How to Configure Virtual Server 2005 in Order to Setup a Test SQL Server Cluster


There are a lot of DBAs who want to learn how to cluster SQL Server. There are also a lot of companies who may have a production SQL Server cluster, but not a test SQL Server cluster. In both cases, the reason for this is that clustering hardware is very expensive, and setting up a non-production SQL Sever cluster is out of the question from a budgetary perspective.

Fortunately, this is no longer a problem. With the introduction of Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, anyone can create a non-production SQL Server cluster on a single, relatively inexpensive computer. Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 allows you to create a virtual cluster that acts just like a real cluster, without the expensive hardware. This allows DBAs to build their own SQL Server cluster for educational and training purposes, and for companies to build their own test/development servers. This is a great boon for DBAs, and an area that DBAs need to spend some time investigating.

The purpose of this article is not to teach you everything you need to know about clustering SQL Server. That would take a book. The focus of this article is to introduce you to how Virtual Server 2005 can be used to create a virtual SQL Server cluster.

This article is rather technical, and makes some assumptions about your knowledge. It is assumed that you know how to install and administer SQL Server 2003 Server, how to install SQL Server 2003 Clustering, how to install and administer Virtual Server 2005, and how to install SQL Server 2000/2005 clustering. If you are not familiar with all of these topics, you may need to read up on them, or seek out the help of others.

The Big Picture

If you want to set up a SQL Server cluster under Virtual Server 2005, here are all the steps you will need to perform:

  • Select the Hardware to Run Virtual Server 2005 (and the SQL Server Cluster)

  • Select the Host OS to Run Virtual Server 2005

  • Install and Configure Your Host OS

  • Install Virtual Server 2005

  • Configure Virtual Server 2005 for Clustering

  • Create Node1

  • Configure Node1

  • Create Node2

  • Configure Node2

  • Configure the Two-node Cluster

  • Install SQL Server 2000/2005 as a Cluster

In this article, we are not going to show you the details of all these steps. The goal is present the big picture, and to show you, step-by-step, how to configure Virtual Server 2005 as a cluster so that you can then install SQL Server clustering.

Select the Hardware to Run Virtual Server 2005 (and the SQL Server Cluster)

Just think, you will need a single computer that will end up running all of the following software:

  • A host OS

  • Two separate instances of Windows 2003 (guest OSs)

  • Windows 2003 Clustering on each of the Windows 2003 instances

  • A single instance of SQL Server running in an active/passive cluster

Even if you used the Microsoft-recommended minimum hardware for all of the above, this is still a lot of hardware. The exact hardware you need depends on what you will be doing with the cluster. If you are installing the SQL Server cluster for learning and educational purposes, the hardware recommendations are much less than if you intend to use the SQL Server cluster for development and testing purposes. Below are my (not Microsoft’s) minimum recommendations:

Learning/Educational Hardware Recommendation

  • Portable, Desktop, Server-Class Computer

  • 1-Way 2GHz+, Hyperthreading CPU

  • 1GB RAM

  • 20GB free hard disk space

Testing/Development Hardware Recommendations

  • Server-Class Computer

  • 2-Way 2GHz+ CPUs

  • 2GB RAM

  • 50GB free hard disk space on a RAID 1, RAID 5, or RAID 10 array

Again, these are minimum recommendations, and bigger hardware, especially more RAM, can significantly boost performance of your virtual cluster. While you may get a virtual cluster running on less hardware, you won’t be happy with its performance. See the Virtual Server Getting Started Manual to see what hardware Microsoft recommends.

Select the Host OS to Run Virtual Server 2005

Virtual Server 2005 will run under any of these OSs:

  • Windows XP Professional

  • Windows Server 2003 Standard

  • Windows Server 2003 Enterprise

  • Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition

If you are building a learning/educational cluster, Windows XP Professional will work fine. But if you are building a testing/development cluster, then you will want to use Windows Server 2003 Standard or Windows Server 2003 Enterprise, which offer more scalability and performance.


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