Guide to clustering in Windows Server 2012

This Windows Server 2012 clustering guide covers what's new and what's improved, including the role of PowerShell cmdlets, the Cluster-Aware Update Wizard and maintaining high availability during cluster updates.

The release of Windows Server 2012 came with many changes, but some of the most striking changes came to clustering. In previous versions of Windows Server, clustering was thought to be unstable and complicated because of numerous limitations and dependencies. But in Windows Server 2012, Microsoft got rid of those and simplified the clustering process.

While admins consider an upgrade to Windows Server 2012, clustering improvements are something to add into the mix. In addition to no more irritating limitations and dependencies, admins can expect to see changes in managing failover clusters as Microsoft continues to push for management through PowerShell cmdlets. The Cluster-Aware Update Wizard gets rid of manual updating to ease the update process. And with improvements to CSV 2.0 and SMB 3.0, high availability can become the new reality for admins.

In this guide, you'll learn everything you need to know about what's new with clustering in Windows Server 2012.

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Table of contents:

What an upgrade to Windows Server 2012 means for clustering

What should admins expect when upgrading to Windows Server 2012 for clustering? For example, admins should know they can't run Windows Server 2012 systems in previous versions of Windows Server because the new clustering features aren't backward-compatible. This may be a downside for some, but with the expansion of Cluster Shared Volumes functionality and high availability coming from the rolling application of cluster-aware updates, admins have good reason to consider it.

PowerShell cmdlets manage failover clusters in Windows Server 2012

Microsoft has been pushing PowerShell in Windows Server 2012, so it should come as no surprise that it's also being pushed to manage failover clustering. There are over 80 PowerShell cmdlets that can be used, including the addition of a scale-out file server, Cluster-Aware Updating and iSCSI Target Server roles. It's also possible to create, configure and troubleshoot clusters with PowerShell cmdlets.

Clustering is stabilized after improvements in Windows Server 2012

In Windows Server 2012, clustering improvements bring big changes for admins. These improvements -- which include read-only domain controller support, full availability in the Standard edition and not needing access to Active Directory -- do away with much of clustering's instability from limits and dependencies in previous versions of Windows Server.

Update Wizard eases updating process, brings high availability within reach

The Cluster-Aware Update Wizard in Windows Server 2012 may be one of the most talked about features. The Update Wizard, which removes the need for manual updating and simplifies the cluster-updating process, enables a high availability environment -- including during cluster updates. If these improvements aren't enough to get admins excited, the support for automation and plug-ins is the icing on the clustering cake.

High availability is the name of the game with failover clustering

In Windows Server 2012, failover clustering can be configured to work with scale-out file servers and support thousands of users in an enterprise infrastructure with the help of improvements to SMB 3.0 and CSV 2.0. These enhancements help enterprises move toward a highly available environment with more reliability and continuous file sharing capabilities than ever before.

Design a virtual data center with clustering and Hyper-V 3.0

When paired with Hyper-V 3.0, clustering in Windows Server 2012 helps admins design virtual data centers. There are three major designs admins can pursue. The first takes advantage of Hyper-V 3.0's live migration support without clusters or storage area network (SAN) and expands resources with a single-server infrastructure minus the shared storage. The second repairs limitations of active-passive server clustering. The third uses a Hyper-V 3.0 cluster of hosts that have highly available storage and clusters hosts with traditional storage connections or a scale-out file server.