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With software-defined storage in Windows Server, you can get SAN features without paying SAN prices -- and the next release will challenge more high-end storage features. Since Windows Server 2012 introduced Storage Spaces, software-defined storage (SDS) has been moving up the stack: it's gone from an acceptable alternative to the kind of RAID systems you find in NAS boxes to competing with full-featured SANs using the Scale-Out File Server (SoFS) role on commodity servers and storage. It doesn't matter whether you're using directly attached or network storage; as long as you're using a block-level protocol and have direct access to your disks, you can quickly build pools of storage that can be used to build virtualised storage -- either a fixed size or a thin-provisioned pool. Storage Spaces can also improve performance, by using striping to store data across multiple disks.
When you need more performance from your storage, Windows Server 2012 R2's built-in storage tiering is a powerful tool that takes advantage of hardware support in Storage Spaces to segregate SSD from HDD storage. The latest StorSimple 8000 series hardware uses iSCSI to connect to your existing server, with a mix of SSD and HDD storage.
There are dozens of personal cloud storage services, but which one is the best deal for you or your company? The real advantage of the latest StorSimple appliance is that it acts as a bridge between your on-premises storage and the cloud.
Windows Server 2012 R2 added Storage Quality of Service (QoS) to Hyper-V, but in the next version it gets much more effective.
If you want to install the Reporting Services in failover cluster you must install them in separate SQL Server instance on each subsequent node. When you run SQL Server setup to add other nodes to cluster you can not install Reporting Services – option is grayed out.
The solution is to run setup with option to skip check if Reporting Services are being installed in already clustered instance.
Reporting Services running on an Active-Passive cluster handle requests on each cluster node on which the service is deployed.
Report server must be configured to use SQL failover cluster virtual name to connect to the report server database. This solution provides the highly available Reporting Services with default SQL server instance and uses already deployed hardware. The technology itself reached maturity, but you have to take care about few things when you deploy it. When you create the Storage Spaces they will try to create such a layout to achieve maximum performance by default. Since we definitely need resiliency for the production workload, besides the stripping we will combine it with the mirroring. With 6 physical disks to achieve the maximum performance we will use 3 columns in two-way mirror. Storage tiers allow us to create the Storage Spaces on top of the pool which combines SSDs and HDDs.
The maximum number of columns we can have is determined by the number of disks in fewer tier.
This is a feature that automatically rebuilds a Storage Spaces from the storage pool free space when a physical disk fails.
There is no magic layout that fits all. Below are a few guidelines, which you may or may not choose to follow. Cluster Operating System Rolling Upgrade is a full name for something we all have been waiting for a long time. The idea is to upgrade the cluster without any downtime by moving all the roles from a Windows Server 2012 R2 node to Windows Server Technical Preview node. Technical Preview nodes added to the cluster operate in a Windows Server 2012 R2 compatibility mode, while cluster operates in so called mixed mode. After all the nodes have been updated you still have the chance to rollback, especially if your apps experience any problem. Windows Server Technical Preview nodes can be removed from the cluster and Windows Server 2012 R2 nodes can be added back to the cluster in this mode. To test the upgrade I created virtual Scale-Out File Server with Windows Server 2012 R2 and then upgraded it to Windows Server Technical Preview. Automatic Rebalancing kicked in and distributed CSVs evenly including the CU-NODE3 which is running Windows Server Technical Preview.
This is definitely the awesome feature in Windows Server, an upgrade without any downtime. Microsoft is really going to spoil us, now I would like to see the same functionality within SQL Server running in Failover Cluster. Until recently I was not involved much with cloud computing, although I’ve been experimenting with some of the cloud technologies for quite some time. If you configure DNS for your virtual network after you installed your DC it won’t work. Please remember that you must ensure that the same IP address is assign to your DC every time it reboots.
Recently I deployed several SQL Server 2012 failover clusters on top of Windows Server 2012. This indicates that the password used to encrypt the kerberos service ticket is different than that on the target server. DisclaimerAll posts on this blog are provided "AS IS" with no warranties, and confer no rights. The information contained in this blog represent my views on the issues discussed at the time of publishing.
If you're mirroring data, this can improve performance considerably, allowing data not only to be retrieved from multiple disks in parallel, but also from multiple JBODs.
Once set up, data is automatically tiered between SSD and HDD, with your most frequently used data stored on SSD for faster access.
As data moves down the tiers, it's automatically deduped, with the lowest-priority data transferred to cloud storage, with the option of up to 500TB stored in Azure blob storage. An Azure-hosted StorSimple virtual appliance comes with your subscription, and is managed from the same Azure portal as your on-premises arrays.
The new algorithm is based on both Microsoft's experience managing storage in Azure and on research by MSR.


You can set QoS policy for both IOPS and latency that applies to an individual VHD, to a VM, to a service or to a whole workload.
To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center. It is not substitute for a true Scale-out deployment of the Reporting Services, but a way of achieving high availability (we just used the existing high availability platform).
In this post I’ll try to explain what is the Storage Spaces Stripping and Mirroring and how is affecting the above mentioned issues.
Minimum number of disks you need is 2 * NumberOfColumns, because after the stripping we need the same size of disk set to write the copy of data – you remember. Data is moved on the subfile level between the two tiers, based on how frequently the data is accessed.
In this example the SSD tier has 4 disks and the maximum number of columns for two-way mirror is 2. Marketing says that you don’t need an extra disk for Hot spare, which is true, but you need to reserve the free space in the pool. Mixing Simple, Mirror, Parity or Dual Parity in the same Storage Pool is only for non-demanding workloads and the layout is hard to track. It is a feature allowing you to have Windows Server Failover Cluster where nodes are running different versions of Windows Server OS. In Windows Server Technical Preview upgrade scenarios support Hyper-V clusters and Scale-Out File Servers and clusters running Windows Server 2012 R2. In the demo details shown below I upgraded Scale-Out File Server cluster. At this point we have a cluster with nodes running different version of Windows, but participating equally. This was mainly due to type of customers I work for and specific demands presented to IT infrastructure I deal with. In Azure all VMs are assigned dynamic IP addresses – in your virtual network from the address space you defined when creating network.
Ensure that the network adapters associated with dependent IP address resources are configured with at least one accessible DNS server. And in Windows Server vNext you get more SAN features like storage quality-of-service and storage replication.
Clustered pools are limited to 80 physical disks, as they need to handle failover between nodes, while you can have up to 240 disks in a standard pool, in four 60-disk JBODs. To keep your system easy to maintain, you should standardise on one type of disk in a JBOD (and ideally one specific firmware release). Local storage is what you'd expect from an iSCSI storage appliance -- with 40TB or so of available disk space (and more if your data can be deduplicated and compressed), but it behaves like an array that gets bigger without you having to buy more drives. Data uploaded to Azure and managed with the StorSimple virtual appliance can be accessed by Azure IaaS VMs, for disaster recovery or as part of a cloud migration. Typically, QoS is based on network rate limits and workload classification, but it doesn't do well at helping you meet storage SLAs when you have the 'noisy neighbour' problem with one workload hogging shared storage. That means you don't have to work out how to make demanding applications play well together; you can just set the maximum or minimum IOPS you need from your storage for a particular workload and Windows Server will automatically prioritise and throttle virtual machines as necessary to make sure you get it. There are scenarios when you should or want to use multiple instances, but not always and the use of existing instance seemed logical.
If not, the report server will be unable to connect to the report server database if a failover occurs.
Unprovisioned space size has to be the same or larger than a size of a single disk for this feature to work. This applies to the both tiers considering the size of disks in each tier. In the example below which is 2-columns 2-way mirror tiered Storage Space, you will need minimum of 4 SSDs or 4 HDDs to expand the each tier. Everyone who performed, even only once, migration upgrade of Failover Cluster will appreciate this new feature – I know I will.
I created SOFS as two node cluster, then I added the 3rd node running Windows Server Technical Preview and upgraded first two nodes. Also, I created 3 CSVs to see if Automatic Rebalancing will move one CSV (distribute CSVs on each node) after I add 3rd node running Technical Preview to the cluster.
Anyway, I’ve just started to explore different scenarios and I came across a strange problem when I tried to deploy my DC and some Windows failover clusters in Azure using IaaS. At this point, you need a good reason to be picking a proprietary SAN, even for high-end storage.
Microsoft uses Storage Spaces for one of its most demanding storage scenarios: the Windows release server, where it was able to significantly increase capacity and storage throughput at less than half the cost of the SAN it used to use. There's no user intervention needed once you've set up your storage pool and defined the disks used for each tier -- you just need to be sure that you've used fixed provisioning for the storage pool. Microsoft is taking a new approach that assigns costs to storage operations based on the hardware, the workload, bandwidth and latency, and then dynamically partitions the storage traffic using a centralised controller to do a better job of making sure each virtual machine gets a fair share of storage bandwidth. Reporting Services are not cluster aware – this means that RS will be running on each cluster node all the time and they are not visible in Failover Cluster Manager. If you have never worked with the technology I suggest you first visit the Storage Spaces Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). Storage Spaces will stripe the data to two physical disks and then it will write another copy of data on the other two disks. In HDD tier we have 6 HDDs, but the data will also be stripped to two disks and then copied to another two disks. For the layout shown on figure 4 only two disks in each layout are sufficient for the expansion.
It is recommended that all the nodes and the ClusterFunctionalLevel is upgraded as soon as possible. I won’t tell you how to deploy above mentioned scenario (there is a lot of official Microsoft documentation out there), but rather what was and how I solved the problem. After searching the web I came across the MS knowledge base article Can’t access a resource that is hosted on a Windows Server 2012-based failover cluster.


A high-level storage virtualisation service, Storage Spaces can configure sections of disk pools as either simple spaces, mirror spaces or parity spaces. Scaling out to a storage fabric An important element of Microsoft's storage story is its SMB protocol, the heart of Windows file sharing. Taking software-defined storage further When the next version of Windows Server comes out (probably in fall 2015), it will include even more software-defined storage tools (as well as using the next version of SMB, probably 3.11).
This is very similar to RAID 0+1, but depending on the number of disks in the pool and the number of spaces created, it will use 4 disks, but not the way RAID controllers usually do.
HDD tier could perform better with the higher number of columns, but it has to follow the SSD tier layout. Main advantage is rebuilding the data from the failed disk to multiple physical disks in the pool instead to a single hot spare.
Please keep in mind that you should do all the administration, either with FCM or PowerShell, from the node running Windows Server Technical Preview. Here I must say thank you to my colleagues Marin Frankovic and Tomica Kaniski who actually told me how they configured Virtual Network – that was the solution. For a while everything was looking good and then I noticed some errors on some of the clusters. Solution is to install at least mentioned Hotfix, but if it is a new cluster I recommend installing the update rollup. Simple spaces are much like traditional disks, with no resilience, and are best used for temporary data -- think of them as scratch working storage. A new version, SMB 3.0, arrived with Windows Server 2012, adding support for many key software-defined storage requirements. There is also a third so called resiliency Simple, but it’s not resilient to disk failures at all. Full resiliency is achieved in a shorter time, while rebuilding a single large disk can be time consuming.
Please make sure that after installing Hotfix you follow Post-installation instructions for clusters already experiencing problems.
Mirror and parity spaces add resilience (especially when used with Microsoft's new ReFS file system). These include support for transparent failover between clustered storage nodes, and direct access to network adapters for faster data transfer. Here I will discuss only Mirror resiliency, since it is the resiliency you would use for production workloads like Hyper-V or SQL. It doesn’t seem logical to configure DNS before you actually have it in place, but it was the only way I could make it work.
Mirrors are a powerful tool, and there's support for up to three-way mirroring, using enclosure awareness to associate data copies with specific JBODs. There's also now support for end-to-end encryption, making it harder for your data to be intercepted while in motion. With three-way mirroring, and three or four JBODs you can lose an entire enclosure and still keep running.Storage Spaces works with unallocated disk space to create resilient scalable storage. To get the most from the latest version, SMB 3.02, you're going to need make sure that you're using network cards that support RDMA access. First one creates one more copy of your data, while the other creates two more copies of your data. That's an important point: getting the most from any of Windows new storage features may mean investing in new hardware. With the next version, it gets more sophisticated, for both on-premises and hybrid cloud storage options -- and you can still do it all on commodity hardware. That puts up the price, but it's commodity hardware that's still cheaper than buying a third-party system, and won't require additional storage management software. Bring all the new Windows Server storage features together, and you've got the Scale-Out File Server.
Using Windows clustering features, SoFs lets you share the same folder from all the nodes of a cluster -- with changes in any one instance replicated to the rest. As calls can be routed to any node, you get faster access to data on busy servers, as well as the ability to be running disk checks and other resource-intensive tasks on one node at a time, while the others carry on delivering data.
Scale-Out File Server is the logical endpoint of Windows Server 2012 R2's software-defined storage.
It might not be for every network, but it's also something you can build up to, as you start to use Storage Spaces and then add clustering to your network. The end result is a storage fabric, much like that used by Azure -- and ready for your own private cloud. While it's not suitable for all workloads in this version (especially not SharePoint and other document-centric services), Scale-Out File Server is ideal for hosting virtual machine images and virtual hard disks, for handling databases and for hosting web content. That would be ideal for storing virtual machines, backups and as a replica target,and again will use SMB 3 for the storage network fabric. With storage resiliency that manages transient disruptions to storage -- saving the state of a virtual machine and pausing it until the storage is working normally again -- you'll be able to run virtualised workloads on ever-cheaper storage hardware. Applying a Storage QoS policy in Windows Server vNext gives important workloads better storage throughput.



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