What a Fail Over Cluster can do for us?

Cluster/ActivePassive/ActiveActive/SingleInstance/MultiInstance/Failover/Nodes/Services/Offline/Online….all these are the words which you will be listening very often if you are working with Windows Servers. (I’ll not be explaining all those terms and terminologies here in this blog post. They will be covered in another Blog post under Installing SQL Server Cluster.)
So what exactly is a Cluster? Let me try to explain it in understandable English language :-p
Let’s assume you’ve a very critical Application which your company CEO needs all the time to make his critical decisions for your company growth and it has SQL Server as its Backend and you are that awesome DBA who is supporting that SQL Server. Let’s say on one unfortunate day your Windows Server where you installed your SQL Server (let’s call it as ServerA) went down for some reason and Windows team is working on to bring server UP. Throughout this period when server was down your CEO will not be happy because SQL Server is not available implies the application is impacted.
Imagine if you had another Windows Server (let’s call it as ServerB) which takes ownership of the services and Applications in matter of seconds when your ServerA has any issue automatically. Isn’t it awesome??
Imagine multiple servers as a group always communicating with each other regarding their health and if one server is not healthy (In our case it was shutdown), next server which is available in that group takes care of unhealthy Server. Isn’t it awesome?? That’s the concept of Clustering in Windows. Nothing scary and nothing confusing right…See how simple it is to understand when we speak English J
PS we are only focused on Failover Clustering, Not NLB (Network load balancing) in this context.
So Clustering is nothing but a Hardware Solution for High Availability for your critical applications, making sure that your Apps are always available to users.
By this time you should be thinking about how expensive is this solution?? Unfortunately it’s pretty expensive solution because you need multiple Physical Servers (Nodes – I’ll refer Servers as Nodes from here). All the nodes which are participating in clustering should be exactly same in all aspects (for example OS Edition/Version, Service Packs, patches, Drivers Installed, hardware plugged in etc)
In Windows Server 2003 it used to be called as MSCS (Microsoft Clustering Services).You can launch this in administrative tools – Cluster Administrator or just Run-Cluadmin. Starting Windows Server 2008 they renamed it as Failover Cluster Management Services. You can launch this in administrative tools – Failover cluster management.
Quick Glance of Windows Server 2003 MSCS:
Quick Glance of Windows Server 2008 FCMS:

This is from my Test Lab which I created on my laptop. I’ll post a blog post on how to setup a cluster on a laptop pretty soon. Stay tuned!! FYI you can see, I’ve powered Off NodeB and you can see all the services, Applications, Resources being taken care by NodeA (another Node in my Cluster).
That’s pretty much it what a cluster can do for us. Congratulations! You learnt a drop out of Clustering ocean for now;)

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