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Original Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: MPECS Inc. Blog: Our SBS (Small Business Solution) Options with Standalone and Cluster Hardware Considerations

We’ve received a number of questions about the “How” we present our SBS to prospective and existing clients.

Our primary focus is on what we have provided with Small Business Server starting with SBS 2003 Standard.

  • Active Directory permissions based security

  • Remote Web Access (RWA/RWW) Portal
  • Remote Desktop access via RD Gateway (since SBS 2008 Standard)
  • RemoteApp access via RD Gateway for LoBs (since SBS 2008 Standard)
  • E-mail services access via Outlook, Outlook Anywhere, Exchange ActiveSync, and Outlook Web Access
  • Remote Folders and Files access
  • SharePoint based document management system
  • SQL backend for LoB, SharePoint, and other needs

We focus on the services the prospect would require while our existing clients are already used to them.

Once we have an understanding of the prospect’s needs, since we already know our client’s business really well, we move forward with a proposal that would be geared towards their business size and sensitivity to downtime.

On the services front where we are installing into a standalone host we would have two options:

  1. Base

    1. Requires two Windows Server OS Licenses

    2. DC, Exchange, RDS, and LoB (WSUS and LoBs)
  2. Premium Add-On
    1. Requires one Windows Server OS License

    2. SQL and SharePoint

Obviously the server and CALs would also be needed for the various components that will be installed into the guest OS.

If we are setting up a cluster then one needs to consider the number of VMs running on one or more of the nodes in the event of a node failure.

On the hardware side we would have a number of options:

  1. Entry-Level Single

    1. E3-1270v3, 32GB ECC, Hardware RAID, 8x 2.5” 10K SAS
  2. Mid-Level Single
    1. Single Socket 1U R1208JP4OC, E5-2600 series, 128GB ECC, Hardware RAID, 8x 2.5” 10K SAS
  3. High-Level Single
    1. Dual Socket 2U R2208GZ4GC, E5-2600 pair, 128GB-256GB ECC, Hardware RAID, 8x 2.5” 10K SAS or 16x 2.5” 10K SAS
  4. Entry-Level Asymmetric Cluster
    1. Pair of 1U R1208JP4OC or 2U R2208GZ4GC and an Intel JBOD2224S2DP
  5. Mid-Level Cluster
    1. Four 2U R2208GZ4GC and an Intel JBOD2224S2DP

      • Two Scale-Out File Server cluster nodes

      • Two Hyper-V cluster nodes
  6. High-End Cluster
    1. Six 2U R2208GZ4GC and three Intel JBOD2224S2DP units

      • Three Scale-Out File server cluster nodes

      • Three Intel JBODS with Two-Way or Three-Way Mirror and Enclosure Resilience
      • Three Hyper-V server cluster nodes

Within the above hardware configurations we would have a lot of flexibility that allows us to customize to the specific needs of the prospective client or our clients.

We work with a number of different firms that are prime candidates for at least an asymmetric cluster setup to minimize the possibility of downtime. The cost associated with these entry-level clusters versus a single larger server for the host platform makes them very attractive.

The basic VM configuration would involve fixed VHDX files unless the files are installed on dedicated partitions/LUNs. Note that we would use a shared set of partitions/LUNs if there are around 10 or more VMs as things get to be a bit of a bear to manage otherwise.

Our base VM configurations would be as follows:

  • DC: 4GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 1TB Data VHDX

  • Exchange: 8GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 250GB + 20GB/Mailbox Data VHDX
  • RDS: 4GB+, 95GB OS VHDX, and 100GB + 20GB/User Profile Disk
  • LoB: 8GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 1TB Data VHDX Minimum
  • SQL: 16GB, 95GB OS VHDX, and 250GB+ Data VHDX
  • SharePoint: 16GB, 95GB OS VHDX, 200GB Data VHDX

We have a set of PowerShell steps and scripts that we use to configure these environments. PowerShell helps to greatly reduce the amount of time required to set things up. It also gives us consistency across all of our client deployments which is vital to troubleshooting if the need arises.

Shameless Plug: We’ve spent some time on the above in our SMBKitchen ASP Author Chats. If you are looking for more information the Author Chat is one of the best ways to do so.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Read more »

Cluster Starter Labs: Hyper-V, Storage Spaces, and Scale-Out File Server
Posted by Philip Elder on 05 June 2014 02:55 PM

Original Posted Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: Cluster Starter Labs: Hyper-V, Storage Spaces, and Scale-Out File Server

The following are a few ways to go about setting up a lab environment to test out various Hyper-V and Scale-Out File Server Clusters that utilize Storage Spaces to tie in the storage.

Asymmetric Hyper-V Cluster
  • (2) Hyper-V Nodes with single SAS HBA
  • (1) Dual Port SAS JBOD (must support SES-3)

In the above configuration we set up the node OS Roles and then enable Cluster. Once cluster is enabled we can import our not initialized shared storage into Cluster Disks and them move them over to Cluster Shared Volumes.

In this scenario one should split the storage up three ways.

  1. 1GB-2GB for Witness Disk
  2. 49.9% CSV 0
  3. 49.9% CSV 1

Once the virtual disks have been set up in Storage Spaces we run the quorum configuration wizard to set the witness disk up.

We use two CSVs in this setup so as to assign 50% of the available storage to each node. This shares the I/O load. Keep this in mind when looking to deploy this type of cluster into a client setting as well as the need to make sure all paths between the nodes and the disks are redundant (dual SAS HBAs and a dual expander/controller JBOD).

Symmetric Hyper-V Cluster with Scale-Out File Services
  • (2) Scale-Out File Server Nodes with single SAS HBA
  • (1) Dual Port SAS JBOD
  • (2) Hyper-V Nodes

For this particular set up we configure our two storage nodes in a SOFS cluster and utilize Storage Spaces to deliver our shares for Hyper-V to access. We will have a witness share for the Hyper-V cluster and then at least one file share for our VHDX files depending on how our storage is set up.

Lab Hardware

The HP MicroServer would be one option for server nodes. Dell C1100 1U off-lease servers can be found on eBay for a song. Intel RS25GB008 or LSI 6Gb SAS Host Bus Adapters (HBAs) are also easily found.

For the JBOD one needs to make sure the unit supports the full compliment of SAS commands being passed through to the disks. To run with cluster two SAS ports that access all of the storage installed in the drive bays is mandatory.

The Intel JBOD2224S2DP (WSC SS Site) is an excellent unit to work with that compares feature wise with DataON, Quanta, and the Dell JBODs now on the Windows Server Catalogue Storage Spaces List.

Some HGST UltraStar 100GB and 200GB SAS SSDs (SSD400 A and B Series) can be had via eBay every once in a while for SSD Tier and SSD Cache testing in Storage Spaces. We are running with the HGST product because it is a collaborative effort between Intel and HGST.

Storage Testing

For storage in the lab it is preferred to have at least 6 of the drives one would be using in production. With six drives we can run the following tests:

  • Single Drive IOPS and Throughput tests
    • Storage Spaces Simple
  • Dual Drive IOPS and Throughput tests
    • Storage Spaces Simple and Two-Way Mirror
  • Three Drive IOPS and Throughput tests
    • Storage Spaces Simple, Two-Way Mirror, and Three-Way Mirror
  • ETC to 6 drives+

There are a number of factors involved in storage testing. The main thing is to establish a baseline performance metric based on a single drive of each type.

A really good, and in-depth, read on Storage Spaces performance:

And, the Microsoft Word document outlining the setup and the Iometer settings Microsoft used to achieve their impressive 1M IOPS Storage Spaces performance:

Our previous blog post on a lab setup with a few suggested hardware pieces:

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Read more »

Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Update 1 Caveats
Posted by Philip Elder on 15 April 2014 09:56 AM

Original Post Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 Update 1 Caveats

Whenever we hear about updates for any device firmware, application software, or operating system software it is _always_ a good idea to read the Release Notes (we probably all know the acronym that comes to mind here ;) ), README.TXT, _and_ do a search for the update to see if anyone is complaining about it.

Unfortunately, this major update for Windows 8.1 and Windows Server 2012 R2 has its issues some of which are full-stop problems.

The first place to start for this update is here:

There is a lot of information there.

  1. Update 1 is the new baseline for all updates going forward.
    • Meaning, no more updates to that OS if the bits are earlier than 8.1 U1 or 2012 R2 U1.
  2. Update 1 breaks SSL communications between endpoints and WSUS

This last one is a deal breaker for many enterprises, medium enterprises, and especially in our own SMB/SME environments where WSUS is virtually everywhere for patch management.

We just stood up a new cluster on 2012 R2. After our Cluster-Aware Update run:


Our cluster nodes now have the update. Since this cluster setup is Greenfield with WSUS ultimately ending up _on_ the cluster the nodes were updated via Microsoft Update.

The workaround for this situation is to enable TLS 1.2 as instructed in the above blog post. Since we are deploying Windows Server 2012 R2 into client sites we will have no choice but to make this change.

Then, when Microsoft releases an update to the update to hopefully fix the problem we will need to test that update extensively _especially_ in a cluster setting!

Yo Microsoft! There is a huge pool of folks willing to test and break this stuff for you! Please get us involved in the early bits for operating systems, applications, and updates again. This ongoing situation of releasing patches and updates to the public without testing them on disparate systems is a _bad_ thing. :(

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Read more »


Original Posted Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: A Small Chunk of Bandwidth for Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows 8.1 Pro/Enterprise with Update 1

Okay, so here we go updating our ISO library:






And finally:



Note that all Windows 8.1/Server 2012 R2 operating systems in the field _must_ be updated to Update 1 or they will not receive any further starting with Patch Tuesday this coming May!

That does not give us a lot of time to test the patch setup. But test we must! :(

By the way, is there any need to download the 32-bit version of a desktop OS anymore? We’ve not had to use one in ages!

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Read more »

A Windows Server 2012 R2 Cluster Is Born
Posted by Philip Elder on 23 January 2014 02:15 PM

Original Post is here: MPECS Inc. Blog: A Windows Server 2012 R2 Cluster Is Born

We are just in the process of finishing up a newly configured domain with one physical DC and a four node Hyper-V cluster built on Windows Server 2012 R2 Core:


As you can see we build out a custom MMC on an RSAT enabled Windows 8.1 x64 Enterprise VM with the above snap-ins that allow us to fully manage that cluster. A copy of the MMC will reside on the physical DC for management from that point if required.

An Intel RMM (Remote Management Module) that is Internet facing is configured on the physical DC. This gives us console access to the DC that is especially important for managing the cluster for anything from updating through to full power-down situations.

Failover Cluster Manager has the best logging facilities bar-none. Sorry, but VMM (Virtual Machine Manager) does not have anything near what FCM has especially when it comes to live logging the cluster and the nodes. All one needs to do is build a custom query that includes all Cluster and Hyper-V Event streams. We can also build custom queries that are focused on cluster, storage, and Hyper-V streams.

While we have added the Windows Firewall snap-in for each node to date we have not had a need to tweak anything at the node level since we set the basic port exemptions at the Group Policy level as well as permitting local exceptions. This allows the Cluster Service setup routine to configure the firewall as appropriate.

Note that it is a good idea to set up the Cluster Service _after_ the nodes have been joined to the domain, teams created if being used, and the Network Awareness service is set to Automatic (Delayed) if Windows Native teaming is being used. This allows the port exemptions to be placed in the correct firewall profile.

This particular cluster will end up hosting a number of different workloads including DCs, File services, Exchange, SQL, SharePoint, and a few LoB specific ones.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Read more »

One Post SBS Configuration
Posted by Philip Elder on 17 January 2014 02:52 PM

Original Posted Here: MPECS Inc. Blog: One Post SBS Configuration

We are doing the following and are quite successful with the setup:

  • 2x Windows Server STD
  • Windows CALs
  • Exchange STD
  • Exchange CALs
  • RDS CALs

With that we set up one host with Hyper-V (2012 R2 preferred).

  • VM 1: DC
  • VM 2: Exchange 2013 CU3
  • VM 3: RDS
  • VM 4: LoB, WSUS

We just finished migrating our last SBS 2003 out to this setup (though with two servers and a few extra licenses).

For larger firms we can set up two identical servers and have licensing in place to allow for the following:

  • Server 1 & 2: DC VM with DHCP Failover enabled (new 2012 R2 feature)
  • Server 1: LoB VM with Replica to Server 2
  • Server 1: Exchange
  • Server 1: RDS VM with Replica to Server 2

Because Exchange and SQL have their own built-in redundancy features we have the option to configure in-guest clustering to build out the required redundancy for them.

Or, we can go with two servers with dual SAS HBAs and a dual controller SAS direct attached storage (MD3220, VTrak E610sD, DS3524) and set up an actual Hyper-V Failover Cluster. This option works very well for the very downtime conscious client.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book

Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

Read more »

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