Creating a SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn Failover Cluster (FCI) Instance in Windows Azure IaaS #Azure #Cloud

1/27/2015 UPDATE – Due to new features introduced, I have updated my guidance on deploying SQL Server clusters on Azure. The latest article can be found here:



This is the 3rd post in the series on High Availability and Disaster Recovery in Windows Azure. This post contains step-by-step instructions for implementing a Windows Server Failover Cluster in the Windows Azure IaaS Cloud between two cluster nodes in different Fault Domains. While this post focuses on building a SQL Server 2014 Failover Cluster Instance, you could protect any cluster aware application with just making some minor adjustments to the steps below. In my next post I will show you how to extend this cluster to a third node in a different datacenter for a very robust disaster recovery plan. Because Azure does not have a clustered storage option, we will use the 3rd party solution called DataKeeper Cluster Edition for our cluster storage.

This post assumes you have created a Virtual Network in Azure and you have your first DC already provisioned in Azure. If you haven’t done that yet, you will want to go ahead and have a look at the first two posts on this topic.

The high levels steps which we will illustrate in this post are as follows:

  • Provision two Windows Server 2012 R2 Servers
  • Add the servers to the domain
  • Enable the Failover Clustering feature
  • Create the cluster
  • Create a replicated volume cluster resource with DataKeeper Cluster Edition
  • Install SQL 2014 Failover Cluster Instance

Provision two Windows Server 2012 R2 Servers

Click on the Virtual Machine tab in the left column and then click the New button in the bottom left corner.

Choose New Virtual Machine From Gallarey

For our cluster we are going to choose Windows 2012 R2 Datacenter

Choose the latest Version Release Date, Name the VM and Size. The user name and password will be the local administrator account that you will use to log in to the VM to complete the configuration.

On this next page you will choose the following:

Cloud Service: I choose the same Cloud Service that I created when I provisioned my first VM. Cloud Service documentation says that it is used for load balancing, but I see no harm in putting all of the cluster VMs and DCs in the same Cloud Service for easier management. By choosing an existing Cloud Service my Virtual Network and Subnets are automatically selected for me.

Storage Account: I choose an existing Storage Account

Availability Set: This is EXTEMELY important. You want to make sure all of your VMs reside in the same Availability Set. By put putting all of your VMs in the same Availability Set you guarantee that the VMs all run in a different Fault Domain.

The last page shows the ports where this VM can be reached.

Once the VM is created you will see it as a new VM in the Azure Portal

The next step is to add additional storage to the VM. Azure best practices would have you put your databases and log files on the same volume, otherwise you must disable the Geo-replication feature that is enabled by default. The following article describes this issue in more detail:

To add additional storage to your VM, click on the VM and then Dashboard to get to the VMs dashboard. Once there, click on Attach.

There are lots of things to consider when considering storage options for SQL Server. The safest and easiest method is the one we will use in this post. We will use a single volume for our data and log files and have caching disabled. You will want to read this article for the latest information on SQL Server Performance Considerations and best practices for Azure.

After you add this additional volume, you will need to open each VM and use Disk Management to initialize and format the volumes. For the purpose of this demo we will format this volume as the “F:\” drive.

You now have one VM called SQL1. You will want to complete the same process as described about to provision another VM and call it SQL2, making sure you put it in the same Cloud Service, Availability Set and Storage Account. Also make sure to attach another volume to SQL2 just as you have done for SQL1 and format it as the F:\ drive.

When you have finished provisioning both VMs we will move forward to the next step, adding them to the domain.

Add them to domain

Adding SQL1 and SQL2 to the domain is a simple process. Assuming you have been following along with my previous posts, you have already created your domain and have a DC called DC2 provisioned in the same Cloud Service as SQ1 and SQL2. Adding them to the domain is as simple as connecting to the VMs and adding the VMs to the domain just as you would for in a regular on-premise network. If you configured the Virtual Network properly the new VMs should boot with an IP address assigned by DHCP which specifies the local DC2 and the domain controller.

Click Connect to open an RDP session to SQL1 and SQL2

IPconfig /all shows the current IP configuration. Windows Azure requires that you leave the addresses set to use the DHCP server, however the IP address will not change for the life of the VM. You should notice that your DNS server is set to the local DNS server that you created in the previous article previously.

Add SQL1 and SQL2 to the domain and continue with the next steps.

Enable Failover Clustering feature

On both SQL1 and SQL2 you will enable the Failover Clustering feature

Create Cluster

If you are familiar with clustering then the following steps should be very familiar to you with just a few exceptions, so pay close attention to avoid problems that are specific to deploying clusters in Windows Azure.

We will start by creating a single node cluster, this will allow us to make the necessary adjustment to the cluster name resource before we add the second node to the cluster. Use Failover Cluster Manager and start by choosing Create Cluster. Add SQL1 to the selected servers and click Next.

In order for us to install SQL Server 2014 into the cluster at the later steps, we will need to complete cluster Validation

Step through the rest of the cluster creation process as shown below. We will call this cluster SQLCLUSTER, which is simply the name we use to manage the cluster. This is NOT the name that you client applications will eventually connect to.

Once the cluster create process completes, you will notice that the cluster name resource fails to come online, this is expected.

The name resource failed to come online because the IP resource failed to come online. The IP address failed to come online because the address that the DHCP server handed out is the same as the physical address of the server, in this case, so there is a duplicate IP address conflict.

In order to fix this, we will need to go into the properties of the IP Address resource and change the address to another address in the same subnet that is not currently in use. I would select an address that is at the higher end of the subnet range in order to reduce the possibility that in the future you might deploy a new VM and Azure will hand out that cluster IP address, causing an IP address conflict. In order to eliminate this possibility, Microsoft will have to allow us more control over the DHCP address pool. For now, the only way to completely eliminate that possibility is to create a new subnet in the Virtual Private Network for any new VMs that you might deploy later, so only this cluster resides in this subnet. If you DO plan to deploy more VMs in this subnet, you might as well deploy them all at the same time so you know which IP addresses they will use, that way you can use whatever IP addresses are left of for the cluster(s).

To change the IP address, choose the Properties of the IP Address cluster resource and specify the new address.

Once the address is changed, right click on the Cluster Name resource and tell it to come online.

We are now ready to add the the second node to the cluster. In the Failover Cluster Manager, select Add Node

Browse out to your second node and click Add.

Run all the validation tests once again.

When you click finish, you will see that the node was added successfully, but because there is no shared storage in Azure, no disk witness for the quorum could be created. We will fix that next.

We now need to add a File Share Witness to our cluster to ensure the quorum requirements for two node cluster are satisfied. The file share witness will be configured on the DC2 server, the domain controller that is also running in the Azure Cloud.

Open up a RDP session to the domain controller in your Azure Private Cloud

Connect to your domain controller and create a file share called “Quorum”. You will need to give the Cluster Computer Name Object (which we called SQLCluster in this example) read/write permissions at both the Share level and Security (NTFS) level. If you are not familiar with creating a file share witness, you may want to review my previous post for more detail.

Once the file share witness folder is created on the domain controller, we need to add the witness in the cluster configuration using the Failover Cluster Manager on SQL1

The File Share Witness should now be configured as shown below.

Create Replicated Volume Cluster Resource with DataKeeper Cluster Edition

A traditional failover cluster requires a shared storage device, like a SAN. The Azure IaaS cloud does not offer a storage solution that is capable of being used as a cluster disk, so we will use the 3rd party data replication solution called DataKeeper Cluster Edition which will allow us to create a replicate volume resource which can be used in place of a shared disk. A 14-day trial license is generally available for testing upon request.

Once you download DataKeeper, install it and license it on both SQL1 and SQL2 and reboot the servers. Once the servers reboot, connect to SQL1, launch the DataKeeper UI and complete the steps below.

Connect” to both SQL1 and SQL2

Now click on “Create Job” and follow the steps illustrated below to create the mirror and DataKeeper Volume cluster resource.

Choose the source of the mirror. When you choose the IP Address for the source and target, be sure to choose IP address of the server itself, DO NOT CHOOSE THE CLUSTER IP ADDRESS!

For this implementation where both nodes are in the Azure Cloud, choose synchronous replication with no compression, as shown below.

Click Done and you will be asked if you want to register this mirror in Windows Server Failover Clustering. Click Yes.

You will now see there is DataKeeper Volume Resource in Available Storage when you open the Windows Server Failover Cluster GUI

You are now ready to install SQL Server into the cluster.

Install SQL 2014 Failover Cluster Instance

To start the SQL Server 2014 cluster installation, you must download the SQL 2014 ISO to SQL1 and SQL2. You can use SQL Server 2014 Standard Edition for a simple two node cluster. If you want to extend this cluster to a 3rd site for disaster recovery as we will discuss in the next post, then you will need the Enterprise Edition because the Standard Edition only supports a 2-node cluster. If you are only looking for a simple two node solution than SQL Server Standard Edition can be a much more economical solution.

Once SQL Server 2014 is downloaded to the servers, mount the ISO and run the setup. The option that we want is to open is in the Advanced tab. Open the Advanced tab and run the “Advanced cluster preparation“. My good friend and fellow Cluster MVP, Robert Smit, told me about using the Advanced option. Basically, the Advanced option lets you split the install into two different processes, preparation and completion. Many things can go wrong with cluster installations, usually related to active directory and privileges. If you use the standard install method you may wait 20 minutes or longer for the installation to complete, only to find out that at the last minute the cluster was unable to register the CNO in active directory and the whole installation fails. Not only did the whole installation fail, now you may have a partially installed SQL Server cluster and you have a mess to clean up. By using the Advanced method you are able to minimize the risk by putting the risky section just at the end during cluster completion. If cluster completion fails, you simply need to diagnose the problem and re-run just the cluster completion process once again.

If you really want to save some time, check out Robert’s article on installing SQL Cluster with a configuration file, it is pretty easy to do and saves a bunch of time if you are doing multiple installations. However, for our purposes we will walk through the SQL install with the GUI as shown below.

For demo purposes, I just used the administrator account for each of the services. In production you will want to create separate accounts for each service as a best practice.

Once the install completes it looks like this.

Now we are ready to move forward with part two of the installation, Advanced Cluster Completion.

Give the SQL instance a name. This is the name the clients will connect to. In this case I called it SQLINSTANCE1.

This is where the magic happens. If you configured the mirror in DataKeeper as described earlier, you will see the DataKeeper Volume listed here as an Available Shared Disk, when actually it is simply a replicated volume pair.

One the Cluster Network Configuration page, it is important to choose IPv4 and to specify an address that is not in use in your subnet. As stated before, this address should be at the higher end of the DHCP range to help minimize the risk that Azure will assign that address to another VM in the future. I highly suggest that you have a subnet that is dedicated to your cluster to avoid possible conflicts until Windows Azure offers us greater control over the IP addresses and DHCP ranges. Later, after the cluster is created, you will need to delete this client access point and add the client access point as described in I will publish a blog post in the future that describes this process in detail.

On this page make sure you Click Add Current User, or specify the accounts you wish to use to administer SQL Server.

Starting with SQL Server 2012, tempdb no longer needs to be part of the SQL Server Cluster. If you move the tempdb to a non-replicated volume, you will need to make sure that directory structure exists on each node. To change the location of the tempdb, click on the Data Directories tab and change the location where the tempdb is located.

When the installation completes on SQL1, it is time to run the SQL installer on SQL2 and add the second node to the cluster. Run the Setup on SQL2 and choose Add node to a SQL Server failover cluster.

After the installation completes, you now have a fully functional SQL Server AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance (FCI) running on the Azure Cloud. Each instance is in a different Fault Domain providing a high level of resiliency. Be sure to replace the client access point with a client access point as described in my post…

In the next post in this series I will show you how to extend this two node cluster to a third node for a multi-site cluster. This third-node will be located in my on-premise data center, which will give us the ultimate in both high availability and disaster recovery.

Creating a SQL Server 2014 AlwaysOn Failover Cluster (FCI) Instance in Windows Azure IaaS #Azure #Cloud

Installing SQL Server 2008 R2 in a Windows Server 2012 Cluster

If you want to install ANY version of SQL Server in a Windows Server 2012 environment I highly recommend you read the following KB article.

In particular, I ran into this error while trying to install SQL Server 2008 R2 on Windows Server 2012 and was running into the following error (among others).

Figure 1 – Rule “Cluster service verification” failed

The fix is simple, as described in the KB article, simply enable the Failover Cluster Automation Server in the Add Roles and Features wizard or via the following Powershell command:

add-windowsfeature RSAT-Clustering-AutomationServer

That fix will resolve the other Setup Support Rules errors including the cluster validation error and any errors about cluster storage. You should be able to re-run the SQL installation and it will pass all the Setup Support Rules and allow you to continue with the cluster install.

Of course all this assumes you have slipstreamed at least SP1 onto your SQL install media. If you try to install without SP1 or later you will also run into lots of problems.

Installing SQL Server 2008 R2 in a Windows Server 2012 Cluster

SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn Multisite Failover Cluster Instance White Paper

Here is an excellent white paper on SQL Server Multisite Clusters, however they forget to mention that you can also do this with host based replication. Instead, they assume you have “two EMC Symmetrix VMAX enterprise storage arrays, one at each site. The arrays were both configured with two VMAX storage engines and 240 disk drives”. If you have a million plus dollars in your budget for storage, go ahead and knock yourself out. If not, you may want to look into some Fusion-io PCIe Flash storage and host based replication with DataKeeper cluster edition, faster than a SAN at a fraction of the cost with all the availability. Check out how Polaris Industries did just this



SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn Multisite Failover Cluster Instance White Paper

SQL Server High Availability in AWS #Cloud

Have you been thinking about moving to the cloud? The potential cost savings makes it nearly impossible not to consider. The cost justification is usually easy to figure out and the cloud almost always comes out looking like a good investment. However, after you stop counting the money you are going to save you start thinking about things like security and availability and wonder whether the cloud is for you.

In a traditional data center you have the control and can deploy whatever security and high availability solution you like. However, once you decide to move your servers to the cloud your choices can become much more limited. It doesn’t matter whether you’re with Amazon, Google or Microsoft, outages in the cloud can and do occur and you need to do whatever you can to mitigate such risks.

Let’s take a closer look at Amazon Web Services (AWS) for instance. What are the options you have to ensure that your SQL Server database can survive an unexpected outage? While some applications can be deployed in a load balanced configuration across multiple availability zones, SQL Server is generally not deployed in a load balanced configuration. What this means is that SQL Server itself resides in a single availability zone and if that zone should become unavailable, your whole application stack can come to a grinding halt.

If you read this article by Miles Ward, you will see that with SQL Server 2008 R2 your availability options are pretty limited. In that article on page 11 there is a nice chart that lays out your HA options. As you will see, the options are severely limited and mostly fall outside of the category which would be described as HA. Log shipping, mirroring and transactional replication are pretty much the only options you have, and they are more of a data protection options rather than HA options. If you want Microsoft failover clustering you will find yourself out of luck due to some network limitations (clients can’t connect to a clustered IP address) in AWS and the lack of a shared disk resource required for traditional SQL clusters.

If you are looking to deploy SQL Server 2012, your options get a little better. As described by Jeremy Peschka, with a little manual intervention you can deploy AlwaysOn Availability Groups in AWS to do asynchronous replication from your data center to AWS, or even between AWS availability groups. Of course this assumes you have the SQL 2012 Enterprise license required for AlwaysOn Availability Groups. The only “issue” is that AWS really doesn’t support moving cluster IP address from one server to another, so client redirection has to be done manually using the ec2-unassign-private-ip-addresses and ec2-assign-private-ip-addresses commands after switchover that Peschka describes in his article. All-in-all this is a very manual process, which again does not really fit the description of a highly available system.

If you can live without automated recovery and with the limitations of AlwaysOn Availability Groups that I described in a previous blog post, then you might just want to go ahead and try the AlwaysOn Availability Group deployment in AWS. However, if you are looking for an easier, more affordable, more robust HA solution, I have some really good news. SIOS Technology Corp has been looking at this problem and has developed a solution that overcomes all of the limitations previously described and will be available as an AMI for easy deployment. This solution is currently in private beta, but will be widely available later this year.

The SIOS solution is based on SQL server in a Microsoft Failover Clustering using DataKeeper Cluster Edition host based replication. By using hosted based replication they have overcome the first obstacle of clustering in EC2 – lack of shared storage. The second obstacle that SIOS had to overcome was the issue of client redirection described by Peschka; the client access point needs to be manipulated from within EC2, not failover clustering. SIOS has built intelligence into their AMI solution such that the reassigning of the IP address is automated as part of the cluster failover process, effectively simulating the behavior you would normally expect from a cluster.

And because all of this is built on top of failover clustering, this can be deployed using SQL 2008/2008 R2 or 2012. Even the Standard Edition of SQL Server will support a 2-node cluster so the cost savings vs. deploying SQL 2012 AlwaysOn Availability groups could be substantial.

Let me know what you think. Does this solution sound interesting? What are you doing today to ensure the availability of your SQL Server EC2 instances?

SQL Server High Availability in AWS #Cloud

Clustering SQL Server 2012 on Windows Server 2012 Step-by-Step

In my previous post I walked through the process of building a 2-node cluster up to the point where we are ready to start configuring the cluster resources. If you have completed those steps you are ready to move on and actually create your clustered application. First up, we have SQL Server 2012. SQL Server 2012 cluster installation is pretty much identical to SQL 2008/2008 R2 cluster installations, so most of this will apply even if you are using SQL 2008/2008 R2. The terminology around SQL Server 2012 Clustering gets a little convoluted. You will hear mention of SQL Server AlwaysOn, which essentially could mean one of two different things: AlwaysOn Availability Groups or AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance. The confusion arises because both solutions require some level of integration with Windows Server Failover Clustering and it is even further confused by the fact that you can deploy a combination of AlwaysOn Availability Groups and AlwaysOn Failover Clustering, but that is a topic for another day!

I’ll break it down in easy to understand terms. Essentially AlwaysOn Availability Groups is what used to be called Database Mirroring in SQL 2008 R2 and earlier. It has some new bells and whistles that overcome some of the limitations of earlier versions of database mirroring, so it is certainly worth checking it out. AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance is simply what used to be called a SQL Server Failover Cluster. This is the latest edition of the same clustering technology that has been available since early versions of SQL Server. One of the best new features of SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance is the ability to have nodes in different subnets. This was a major limitation in earlier versions of SQL Server. In a previous blog entry I discussed some of the limitations of AlwaysOn Availability Groups, you should check that out before you make any decisions on which technology to deploy.

With that said, this article is going to focus on the Step-by-Step instructions on deploying a SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance.

Step 1 is to make sure your cluster storage is ready. If you followed the instructions in my previous post, you will know that instead of a shared disk resource, we are going to use a replicated disk resource using the 3rd party software DataKeeper Cluster Edition. If you are using shared storage and have added the storage than you can skip right to Step 2 where we begin the SQL install. Otherwise, follow the steps below to configure DataKeeper Cluster Edition to replicate the local disks for use in a SQL cluster.

  1. Install and configure DataKeeper Cluster Edition
    1. Run DK Setup
    2. Go through the entire installation process selecting all of the default values.

    3. Restart the computer after the installation completes as prompted and repeat the process on the SECONDARY server
    4. Launch the DataKeeper UI on PRIMARY and click Connect to Server. Connect to PRIMARY and then connect to SECONDARY

    5. Click on Create Job and walk through the Create Job wizard to create a mirror of the E drive

      Choose the source volume of the mirror and the IP address of the NIC that will carry the replication traffic.

      Choose the target of the mirror and click Next

      Here you will choose your mirror options:
      Compression – only enable for replication across a WAN
      Asynchronous – choose this for all WAN replication
      Synchronous – this is ideal for LAN replication
      Maximum bandwidth – used in WAN replication as a way to put a cap on the amount of bandwidth replication is allowed to use. Generally it should be left on 0, however for initial mirror creation you may want to limit the bandwidth so replication does not use all available bandwidth to do the initial synchronization

      Once you click Done the mirror will be created.

      Once the mirror is created you will be prompted to register the volume in Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC). Click Yes and a new DataKeeper Volume Resource will be registered in Available Storage (see picture in Step 2).
  2. In Step 2 we are going to begin the installation of SQL Server 2012 on the first cluster node.
    1. Before we begin, make sure your storage appears in Failover Cluster Manager and is assigned to the Available Storage group as shown below
    2. At this point we are going to launch the SQL Server 2012 setup and go to the Installation Tab and click New SQL Server failover cluster installation
    3. Step through the installation as shown in the following screen shots.

      The following error is expected if your servers are not connected to the internet. If you are connected to the internet you should go ahead and accept the updates it finds.

      For Service Account best practices read the following:

      For our lab purposes I am just using the Administrator account

      Before you click next, click on the Data Directories tab and change the location of tempdb. With Windows Server 2012 tempdb no longer has to reside on the cluster storage. In our example we are moving tempdb to the C drive to avoid replicating unnecessary data.

      At this point you will need to make sure to create the same tempdb directory on the SECONDARY server as advised by the warning.

      Congratulations, the 1st cluster node has been installed.

  3. We are now ready to install SQL on the second node of the cluster.
    1. Go to the SECONDARY server and launch the SQL Server 2012 Setup and follow the wizard as shown in the following screen shots, starting with clicking on Add node to a SQL Server failover cluster.

      The following error is expected if your servers are not connected to the internet. If you are connected to the internet you should go ahead and accept the updates it finds.

  4. Congratulations – you have built a 2-node SQL Server 2012 AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance. Open up Failover Cluster Manager and you should see something that looks like this.

    This article was meant to be just a quick run through on how to install SQL 2012 in a Windows Server 2012 cluster. For additional reading start here and let Google be your friend!

Clustering SQL Server 2012 on Windows Server 2012 Step-by-Step

Windows Server 2012 Clustering Step-by-Step

This article is the first in a series of articles on Clustering Windows Server 2012. This first article covers the basics first steps of any cluster, regardless of whether you are clustering Hyper-V, SQL Server Failover Clusters, File Servers, iSCSI Target Server or others. Future articles will cover more detailed instructions for each cluster resource type, but the following information is applicable to ALL clusters.

I’m assuming you know a little bit about clusters and why you would want to build one, so I won’t go into those details in this particular post. I also assume you are familiar with Windows Server 2012 and basic things like DNS, AD, etc. It is also worth noting that in Windows Server 2012 failover clustering comes with every edition, unlike Windows Server 2008 R2 and earlier where failover clustering was only included in Enterprise Edition and above.

This particular series will focus on a basic 2-node cluster, where we have two servers (named PRIMARY and SECONDARY) running Windows Server 2012 in a Windows Server 2012 Domain (domain controller named DC). It also assumes that PRIMARY and SECONDARY can communicate with each other over two network connections I have labeled PUBLIC and PRIVATE. In production scenarios these network connections should run through entirely different network gear (switches, routers, etc) to eliminate any single point of failure.

This series will be written in a very basic, step-by-step style that walks you through the process in an ordered list with basic instructions and plenty of screen shots to help illustrate the procedure where needed. So let’s begin at the beginning…

  1. Add the Failover Clustering Feature on all of the servers you want to add to the cluster
    1. Open the Server Manager Dashboard (this 1st step will need to be completed on both PRIMARY and SECONDARY)
    2. Click on Add roles and features
    3. Choose Role-based or feature-based installation

    4. Choose the server on which you wish to enable the failover cluster feature

    5. Skip over the Server Roles page
    6. On the Features page select Failover Clustering and click Next and then confirm the installation

  2. Before we start configuring the cluster, we need to consider what kind of storage the cluster will use. Traditionally clusters will use some sort of SAN, but with Windows 2012 not all clusters will use a SAN. For instance, if you are building a cluster to support SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups your storage will be replicated by SQL Server, eliminating the need for a SAN. Also, with SMB 3.0 being support as cluster storage for Hyper-V and SQL Server you may not have a traditional SAN for storage. And let’s not forget clustered Storage Spaces with shared SAS drives is also a possibility in Windows Server 2012. In addition to the options mentioned above, you also can use local disks and 3rd party host based replication solutions like DataKeeper Cluster Edition which is an excellent alternative which I blog about pretty frequently.

    For the purposes of this post, I am going to assume you have no shared storage. However, if you do have shared storage at this point you should configure you storage such that you have LUN(s) carved out and shared with each of the cluster nodes with one LUN being used as a disk witness and the remaining LUNs can be used for the application which you want to cluster. In lieu of a disk witness for our quorum, I am going to use a node and file share witness quorum type which I will explain later.

  3. Now that Failover Clustering is enabled on each server, you can open the Failover Cluster Manager on your PRIMARY server. The first thing we will want to do is to run “Validate Configuration” so we can identify any potential issues before we begin. Click on Validate Cluster

  4. Step through the Validate a Configuration Wizard as shown in the following steps.
    1. Select the servers you want to cluster
    2. Run all tests (depending on what roles you have installed on the servers you may get more or less tests. For instance, if Hyper-V is enabled there are new Hyper-V specific tests for clusters)
    3. Assuming you cluster “passed” validation you should have a report that looks similar to mine. You will notice that my report contains “warnings” but no errors. It is important for you to view the report and understand what warnings might be present, but you as long as you understand the warnings and they make sense for your particular environment you can move on. If you validation “failed”, you MUST fix the failures before moving on. Click View Report to view the report
    4. You will see all of my warnings are related to storage, so I am not concerned since I have not configured any shared storage, so I would expect some of these thests to produce warnings.


  1. Once Validation completes without any errors, you will automatically be thrown into the Create Cluster Wizard. Walk through this wizard as shown below to create your basic cluster.
    1. In this first screen you will choose a name for your cluster and pick an IP address that will be associated with this name in DNS. This name is just the name used to manage your cluster – this is NOT the name that your clients will use to connect to the clustered resource(s) you will eventually create. Once you create this access point a new computer object will be created in AD with this name and a DNS A record will be created with this name and IP address.
    2. On the confirmation screen you will see the name and IP address you selected. You will also see an option which is new with Windows Server 2012 failover clustering…”Add all eligible storage to the cluster”. Personally I’m not sure why this is selected by default, as this option can really confuse things. By default, this selection will add all shared storage (if you have it configured) to the cluster, but I have also seen it add just local, non-shared disks, to the cluster as well. I suppose they want to make it easy to support symmetric storage, but generally any host based or array based replication solutions are going to have some pretty specific instructions on how to add symmetric storage to the cluster and generally this option to add all disks to the cluster is more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to asymmetric storage. For our case, since I have no shared storage configured and I don’t want the cluster adding any local disks to the cluster for me automatically I have unchecked the Add all eligible storage to the cluster option.

    3. After you click next you will see that the cluster has finished the creation process, but there may be some warnings. In our case the warnings are probably related to the quorum configuration which we will take care of in the next step. Click View Report to check out any warnings.

      You see that the warning is telling use to change the quorum type.
  2. Because we have no shared storage, we will not be using a Node and Disk Majority quorum as suggested. Instead, we will use and Node and File Share Majority quorum. The following steps will help us configure the Node and File Majority Quorum
    1. A File Share Witness needs to be configured on a server that is not part of the cluster. A file share witness is a basic file share that the cluster computer name (MYCLUSTER in our case) has read/write access. The first step involves creating this file share. In our example, we are going to create a file share on our DC and give MYCLUSTER read/write access to it.
    2. The file share does not need to reside on a Windows 2012 server, but it does need to be on a Windows Server in the same domain as the cluster. The important thing to remember is that the cluster computer name that we created needs read/write access at both the share level and NTFS level. The following are some screen shots that walk you through this process on the DC server which is running Windows Server 2012 in my lab.

    3. Now that we have the file share created on DC, we will go back to PRIMARY and use the Failover Cluster Manager to change the quorum type as shown in the following steps.

      If by chance this wizard fails, it is most likely related to the permissions on the file share. Make sure you give the cluster computer name read/write permissions at BOTH the file share and security (NTFS) level and try again.
  3. You now have a basic 2-node cluster and are ready to move on to the next step…creating your cluster resources. I will be publishing a series of articles on how to cluster different resources, starting with SQL 2012 in my next post.


Windows Server 2012 Clustering Step-by-Step

How to Overcome the Limitations of SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups #SQLPASS

After hearing all of the great sessions at SQL PASS Summit on Availability Groups are you thinking about biting the bullet and writing the check to upgrade to SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition to take advantage of this great feature? Before you get your checkbook out, stop and ask yourself these questions.

Do I use/need

  • to lower my SQL Server cost?
  • replication or log shipping?
  • to minimize the impact that replication has on the performance of my application?
  • Lync Server, Dynamics CRM or other applications that use distributed transactions?
  • to ensure that SQL Agent jobs such as database backups, optimizations, DTS and others continue to run regardless of the node in service?
  • to ensure that SQL login accounts are kept in sync between cluster nodes?
  • to minimize my administrative burden?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to reconsider your options when it comes to your SQL Server HA/DR deployment. While AlwaysOn Availability Groups certainly have their place, you may want to consider the overhead associate with them as I discussed in my previous article. Also, you really need to consider what applications will be utilizing the SQL Server database as not all applications support AlwaysOn Availability Groups, including many of Microsoft’s applications such as Lync Server and others (check your application documentation).

What I would propose instead is to consider building a traditional active/passive cluster which overcomes all of the limitations listed above, but instead of using shared storage use the cluster integrated block level replication solution from SIOS Technology called SteelEye DataKeeper Cluster Edition. Using this replication solution you are able to eliminate the SAN as a single point of failure as well as eliminate all of the limitations associated with AlwaysOn Availability Groups listed above. When you consider the possibility of using high speed local storage solutions such as @Fusionio in conjunction with DataKeeper you can have a high speed, highly available SQL Server cluster with a minimal investment in hardware and software. And best of all, this solution works with SQL 2005/2008/2008R2/2012 Standard Edition as well as Enterprise Edition, so the cost saving alone on SQL Server licensing can more than pay for the solution (more on costs saving in my next post).

You can by a 2 server pre-package solution that includes HP, Dell or Supermicro servers, Fusion-io ioDrives and DataKeeper software to help you deploy you first high speed, highly available SQL cluster. For more information see the press release here.


How to Overcome the Limitations of SQL Server AlwaysOn Availability Groups #SQLPASS