Windows Tips & Tricks UPDATE--January 10, 2005

Windows Tips &amp Tricks UPDATE, January 10, 2005, —brought to you by the Windows IT Pro Network and the Windows 2000 FAQ site
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FAQs

  • Q. How can I create a new cluster in Windows Server 2003?
  • Q. How can I add nodes to a Windows Server 2003 cluster?
  • Q. What configuration must I perform for the NICs in my Windows Server 2003 cluster nodes?
  • Q. How can I check which disk is the quorum disk for my Windows Server 2003 cluster?
  • Q. What's the recommended disk configuration for an Exchange Server system?

Commentary
by John Savill, FAQ Editor, [email protected]

This week, I tell you how to create a new cluster in Windows Server 2003, how to add nodes to a Windows 2003 cluster, and how to configure NICs in Windows 2003 cluster nodes. I also explain how to check which disk is the quorum disk for a Windows 2003 cluster and describe the recommended disk configuration for an Exchange Server system.


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FAQs

Q. How can I create a new cluster in Windows Server 2003?

A. To create a new cluster in Windows 2003, perform the following steps. (Note that if you want to create a cluster that contains more than one node by using default mode, you'll need to create a quorum disk and configure multiple NICs for the nodes.)

  1. Start Cluster Administrator (Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Cluster Administrator).
  2. You'll see the Open Connection to Cluster dialog box. Under Action, select "Create new cluster" and click OK.
  3. At the New Server Cluster Wizard welcome screen, click Next.
  4. At the wizard page that the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clustercreate2.gif shows, enter the cluster's domain (the machine's local domain is selected by default) and a logical name for the cluster. The logical name isn't a virtual machine name but simply a name for the cluster. However, it must still be a valid NetBIOS name (15 characters maximum). Enter the required information and click Next.
  5. You're then asked to select the first node that will be part of the new cluster. Select the current node (it's selected by default) and click Next.
  6. Cluster Administrator will perform a check to ensure that the box that you selected as the first node is compatible with cluster functionality. After the check is finished, click Next.
  7. Next, at the wizard page that the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clustercreate5.gif shows, you must provide an IP address that will be used to manage the entire cluster. Note that this is a new address, not the IP address of the new cluster node. Enter the address and click Next.
  8. At the wizard page that the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clustercreate6.gif shows, you need to enter information for the domain account under which the cluster service will run. The account must have local administrator privileges and will be granted additional rights after you've selected it. After you enter the account information, click Next.
  9. Next, you'll see a summary of the information you entered on the previous screens, which the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clustercreate7.gif shows. Click Next to begin the cluster installation. Alternatively, if you want to view which drive has been selected as the quorum disk and, if necessary, change it to another disk or a majority node quorum, click Quorum. (By default, Cluster Administrator selects as the quorum drive the smallest NTFS drive greater than 50MB.)
  10. After the cluster installation is finished, click Next, then click Finish.

Q. How can I add nodes to a Windows Server 2003 cluster?

A. To add a node to a Windows 2003 cluster, perform the following steps. (Remember that additional nodes must be in the same domain as the other cluster members and running the same processor type--for example, all 32-bit or all 64-bit.)

  1. Start Cluster Administrator (Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Cluster Administrator). Doing so should automatically open your existing cluster.
  2. Right-click the cluster and select New - Node from the displayed context menu.
  3. At the Add Nodes Wizard welcome screen, click Next.
  4. At the wizard page that the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clusternodeadd1.gif shows, select the computers that you want to add to the cluster (make sure they appear in the "Selected computers" area), then click Next.
  5. Cluster Administrator will perform the necessary checks on the computers you added. After all checks are completed, click Next.
  6. You're prompted to enter the password for the domain account that's used to run the cluster service, which will have local administrator rights on all the new nodes. Enter the account password and click Next.
  7. At the next page, which shows the proposed cluster configuration, click Next to begin configuring the additional nodes.
  8. When the node configuration is finished, click Next, then click Finish.

Q. What configuration must I perform for the NICs in my Windows Server 2003 cluster nodes?

A. You need at least two NICs for a cluster: one for the internal cluster communications (i.e., the heartbeat) and one for general (i.e., public) access by clients and administration. To configure the NICs for their specific uses, perform these steps:

  1. Start Cluster Administrator (Start, Programs, Administrative Tools, Cluster Administrator). Doing so should automatically open your existing cluster.
  2. Expand Cluster Configuration and select Networks.
  3. Right-click the NIC that will be used for internal communications and select Properties.
  4. On the General tab, which the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clustersetnicuse.gif shows, select the "Internal cluster communications only (private network)" option and click OK.
  5. Repeat the process for the NIC that will be used for public communications; however, select the "All communications (mixed network)" option, which ensures that the cluster will continue performing its internal communications even if the internal communications NIC fails. (The mixed-network option is the Microsoft best-practice approach.) Although you could select the "Client access only (public network)" option, doing so would result in the cluster experiencing communications problems if the internal communications NIC failed.

If you have additional NICs installed in cluster nodes that you don't want to use for clustering, clear the "Enable this network for cluster use" check box in the properties of each NIC that you don't want to use.

Finally, within the cluster configuration, perform these steps to ensure that the internal NIC has a higher priority than the public NIC:

  1. Right-click the cluster name (the top or root object in the left pane of the Cluster Administrator console), then select Properties from the displayed context menu.
  2. Select the Network Priority tab.
  3. At the page that the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clusternicconfig.gif shows, make sure that the private, or heartbeat, NIC is at the top of the list box.
  4. Click OK.

Q. How can I check which disk is the quorum disk for my Windows Server 2003 cluster?

A. Start Cluster Administrator, then right-click the cluster's name and select Properties. Select the Quorum tab, and you'll see the current quorum disk in the "Quorum resource" drop-down list, which the figure at http://www.windowsitpro.com/content/content/45053/clustquorumdrive.gif shows. If you want to change the quorum disk, select a new quorum resource from the list. You can find more detailed information about quorum disks in the Microsoft article "How to Change the Quorum Disk Designation" at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=280353.

Q. What's the recommended disk configuration for an Exchange Server system?

A. Exchange Server is effectively a service to a back-end database--the Extensible Storage Engine (ESE); thus, disk performance is a major factor in the performance of your Exchange Server implementation. It's therefore vital that you segregate your OS, transaction logs, and database in an optimal configuration, as follows:

  • OS (includes the Exchange Server binaries): RAID 1 (mirrored)
  • Storage group (SG) transaction logs: RAID 1 (mirrored)--Each SG has its own transaction logs and should have separate physical disks. The disks that comprise the RAID 1 drive should be on separate controllers to avoid bottlenecks during write operations. RAID 1 is used instead RAID 5 because RAID 1 performs better for write operations.
  • Databases: RAID 5 (striped with parity)--RAID 5 performs better for multiple-read environments, such as databases. An alternative to using RAID 5 for database storage is to use RAID 0+1, which is a stripe set without parity. The disks that comprise the stripe set are mirrored. However, sites typically don't choose to use RAID 0+1 for databases because of their high cost (i.e., half of the disk space isn't usable).

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