New Windows Clustering Capability Has HA Partners Shifting Gears
Published: June 11, 2008
by Alex Woodie
New multi-site clustering features in Windows Server 2008 is prompting Microsoft's partners to take a slightly different approach to serving the market for highly available Windows servers clusters. By overcoming a limitation that prevented customers from establishing disaster recovery clusters, vendors that previously filled this need must find something else to do, which Microsoft is encouraging with a new partner program expected to be announced at TechEd this week.
Microsoft's Cluster Services (MSCS) has been used by many Windows shops to achieve high availability among their servers. However, it lacked a critical component that is often associated with high availability: disaster recovery. With the delivery of multi-site clustering in Windows Server 2008, Microsoft fixed a major shortcoming: the fact that clustered resources had to be maintained on a single, shared disk subsystem, which created a single point of failure.
Multi-site clustering allows users to connect cluster nodes not only through a LAN but also over a WAN, which enables users to establish secondary machines miles away that will remain unaffected by regional disasters, such as earthquakes, fires, or floods--or whatever else global warming can think up in the coming years.
The previous coverage gap between HA and DR in Microsoft's products left an opening that was filled by several vendors, including SteelEye Technology, Double-Take Software (formerly NSI Software), and the NeverFail Group, among others.
However, now that Microsoft has filled that gap with the new multi-site clustering capability in Windows Server 2008, some of these vendors are being forced to find a new way to differentiate themselves.
SteelEye previously offered an alternative form of clustering to MSCS called LifeKeeper. Now that Microsoft has bolstered its clustering technology with Windows Server 2008, the company is focusing more on products and technologies that complement Microsoft's core HA offering, such as data replication and continuous data protection (CDP), says Bob Williamson, vice president of product management FOR SteelEye.
"Microsoft has done some great things in the 2008 version with failover clustering. That makes a very good technology for companies that want to deploy wide area clusters," he says. "We've come to the realization that companies look to platform providers to provide that core clustering technology. With 2008 coming out, it's the first time that Microsoft has really delivered a clustering product that's going to be sufficient for companies to be able to build a disaster recovery cluster."
Rather than trying to fight Microsoft's clustering product with its alternative clustering product, LifeKeeper, SteelEye is taking another tact, which it labels "embrace and extend," Williamson says. The key feature that SteelEye will be providing to companies that want to deploy a DR cluster for Windows 2008 is replication.
"The one place that Microsoft has left open is how to replicate data between the sites where those cluster nodes work," Williamson says. "They have not delivered any replication technology that customers would use to build, for example, a disaster recovery cluster." Microsoft is delivering replication within Exchange Server and SQL Server. However, if a customer is running any other applications, they need to look to a third-party provider like SteelEye for that capability, Williamson says.
At TechEd this week, Microsoft is expected to announce a new partner program aimed at helping partners like SteelEye to promote their products as part of a full DR cluster implementation.
SteelEye also announced its new CDP offering for Windows Server 2008, SteelEye DataKeeper for Windows, this week at TechEd. The software functions as a snap-in for Microsoft's System Center Operations Manager, and provides a graphical management interface for controlling synchronous or asynchronous block-level replication between two or more sites. The software is currently in beta, and should ship by September.
NeverFail also announced its own product yesterday to complement the multi-site clustering in Windows Server 2008. The product, called NeverFail ClusterProtector, replicates Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint Server data between nodes in a cluster, and is slated to ship in July.
Double-Take this week announced plans to support Microsoft's upcoming hypervisor product, Hyper-V, within GeoCluster, its solution that complements MSCS with support for data replication. The new release of GeoCluster will support various combinations of physical-to-physical, physical-to-virtual, and virtual-to-virtual replication and failover, and will ship following Hyper-V's delivery, which most likely will ship in August.
For more information on Microsoft's new clustering program for partners, see www.microsoft.com/windowsserver2008/en/us/clustering-multisite.aspx.
SteelEye Adds Continuous Data Protection to Linux
SteelEye Delivers CDP for Windows Servers
Double-Take Bolsters Data Recoverability in GeoCluster
Smaller Companies are Preparing for Disaster Too, Study Shows
SteelEye Rolls Out New High Availability Tools for Windows
Post this story to del.icio.us
Post this story to Digg
Post this story to Slashdot