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FAQ: Clustering in Windows Server 2012

Clustering in Windows went through major change with the Windows Server 2012 release. Here's what's new and how to take advantage of the improvements.

We've got the answers to your questions about Windows clustering and how it works with Windows Server 2012. We included the latest expert tips to help you figure out what's new in clustering and how you can take advantage of these improvements.

Keep up with the latest tips, news and more on our Windows Server clustering topic page, or follow us on Twitter (@WindowsTT).

What existing Windows clustering features improved in Windows Server 2012?

Two major features that improved in the newest version of Windows Server are clustered shared volumes and cluster-aware updating, which can be uniformly used in a cluster-wide upgrade. Cluster shared volumes (CSVs) were expanded and revised so a VM can migrate to any node in the same cluster. Admins also have the option of having the cluster-aware updating applied automatically, which will allow clusters to stay online during the updates and move high availability to becoming the new norm.

What's new in CSV 2.0?

CSV 2.0 is a technology that makes high availability possible. CSV 2.0 allows simultaneous and direct access for a higher number of cluster nodes than was previously allowed. One major improvement with CSV 2.0 is that it now includes a single file namespace, the CSV File System, which provides consistency. CSV 2.0 now also includes support for BitLocker Encryption and VSS Backup without needing to redirect I/O across a network.

How does Virtual Machine Manager 2012 fit in with clustering?

System Center VMM 2012 improvements ease the operation of Hyper-V environments. Admins should already be happy to manage servers and server security in a single pane, but that's not all they can do with VMM. In Windows Server 2012, VMM works with its own Windows Server Update Services (WSUS) server to make sure patching occurs one at a time, and this happens while VMM also ensures VMs automatically migrate to another Hyper-V host in the cluster. This helps admins move closer to creating a highly available environment.

Will I still need Active Directory for clustering?

No. In Windows Server 2012, a cluster can gain quorum in its boot process after being initialized without needing to communicate with a domain controller. After this, other nodes can go online with no problems. These improvements were put right into the clustering service, so administrators don't have to extend schema in Active Directory or change forest or domain levels.

How do clustering and Windows Server 2012 figure into designing a virtual data center?

These designs are all possible because of Hyper-V 3.0 improvements. The first design increases resources over a single-server infrastructure without clusters or shared storage; this is thanks to Hyper-V 3.0 supporting live migration without clusters or SAN. The second design fixes a limitation of traditional active-passive file server clustering with scale-out file server. The third design involves a Hyper-V 3.0 cluster of two or more hosts with highly available storage, which lets admins cluster hosts through a scale-out file server or traditional storage connections.

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