Configuring a #SANLess Hyper-V Failover Cluster with DataKeeper Cluster Edition

Q. What is a SANLess cluster?
A. It is a cluster that uses local storage instead of a SAN.

Q. Why would I want a SANLess cluster?
A. There are a few reasons:

  • Eliminate the cost of a SAN
  • Eliminate the SAN as a single point of failure
  • Take advantage of high speed storage options such a Fusion-io ioDrives and other high speed storage devices that plug in locally
  • Stretch the cluster across geographic locations for disaster recovery
  • Simplify management
  • Eliminate the need for a SAN administrator

Building a SANLess cluster with DataKeeper Cluster Edition is easy. If you know anything about Windows Server Failover Clustering than you already know 99% of the solution. Even if you have never built a Windows Server Failover Cluster before, don’t worry; Microsoft has made it easy and painless. For the beginners, I have written a step-by-step article that tells you how to build a Windows Server 2012 #SANLess cluster in my blog post here:

If you have followed the steps in my post, you will be at the point where you are ready to create your first highly available virtual machine. There are two options for making a highly available virtual machine. The first option assumes that you have an existing virtual machine that you want to make highly available, and the second option assumes you are building a highly available virtual machine from scratch.

Configuring the DataKeeper Volume Cluster Resource

Because a SANLess Hyper-V cluster requires one VM per volume, you will want to make sure you have your storage partitioned so that you have enough volumes for each VM. The storage on each cluster node should be configured identically in terms of drive letters and partition sizes. Once you have the partitions configured properly and your VM resides on the partition you want to replicate, open the DataKeeper interface and walk through the three step wizard to create the DataKeeper Volume Resources as shown in below.

First, open the DataKeeper interface and click on Connect to Server. Do this twice to connect to both servers.

Once you are connected, click on Create Job to create a mirror of the volume that contains the virtual machine you want to make highly available as shown below. In this example we will mirror the E drive.

Whenever possible, keep replication traffic on a private network. In this case, we are using the network for replication traffic. This can be a simple patch cable that connects the two servers across two unused NICs.

The final screen shows the options available for mirroring. For local area networks, Synchronous mirroring is preferred. When replicating across wide area networks, you will want to use Asynchronous replication and possibly enable compression. I would not limit the Maximum bandwidth as that could potentially cause your mirror to go out of sync if your rate of change (Disk Right Bytes/sec) exceeds the Maximum bandwidth specified. However, you may want to temporarily enable Maximum bandwidth during the initial mirror creation process, otherwise DataKeeper may flood the network with the initial replication traffic as it tries to get in sync as quickly as possible. Both Maximum bandwidth and Compression settings can be adjusted after the mirror is created. However, you cannot change between Synchronous and Asynchronous mirroring once the mirror has been created without deleting the mirror and recreating it.

At the end of the mirror creation process you will see a popup asking if you want to auto-register this volume as a cluster volume. Select Yes, this will create a DataKeeper volume resource in Failover Clustering Available Storage.

You are now ready to create your highly available VMs.

Option 1 – Clustering an Existing VM

Once again, this procedure assumes you have an existing VM that you want to make highly available. If you do not have an existing VM, you will want to follow the procedure in Option 2 – Creating a Highly Available VM. Otherwise, you should have a VM when looking at Hyper-V Manager as shown below.

All the VM files should already be located on the replicated volume, as shown below. If not, you will have to relocate the files before attempting to cluster the VM.

To begin the clustering process, open up Failover Cluster Manager. Right click on Configure Roles and choose Virtual Machine as the role you want to create.

This will launch the High Availability Wizard. At this point you should select the VM that you want to cluster and step through the wizard as shown below.

You will see that the VM resource will be created, but there will be some warnings. The warnings indicate that the E drive is not currently part of the VM Cluster Resource Group.

To make the DataKeeper Volume E part of the VM Cluster Resource Group, right click on the role and choose Add Storage. Add the DataKeeper Volume that you will see listed in Available Disks.

The last part is to choose the Properties of the Virtual Machine Configuration (not the Virtual Machine) resource and make it dependent upon the storage you just added to the resource group.

You should now be able to start the VM.

Option 2 – Creating a Highly Available VM from Scratch

Assuming you want to create a highly available VM from scratch, you can complete this entire process from the Hyper-V Virtual Machine Manager as shown below. This step assumes that you have already created a mirror of the E drive using DataKeeper as described in Configuring the DataKeeper Volume Resource section.

To get started, open the Failover Cluster Manager and right click on Roles and choose Virtual Machine – New Virtual Machine.

Follow through with the steps of the wizard and select the options that you want to use for the VM. When choosing where to place the VM, select the cluster node that currently is the owner of Available Storage, which will also be the source of the mirror.

Make sure when specifying the Name and Location of the VM, you select the location of the replicated volume.

The rest of the options are up to you. Just make sure the VHD file is located on the replicated volume.

You will see the highly available VM is created, but there is a warning about the storage. You will need to add the DataKeeper Volume Resource to the VM Cluster Resource Group as shown below.

After the DataKeeper Volume is added to the VM Cluster Resource Group, you will need to add the DataKeeper Volume as a dependency of the Virtual Machine Configuration resource.

You now have a highly available virtual machine.


In this blog post we discussed what constitutes a #SANLess cluster. We discussed how DataKeeper Cluster Edition can be used to build a highly available Hyper-V cluster without the use of a SAN. Once built, the cluster behaves exactly like a SAN based cluster, including having the ability to do Live Migration, Quick Migration and automated failover in the event of unexpected failures.

A #SANLess cluster eliminates the expense of a SAN as well as the single point of failure of a SAN. DataKeeper Cluster Edition supports multiple nodes in a SAN, so configurations that stretch both LAN and WAN are all possible solutions for Hyper-V high availability and disaster recovery. DataKeeper supports any local storage, opening up the possibility of using high speed local attached SSD or NAND Flash storage for high performance without giving up high availability.











Configuring a #SANLess Hyper-V Failover Cluster with DataKeeper Cluster Edition

Step-by-Step: Configuring Windows Server 8 Beta iSCSI Target Software for Use in a Cluster

So you just download the bits for Windows Server 8 Beta and you are anxious to try out all the great new features including Windows Storage Spaces, Continuously Available Fail Servers and Hyper-V Availability. Many of those new features are going to require you become familiar with Windows Server Failover Clustering. In addition, things like Storage Spaces are going require that you have access to additional storage to simulate JBODS. Windows iSCSI Target Software is a great way for you to provide storage for Failover Clustering and Spaces in a lab environment so you can play around with these new features.

This Step-by-Step Article assumes you have three Windows Server 8 servers running in a domain environment. My lab environment consists of the following:

My three servers are all virtual machines running on VMware Workstation 8 on top of my Windows 7 laptop with 16 GB of RAM. See my article on how to install Windows Server 8 on VMware Workstation 8.

Server Names and Roles
PRIMARY.win8.local – my cluster node 1
SECONDARY.win8.local – my cluster node 2
WIN-EHVIK0RFBIU.win8.local – my domain controller (guess who forgot to rename his DC before I promoted it to be a Domain ControllerJ)

192.168.37.X/24 – my public network also used to carry iSCSI traffic
10.X.X.X /8– a private network defined just between PRIMARY and SECONDARY for cluster communication

This article is going to walk you through step-by-step on how to do the following:

The article consist mostly of screen shots, but I also add notes where needed.

Install the iSCSI Target Role on your Domain Controller

Click on Add roles and features to install the iSCSI target role.

You will find that the iSCSI target role is a feature that is found under File And Storage Servers/File Services. Just select iSCSI Target Server and click Next to begin the installation of the iSCSI Target Server role.

Configure the iSCSI Target

The iSCSI target software is managed under File and Storage Services on the Server Manager Dashboard, click on that to continue

The first step in creating an iSCSI target is to create an iSCSI Virtual Disk. Click on Launch the New Virtual Disk wizard to create a virtual disk.

Connect to the iSCSI Target using the iSCSI Initiator

Format the iSCSI Target

Connect to the shared iSCSI Target from the SECONDARY Server

Configure Windows Server 8 Failover Clustering

Step-by-Step: Configuring Windows Server 8 Beta iSCSI Target Software for Use in a Cluster

Hyper-V Replica Coming in Windows Server “Next”

Here is an interesting video that demonstrates “Hyper-V Replica”, a new feature coming in the next version of Windows. Skip to the 39 minute mark to see the demonstration.

It looks like a very welcome feature that certainly will make Hyper-V even more competitive when comparing the feature set vs. price between vSphere and Hyper-V, especially with the new pricing announced by VMware.

I’ll be very curious to see if this integrates with Windows Server Failover Clustering to allow you create shared nothing clusters as you can today with 3rd party replication software like SteelEye DataKeeper Cluster Edition as I demonstrated in an earlier blog post.

Hyper-V Replica Coming in Windows Server “Next”

Microsoft now officially supports the iSCSI Software Target 3.3 in production

Just a few weeks ago I wrote an article about how to configure the iSCSI Software Target 3.3 in a cluster environment. While it is great for labs and testing, up until today it was not supported in a production environment. Well…that all changes today! Microsoft just announced that the iSCSI Software Target 3.3 is a freely available download and can be used on a production network.

This all starts to get interesting once you start considering the possibility of building shared nothing iSCSI Target clusters with DataKeeper Cluster Edition. Build 2-nodes locally for HA and then place a 3rd one in a remote data center for disaster recovery. Now that is a pretty sweet HA/DR solution without having to break the bank!

Microsoft now officially supports the iSCSI Software Target 3.3 in production

Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals – Free Online Classes – March 29 – 31

Just one week after Microsoft Management Summit 2011 (MMS), Microsoft Learning will be hosting an exclusive three-day Jump Start class specially tailored for VMware and Microsoft virtualization technology pros.  Registration for “Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals” is open now and will be delivered as a FREE online class on March 29-31, 2010 from 10:00am-4:00pm PDT.


What’s the high-level overview?

  • This cutting edge course will feature expert instruction and real-world demonstrations of Hyper-V and brand new releases from System Center Virtual Machine Manager 2012 Beta (many of which will be announced just one week earlier at MMS).  Register Now!
  • Day 1 will focus on “Platform” (Hyper-V, virtualization architecture, high availability & clustering)
    • 10:00am – 10:30pm PDT:  Virtualization 360 Overview
    • 10:30am – 12:00pm:  Microsoft Hyper-V Deployment Options & Architecture
    • 1:00pm –   2:00pm:  Differentiating Microsoft and VMware (terminology, etc.)
    • 2:00pm –   4:00pm:  High Availability & Clustering
  • Day 2 will focus on “Management” (System Center Suite, SCVMM 2012 Beta, Opalis, Private Cloud solutions)
    • 10:00am – 11:00pm PDT:  System Center Suite Overview w/ focus on DPM
    • 11:00am – 12:00pm:  Virtual Machine Manager 2012 | Part 1
    • 1:00pm –   1:30pm:  Virtual Machine Manager 2012 | Part 2
    • 1:30pm –   2:30pm:  Automation with System Center Opalis & PowerShell
    • 2:30pm –   4:00pm:  Private Cloud Solutions, Architecture & VMM SSP 2.0
  • Day 3 will focus on “VDI” (VDI Infrastructure/architecture, v-Alliance, application delivery via VDI)
    • 10:00am – 11:00pm PDT:  Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Architecture | Part 1
    • 11:00am – 12:00pm:  Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) Architecture | Part 2
    • 1:00pm –   2:30pm:  v-Alliance Solution Overview
    • 2:30pm –   4:00pm:  Application Delivery for VDI

  • Every section will be team-taught by two of the most respected authorities on virtualization technologies: Microsoft Technical Evangelist Symon Perriman and leading Hyper-V, VMware, and XEN infrastructure consultant, Corey Hynes

Who is the target audience for this training?

Suggested prerequisite skills include real-world experience with Windows Server 2008 R2, virtualization and datacenter management. The course is tailored to these types of roles:

  • IT Professional
  • IT Decision Maker
  • Network Administrators & Architects
  • Storage/Infrastructure Administrators & Architects


How do I to register and learn more about this great training opportunity?

  • Register: Visit the Registration Page and sign up for all three sessions
  • Blog: Learn more from the Microsoft Learning Blog
  • Twitter: Here are a few posts you can retweet:
    • Mar. 29-31 “Microsoft #Virtualization for VMware Pros” @SymonPerriman Corey Hynes
      @MSLearning #Hyper-V
    • @SysCtrOpalis Mar. 29-31 “Microsoft #Virtualization for VMware Pros” @SymonPerriman Corey Hynes
    • Learn all the cool new features in Hyper-V & System Center 2012! SCVMM, Self-Service Portal 2.0,
      #Hyper-V #Opalis

What is a “Jump Start” course?

A “Jump Start” course is “team-taught” by two expert instructors in an engaging radio talk show style format.  The idea is to deliver readiness training on strategic and emerging technologies that drive awareness at scale before Microsoft Learning develops mainstream Microsoft Official Courses (MOC) that map to certifications.  All sessions are professionally recorded and distributed through MS Showcase, Channel 9, Zune Marketplace and iTunes for broader reach.

Please join us for this fantastic event!

Microsoft Virtualization for VMware Professionals – Free Online Classes – March 29 – 31

Hyper-V Multi-Site Demo at Tech-Ed 2010 New Orleans

If you are at Tech-Ed in New Orleans this week make sure you stop by the Windows Server Failover Cluster booth in the Technology Learning Center and have a look at the multi-site Hyper-V cluster demo using SteelEye DataKeeper Cluster Edition as the replication engine. I’ll also be in the booth to answer any questions you may have. SteelEye also has a booth at the show if you would like to discuss becoming a partner or customer!

Hyper-V Multi-Site Demo at Tech-Ed 2010 New Orleans

How to Install Service Packs into a Cluster while also Minimizing Planned Downtime

I answer this question often enough that I thought I should probably but a link to it in my blog.

This article tells you everything you need to know. However, what you may not realize is that by following the instructions in the article you are minimizing the amount of planned downtime while also giving yourself the opportunity to “test” the update on one node before your upgrade both nodes. If the upgrade does not go well on the first node, at least the application is still running on the second node until you can figure out what went wrong.

This is just one of the side benefits that you get when you cluster at the application layer vs. clustering at the hypervisor layer. If this were simply a VM in an availability group, you would have to schedule downtime to complete the application upgrade and hope that it all went well as the only failback is to restore the VM from backup. As I discussed in earlier articles, there is a benefit to clustering at the hypervisor level, but you have to understand what you are giving up as well.

How to Install Service Packs into a Cluster while also Minimizing Planned Downtime

Advanced Availability and Disaster Recovery for Hyper-V at TechDays Germany

I recently returned from a 10 day trip to Germany where I attended CeBIT and also presented at TechDays in Hannover and Essen with Microsoft Technical Evangelists Michael Korp and Ralf Schnell . The trip was very productive and the sessions were very well attended. My portion of the session focused on Advanced Availability for Hyper-V, specifically multi-site clusters, data replication and automated disaster recovery. Have a look at the video here.

Advanced Availability and Disaster Recovery for Hyper-V at TechDays Germany

Are VMware’s vSphere Disaster Recovery Options Really Better than Microsoft’s options for Hyper-V?

Every time I read a blog post, or open a magazine article about virtualization and disaster recovery I see the same thing….VMware has a more robust DR solution than Microsoft. Well, I’d like to challenge that assumption. From the view where I sit, this is actually one of the areas where Microsoft has a major competitive advantage at the moment. Here is how I see it.

VMware Site Recovery Manager

This is an optional additional add on that rides on the back of Array based replication solutions. While the recovery point objective is good due to the array based replication, the RTO is measured in hours, not minutes. Add in the fact that moving back to the primary data center is a very manual procedure which basically requires that you re-create your jobs in the opposite direction; the complete end to end recovery operation of failover and failback could take the better part of a day or longer.

Microsoft Multi-Site Cluster

Virtual machine HA clustering is included with the free version of Hyper-V Server 2008 R2, as well as with Windows Server 2008 Enterprise and Datacenter editions. In order to do multi-site clusters, it requires array based replication or host based replication solutions that integrate with Windows Server Failover Clustering. With a multi-site cluster, failover is measured in minutes (just about the time it takes to start a VM) and can be used with array based replication solutions such as EMC SRDF CE or HP MSA CLX or the much less expensive host based replication solutions such as SteelEye DataKeeper Cluster Edition.

Not only is failover quick with Hyper-V multi-site clusters, measured in just a few minutes, failback is also quick and seamless as well. Add in support for Live Migrations or Quick Migration across Data Centers, I think this is one area that Microsoft actually has a much more robust solution than VMware. Maybe it does not included automated DR tests, but when you consider you can failover and failback all in under 10 minutes, maybe an actual DR test performed monthly would give you a much better indication of what to expect in an actual disaster?

If you want a Hyper-V solution more like SRM, then there is an option there as well, it is called Citrix Essential for Hyper-V. But much like SRM, it is an optional add-on feature and really doesn’t even match the RPO and RTO features that you can achieve with basic multi-site clusters for Hyper-V.

What do you think? Am I wrong or is there something I just don’t get? From my view, Hyper-V is heads and shoulders above vSphere in terms of disaster recovery features.

Are VMware’s vSphere Disaster Recovery Options Really Better than Microsoft’s options for Hyper-V?