disk Resource would be used.

Pre-requisites

  • You have used the Azure Portal before and are comfortable deploying virtual machines in Azure IaaS.
  • Have obtained a license or eval license of SIOS DataKeeper

Deploying a File Server Failover Cluster Instance using the Azure Portal

To build a 2-node File Server Failover Cluster Instance in Azure, we are going to assume you have a basic Virtual Network based on Azure Resource Manager and you have at least one virtual machine up and running and configured as a Domain Controller. Once you have a Virtual Network and a Domain configured, you are going to provision two new virtual machines which will act as the two nodes in our cluster.

Our environment will look like this:

DC1 – Our Domain Controller and File Share Witness
SQL1 and SQL2 – The two nodes of our File Server Cluster. Don’t let the names confuse you, we are building a File Server Cluster in this guide. In my next post I will demonstrate a SQL Server cluster configuration.

Provisioning the two cluster nodes

Using the Azure Portal, we will provision both SQL1 and SQL2 exactly the same way.  There are numerous options to choose from including instance size, storage options, etc. This guide is not meant to be an exhaustive guide to deploying Servers in Azure as there are some really good resources out there and more published every day. However, there are a few key things to keep in mind when creating your instances, especially in a clustered environment.

Availability Zones – It is important that both SQL1, SQL2 reside in different Availability Zones. For the sake of this guide we will assume you are using Windows 2016 and will use a Cloud Witness for the Cluster Quorum. If you use Windows 2012 R2 or Windows Server 2008 R2 instead of Windows 2016 you will instead need to configure a File Share Witness in the 3rd Availability Zone as Cloud Witness was not introduced until Windows Server 2016.

By putting the cluster nodes in different Availability Zones we are ensuring that each cluster node resides in a different Azure datacenter in the same region. Leveraging Availability Zones rather than the older Fault Domains isolates you from the types of outages that occured just a few weeks ago that brought down the entire South Central region for multiple days.

Availability Zones
Be sure to add each cluster node to a different Availability Zone. If you leverage a File Share Witness it should reside in the 3rd Availability Zone.

Static IP Address

Once each VM is provisioned, you will want to go into the setting and change the settings so that the IP address is Static. We do not want the IP address of our cluster nodes to change.

Static IP
Make sure each cluster node uses a static IP

Storage

As far as Storage is concerned, you will want to consult Performance best practices for SQL Server in Azure Virtual Machines. In any case, you will minimally need to add at least one additional Managed Disk to each of your cluster nodes. DataKeeper can use Basic Disk, Premium Storage or even multiple disks striped together in a local Storage Space. If you do want to use a local Storage Space just be aware that you should create the Storage Space BEFORE you do any cluster configuration due to a known issue with Failover Clustering and local Storage Spaces. All disks should be formatted NTFS.

Create the Cluster

Assuming both cluster nodes (SQL1 and SQL2) have been provisioned as described above and added to your existing domain, we are ready to create the cluster. Before we create the cluster, there are a few Features that need to be enabled. These features are .Net Framework 3.5 and Failover Clustering. These features need to be enabled on both cluster nodes. You will also need to enable the FIle Server Role.

6
Enable both .Net Framework 3.5 and Failover Clustering features and the File Server on both cluster nodes

Once that role and those features have been enabled, you are ready to build your cluster. Most of the steps I’m about to show you can be performed both via PowerShell and the GUI. However, I’m going to recommend that for this very first step you use PowerShell to create your cluster. If you choose to use the Failover Cluster Manager GUI to create the cluster you will find that you wind up with the cluster being issued a duplicate IP address.

Without going into great detail, what you will find is that Azure VMs have to use DHCP. By specifying a “Static IP” when we create the VM in the Azure portal all we did was create sort of a DHCP reservation. It is not exactly a DHCP reservation because a true DHCP reservation would remove that IP address from the DHCP pool. Instead, this specifying a Static IP in the Azure portal simply means that if that IP address is still available when the VM requests it, Azure will issue that IP to it. However, if your VM is offline and another host comes online in that same subnet it very well could be issued that same IP address.

There is another strange side effect to the way Azure has implemented DHCP. When creating a cluster with the Windows Server Failover Cluster GUI, there is not option to specify a cluster IP address. Instead it relies on DHCP to obtain an address. The strange thing is, DHCP will issue a duplicate IP address, usually the same IP address as the host requesting a new IP address. The cluster install will complete, but you may have some strange errors and you may need to run the Windows Server Failover Cluster GUI from a different node in order to get it to run. Once you get it to run you will need to change the core cluster IP address to an address that is not currently in use on the network.

You can avoid that whole mess by simply creating the cluster via Powershell and specifying the cluster IP address as part of the PowerShell command to create the cluster.

You can create the cluster using the New-Cluster command as follows:

New-Cluster -Name cluster1 -Node sql1,sql2 -StaticAddress 10.0.0.100 -NoStorage

After the cluster creation completes, you will also want to run the cluster validation by running the following command. You should expect to see some warnings about storage and network, but that is expected in Azure and you can ignore those warnings. If any errors are reported you will need to address those before you move on.

Test-Cluster

Create a Quorum Witness

if you are running Windows 2016 or 2019 you will need to create a Cloud Witness for the cluster quorum. If you are running Windows Server 2012 R2 or 2008 R2 you will need to create a File Share Witness. The detailed instruction on witness creation can be found here.

Install DataKeeper

After the cluster is created it is time to install DataKeeper. It is important to install DataKeeper after the initial cluster is created so the custom cluster resource type can be registered with the cluster. If you installed DataKeeper before the cluster is created you will simply need to run the install again and do a repair installation.

8
Install DataKeeper after the cluster is created

During the installation you can take all of the default options.  The service account you use must be a domain account and be in the local administrators group on each node in the cluster.

9
The service account must be a domain account that is in the Local Admins group on each node

Once DataKeeper is installed and licensed on each node you will need to reboot the servers.

Create the DataKeeper Volume Resource

To create the DataKeeper Volume Resource you will need to start the DataKeeper UI and connect to both of the servers.
10Connect to SQL1
11

Connect to SQL2
12

Once you are connected to each server, you are ready to create your DataKeeper Volume. Right click on Jobs and choose “Create Job”
13

Give the Job a name and description.
14

Choose your source server, IP and volume. The IP address is whether the replication traffic will travel.
15

Choose your target server.
16

Choose your options. For our purposes where the two VMs are in the same geographic region we will choose synchronous replication. For longer distance replication you will want to use asynchronous and enable some compression.
17

By clicking yes at the last pop-up you will register a new DataKeeper Volume Resource in Available Storage in Failover Clustering.
18

You will see the new DataKeeper Volume Resource in Available Storage.
19

Create the File Server Cluster Resource

To create the File Server Cluster Resource we will use Powershell once again rather than the Failover Cluster interface. The reason being is that once again because the virtual machines are configured to use DHCP, the GUI based wizard will not prompt us to enter a cluster IP address and instead will issue a duplicate IP address. To avoid this we will use a simple powershell command to create the FIle Server Cluster Resource and specify the IP Address

Add-ClusterFileServerRole -Storage "DataKeeper Volume E" -Name FS2 -StaticAddress 10.0.0.101

Make note of the IP address you specify here. It must be a unique IP address on your network. We will use this same IP address later when we create our Internal Load Balancer.

Create the Internal Load Balancer

Here is where failover clustering in Azure is different than traditional infrastructures. The Azure network stack does not support gratuitous ARPS, so clients cannot connect directly to the cluster IP address. Instead, clients connect to an internal load balancer and are redirected to the active cluster node. What we need to do is create an internal load balancer. This can all be done through the Azure Portal as shown below.

You can use an Public Load Balancer if your client connects over the public internet, but assuming your clients reside in the same vNet, we will create an Internal Load Balancer. The important thing to take note of here is that the Virtual Network is the same as the network where your cluster nodes reside. Also, the Private IP address that you specify will be EXACTLY the same as the address you used to create the File Server Cluster Resource. Also, because we are using Availability Zones we will be creating a Zone Redundant Standard Load Balancer as shown in the picture below.

Load Balancer

After the Internal Load Balancer (ILB) is created, you will need to edit it. The first thing we will do is to add a backend pool. Through this process you will choose the two cluster nodes.

Backend Pools

The next thing we will do is add a Probe. The probe we add will probe Port 59999. This probe determines which node is active in our cluster.
probe

And then finally, we need a load balancing rule to redirect the SMB traffic, TCP port 445 The important thing to notice in the screenshot below is the Direct Server Return is Enabled. Make sure you make that change.

rules

Fix the File Server IP Resource

The final step in the configuration is to run the following PowerShell script on one of your cluster nodes. This will allow the Cluster IP Address to respond to the ILB probes and ensure that there is no IP address conflict between the Cluster IP Address and the ILB. Please take note; you will need to edit this script to fit your environment. The subnet mask is set to 255.255.255.255, this is not a mistake, leave it as is. This creates a host specific route to avoid IP address conflicts with the ILB.

# Define variables
$ClusterNetworkName = “” 
# the cluster network name (Use Get-ClusterNetwork on Windows Server 2012 of higher to find the name)
$IPResourceName = “” 
# the IP Address resource name 
$ILBIP = “” 
# the IP Address of the Internal Load Balancer (ILB)
Import-Module FailoverClusters
# If you are using Windows Server 2012 or higher:
Get-ClusterResource $IPResourceName | Set-ClusterParameter -Multiple @{Address=$ILBIP;ProbePort=59999;SubnetMask="255.255.255.255";Network=$ClusterNetworkName;EnableDhcp=0}
# If you are using Windows Server 2008 R2 use this: 
#cluster res $IPResourceName /priv enabledhcp=0 address=$ILBIP probeport=59999  subnetmask=255.255.255.255

Creating File Shares

You will find that using the File Share Wizard in Failover Cluster Manager does not work. Instead, you will simply create the file shares in Windows Explorer on the active node. Failover clustering automatically picks up those shares and puts them in the cluster.

Note that the”Continuous Availability” option of a file share is not supported in this configuration.

Conclusion

You should now have a functioning File Server Failover Cluster in Azure that spans Availability Zones. If you have ANY problems, please reach out to me on Twitter @daveberm and I will be glad to assist. If you need a DataKeeper evaluation key fill out the form at http://us.sios.com/clustersyourway/cta/14-day-trial and SIOS will send an evaluation key sent out to you.

Step-by-Step: Configuring a File Server Cluster in Azure that Spans Availability Zones