Windows Server Failover Clustering Review

Easily create clusters supporting geo-redundancy, improves business continuity

What is our primary use case?

The primary use case is increasing the availability of servers (Fail-, Mail-, RDBMS, …).

How has it helped my organization?

Business continuity is much better, due to the possibility of patching/upgrading systems without interruption of services.  

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is the ability to easily create clusters supporting geo-redundancy.

What needs improvement?

The standard, non-enterprise technical support could be improved.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for twenty years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It is a majored solution. If it is setup correctly, it runs problem free. Most of the issues we had were due to wrong administration tasks.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Failover clustering can scale up and scale-out, depending on the exact solution. In a typical use case, which is a two-node RDBMS with shared disks, the scalability of each node (CPU, RAM) and the used storage system sets the limit.

How are customer service and technical support?

As it is a majored Microsoft product, there is MS support and many third-party sources. MS support is much better if you have an enterprise support agreement, which is not free.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before Windows Failover Clustering, Digital Equipment VMS Clusters did the same job. The platform died (also because it was quite expensive), the developers changed to Microsoft and released a failover clustering solution along with Windows NT 4.0, which would run on X86 servers.

How was the initial setup?

Setup is straightforward. It is worth to plan it according to the product documentation. We do all installations in an automated way to gain reproducibility and speed up disaster recovery, which adds some complexity.

What about the implementation team?

Traditionally, we setup failover-clustering solutions using an in-house team.

What was our ROI?

Failover clustering serves the goal of high availability. High availability is a nonfunctional requirement for many systems, but it is difficult to transform its benefits into ROI. HA is a kind of insurance: It pays only if you have an incident. The shorter the downtime, the lesser the loss of productivity.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Unlike twenty years ago, the setup of a failover cluster is a straightforward process which can be automated easily. The functionality is included in Windows Server licences.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at some third-party solutions, which are no longer of importance today. Some of them had better features at the time, but we decided to go with the MS solution to not be hooked in version upgrading problems.

As MSCS was improved with every new version of Windows Server, we never regretted that decision. Some of the RDBMS systems we deployed twenty years back are still running, albeit with new hardware and the latest software of course, but the entities remained the same.

What other advice do I have?

I am happy with the current features.

The technology has evolved impressively. With Windows 2019, it is possible, to “failover cluster” both on-premises and cloud resources.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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