How to Cluster Windows Server 2003

Before you can install SQL Server 2005 clustering, you must first install Windows Server 2003 clustering services. Once it is successfully installed and tested, then you can install SQL Server 2005 clustering. In this article, we take a step-by-step approach to installing and configuring Windows 2003 clustering. In a later article, we will learn how to install SQL Server 2005 clustering.



Before Installing Windows 2003 Clustering

Before you install Windows 2003 clustering, we need to perform a series of important preparation steps. This is especially important if you didn’t build the cluster nodes, as you want to ensure everything is working correctly before you begin the actual cluster installation. Once they are complete, then you can install Windows 2003 clustering. Here are the steps you must take:

  • Double check to ensure that all the nodes are working properly and are configured identically (hardware, software, drivers, etc.).
  • Check to see that each node can see the data and Quorum drives on the shared array or SAN. Remember, only one node can be on at a time until Windows 2003 clustering is installed.
  • Verify that none of the nodes has been configured as a Domain Controller.
  • Check to verify that all drives are NTFS and are not compressed.
  • Ensure that the public and private networks are properly installed and configured.
  • Ping each node in the public and private networks to ensure that you have good network connections. Also ping the Domain Controller and DNS server to verify that they are available.
  • Verify that you have disabled NetBIOS for all private network cards.
  • Verify that there are no network shares on any of the shared drives.
  • If you intend to use SQL Server encryption, install the server certificate with the fully qualified DNS name of the virtual server on all nodes in the cluster.
  • Check all of the error logs to ensure there are no nasty surprises. If there are, resolve them before proceeding with the cluster installation.
  • Add the SQL Server and Clustering service accounts to the Local Administrators group of all the nodes in the cluster.
  • Check to verify that no antivirus software has been installed on the nodes. Antivirus software can reduce the availability of clusters and must not be installed on them. If you want to check for possible viruses on a cluster, you can always install the software on a non-node and then run scans on the cluster nodes remotely.
  • Check to verify that the Windows Cryptographic Service Provider is enabled on each of the nodes.
  • Check to verify that the Windows Task Scheduler service is running on each of the nodes.
  • If you intend to run SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services, you must then install IIS 6.0 and ASP .NET 2.0 on each node of the cluster.

These are a lot of things you must check, but each of these is important. If skipped, any one of these steps could prevent your cluster from installing or working properly.



How to Install Windows Server 2003 Clustering

Now that all of your physical nodes and shared array or SAN is ready, you are now ready to install Windows 2003 clustering. In this section, we take a look at the process, from beginning to end.

To begin, you must start the Microsoft Windows 2003 Clustering Wizard from one of the nodes. While it doesn’t make any difference to the software which physical node is used to begin the installation, I generally select one of the physical nodes to be my primary (active) node, and start working there. This way, I won’t potentially get confused when installing the software.

If you are using a SCSI shared array, and for many SAN shared arrays, you will want to make sure that the second physical node of your cluster is turned off when you install cluster services on the first physical node. This is because Windows 2003 doesn’t know how to deal with a shared disk until cluster services is installed. Once you have installed cluster services on the first physical node, you can turn on the second physical node, boot it, and then proceed with installing cluster services on the second node.



Installing the First Cluster Node

To begin your installation of SQL Server 2003 Clustering, open Cluster Administrator. If this is the first cluster, then you will be presented with the following window.

From the Action drop-down box, select Create New Cluster and click OK. This brings up the New Server Cluster Wizard, as show below.

Click Next to begin the wizard.

The next steps seem easy because of the nature of the wizard, but if you choose the wrong options, they can have negative consequences down the line. Because of this, it is important that you carefully think through each of your responses. Ideally, you will already have made these choices during your planning stage.

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