What is new in Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2016

Finally, I’d like to review what’s new in failover clustering in Windows Server 2016. Actually, I wrote this article a couple of months ago for Russian official Microsoft blog so if you are Russian you can go to this resource to read it in your native language.

Also, I described some of the new features before RTM-version (when only TPs were available) and almost all of them can be applied to Windows Server 2016 as well. It means there are no significant changes in RTM for them. I’ll provide a short description of such features and links to my previous posts with a detailed information.

And yes, of course, completely new functionality (Load Balancing, for instance) will also be described here

I have all of this in PDF format. Ping me in the comments/email and I’ll send to you the copy PDF has been shared 

Cluster OS Rolling upgrade

Cluster migration is usually a headache for administrators. It could be the reason of huge downtime (because we need to evict some nodes from old cluster, build the new one based on these nodes or new hardware and migrate roles from source cluster. So, in the case of overcommitment we won’t have enough resources to run migrated VMs). It’s critical for CSPs and other customers that have implemented SLA policy.

Windows Server 2016 fixes this by adding possibility to place Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016 nodes in the same cluster during upgrade/migration phase.

The new feature named as Cluster Rolling Upgrade (CRU) significantly simplifies overall process and allows us to successively upgrade existed nodes without destroying cluster. It helps to reduce downtime and any required costs (hardware, staff time and etc.)

Cluster Rolling Upgrade Windows Server 2016

The full list of CRU benefits is listed below:

  • Hyper-V virtual machine and Scale-out File Server workloads can be upgraded ONLY from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016 without any downtime. Other cluster workloads will be unavailable during the time it takes to failover (for example, SQL Server with AlwaysOn FCI ~ 5 minutes of downtime)
  • It does not require any additional hardware (for example, you evicted 1 node of 4. The rest 3 nodes are online and they must have resources for workloads live migrated from evicted node. In this case zero-downtime is predicted)
  • The cluster does not need to be stopped or restarted.
  • In-Place OS upgrade is supported BUT Clean OS install is highly recommended. Use In-Place upgrading carefully and always check logs/services before adding node back to cluster.
  • A new cluster is not required. In addition, existing cluster objects stored in Active Directory are used.
  • The upgrade process is reversible until the customer crosses the “point-of-no-return”, when all cluster nodes are running Windows Server Technical Preview, and when the Update-ClusterFunctionalLevel PowerShell cmdlet is run.
  • The cluster can support patching and maintenance operations while running in the mixed-OS mode.
  • CRU is supported by VMM 2016 and can be automated through PowerShell/WMI

To get more details read my previous post that shows CRU in action (it’s been written for Technical Preview but can still be used with RTM)

Hint: get list of supported VM’s version by host (Get-VMHostSupportedVersion).

Supported VMs Version by Hyper-V Host

Cloud Witness

Failover cluster in Windows Server 2012 R2 can be deployed with an external disk or file share witness which must be available for each cluster nodes and it’s needed as a source of extra vote. As you may know, witness is highly recommended (I’d say it’s required!) for Windows Server 2012 R2 cluster regardless of a number nodes in it (dynamic quorum automatically decides when to use witness).

In Windows Server 2016 a new witness type has been introduced – Cloud Witness. Yes, it’s Azure-based and it’s specially created for DR-scenarios, Workgroup/Multi-Domain cluster (will be described later), guest clusters and clusters without shared storage between nodes.

Cloud Witness uses Azure Storage resources (Azure Blog Storage through HTTPS protocol. HTTPS port should be opened on all cluster nodes) for read/write operations. Same storage account can be used for different clusters because Azure creates a blob-file generated for each cluster with unique IDs. These blob-files are kept in msft-cloud-witness container and require just KBs of storage. So, costs are minimal and Cloud Witness can be simply used as a third site (“arbitration’) in stretched clusters and DR solutions.

Cloud Witness in Windows Server 2016

Cloud Witness scenarios:

  • Multi-Site clusters
  • Clusters without shared storage (Exchange DAG, SQL Always-On and etc.)
  • Guests clusters running on Azure and On-Premises
  • Storage Cluster with or without shared storage (SOFS)
  • WorkGroup and Multi-Domain Clusters (new in WS2016. It’ll be described later)

Continue reading “What is new in Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2016”

Launch dates for Windows Server and System Center 2016

Update: Windows Server 2016 is available for download @EvalCenter  and will be available at October price list. Fully licensed software will be available @VLSC at the mid-October (System Center 2016  Evaluation is here)

As I predicted in the previous posts, TP5 is the latest preview release before Windows Server 2016 RTM/GA. Today Microsoft has finally revealed the official launch dates for Windows Server and System Center 2016.

GA will be announced at Ignite conference that takes place at the end of September and global price lists will be updated in October, 2016 . So, we have enough time to get ready for it. RTM release dates are not available at the moment. But I expect it in August.

Until then let’s review some important facts about upcoming WS and SC new generations.

Windows Server 2016:

  • Datacenter Edition includes new advanced software-defined datacenter capabilities designed for highly virtualized private and hybrid cloud environments. Some new features unique to Datacenter Edition include an Azure-inspired networking stack and Azure-inspired storage enhancements including Storage Spaces Direct
  • Standard  Edition provides the core functionality of Windows Server for lightly virtualized environments
  • Essentials. This edition is designed for smaller organizations with less than 50 users.
  • Standard and Datacenter editions don’t have the same list of features as we have in Windows Server 2012/2012R2 (except AVMA ). Storage Replica , Storage Spaces Direct , Shielded VMs and New Networking stack are available only in Datacenter

System Center 2016 editions:

  • Datacenter is the optimal choice for a large deployments or CSP. 1 license allows you to manage unlimited quantity of OSE (Operational System Environments)
  • Standard is built for small infrastructures and provides management rights for only 2 OSEs

Installation Options in Windows Server

  • Server with Desktop Experience: The Server with Desktop Experience installation option provides an full user experience for those who need to run an app that requires local UI or for Remote Desktop Services Host. This option has the Windows client shell and experience, consistent with Windows 10 Anniversary edition Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB), with the server Microsoft Management Console (MMC) and Server Manager tools available locally on the server.
  • Server Core: The Server Core installation option removes the client UI from the server, providing an installation that runs the majority of the roles and features on a lighter install. Server Core does not include MMC or Server Manager, which can be used remotely, but does include limited local graphical tools such as Task Manager as well as PowerShell for local or remote management.
  • Nano Server: The Nano Server installation option provides an ideal lightweight operating system to run “cloud-native” applications based on containers and micro-services

Licensing

Licensing model for both Windows Server and System Center has been moved from processors to physical cores which aligns licensing of private and public cloud to a consistent currency of cores and simplifies licensing across multi-cloud environments

To license a physical server, all physical cores must be licensed in the server. A minimum of 8 core licenses is required for each physical processor in the server and a minimum of 16 cores is required to be licensed for servers with one processor.

The most surprised is that if you are going to deploy and use Nano Server in production it is required to have active Software Assurance. Nano Server is awesome but do you agree to pay extra money for that? let’s pray for changes.. (hope dies last)

System Center: Core + Client Management Licenses (CML)

system center 2016 editions and prices

Windows Server: Core + Client Access Licenses (CAL) + additional CALs (RDS and etc) + Software Assurance (required for deploy and operate Nano Server)

windows server 2016 prices and editions

The price of 16-core licenses of Windows Server 2016 Datacenter and Standard Edition will be same price as the 2 proc license of the corresponding editions of the Windows Server 2012 R2 version ’cause core licenses will be sold in packs of two 8 core packs and the  two-core pack for each edition is 1/8th the price of a two proc license for corresponding 2012 R2 editions

Servicing models

Now Windows Server has  “5+5” servicing model meaning that there is 5 years of mainstream support and 5 years of extended support and this will continue with Windows Server 2016. Customers who choose to install full Windows Server 2016 with a desktop experience or Server Core will maintain this servicing experience, which will be known as the Long Term Servicing Branch (LTSB).

Nano Server will be covered by active Current Branch Servicing (CSB) model as Windows 10 has. This type of servicing provides new functionality and features.

New features