Windows 2000 Clustering and Load Balancing

I'm new to Win2k MSCS and NLB. I have recently installed Win2k Advanced Server on a machine (PIII 700, which is pretty slow). I am also installing Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server on the same computer as I write this question.

I have a second "server" (which is only PII 300) that I would like to use in load balancing. I don't 'need' to load balance, but since I have 2 spare machines, I wanted to try the load balancing and clustering services for my personal experience.

How can I set up the two machines as a two-node cluster? Will the mail database of E2K be replicated on each server, so that if one machine fails, the clients can still receive mail? A very detailed step by step guide please. I have read through the guides on M$ site but it's full of "technical junk" that makes the paper seem more difficult than it really is. (Or maybe it IS that difficult to begin with.)

I shall increase the points if this question is determinded to be worth more than 100 points. Please do not post comments like "Search on Microsoft website". I've already done that.
Who is Participating?
Lee W, MVPConnect With a Mentor Technology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
Microsoft Cluster services use a shared disk.  If you don't have external SCSI storage (Or Fibre Channel) that you can connect to both servers, ou're not going to be able to setup a cluster (you also should stick with cluster hardware that is on the Microsoft Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) - - select cluster from the "in the following types" drop down.

The way microsoft clustering works is that one server runs the server based application using the shared disk and the other server just waits for the "heartbeat" from the main server to stop.  At that point, the secondary server (node) considers the first node to have failed and transfers control of the shared harddisk to itself and resumes the operations where the first node left off.  

Dell has frequently recommended both servers be identical, however, I have two clusters installed with different servers.  We cluster for file sharing purposes, not Exchange or SQL.  

In my own experimentation, I have sucessfully clustered an external SCSI storage array by taking two adaptec SCSI cards, setting each to a different ID (say 7 and 6) and then connecting each computer to the external SCSI enclosure (where the second computer connected to the SCSI connector the Terminator would normally have connected to.  (and needless to say, the hard drive was SCSI ID 0).

Without the shared disk, Microsoft Cluster Service won't install.

Network Load balancing is something I have NOT played with and can't really provide any suggestions for.
st_steveAuthor Commented:

Thanks for the explanation about Clustering Services. So that's where I've been doing all wrong! :) So basically, there's NO way to set up MSCS without a shared disk?

I'll wait for some more comments on NLB and I will also consider splitting the points.
st_steveAuthor Commented:
Ok then. No new posts, probably means the question is too difficult for 100 points, or no one wants to help me. Either way, I'm going to give it a couple more days before I close off this question.


I'll give you the points but I can only offer a B grade since you only answered half the question. If you like an A, I will post a 50 points question. Any thoughts on this one?
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Lee W, MVPTechnology and Business Process AdvisorCommented:
B is fine...  Thanks... sorry I couldn't be of more help.


Leew is right regarding W2000 Clusters. You need a shared storage. In .NET there is an new cluster type called
"Majority node set cluster" which enables you to cluster machines without shared storage ! (i've already tried it
with a beta and it works). But it's not usefull for
Exchange or SQL running on it.

NLB is not supported and can't be installed together
with MSCS !

NLB provides loadbalancing on an IP basis not
on application basis. So the best usage is for webfarms.

There are a few setting like Affinity,Priority and so on which enables you to customize the behaviour of NLB.
There are other limitations regaring subnets and some issues with specific routers ...

Hope that helps

st_steveAuthor Commented:

Yes, it does shine some light. I haven't tried .Net server, so I'm not sure how it is, but IMHO, if it's going to be like Windows XP, then I will definitely NOT upgrade. Look like it's written to be used by a 10 year old kid, not corporate users.

I didn't know NLB and MSCS are not compatible with each other. Not sure why it's always refered to as "Clustering and Load Balancing" if they can't be installed at the same time.

This setup that I'm trying is not going to be on production systems. I'm just trying to familiarise myself with NLB and MSCS. Might have to ask a few more questions on NLB I guess. I've been reading on M$ online site, I'm trying to get all the "undocumented" information that M$ "forgot" to document.

I might get a hold of .Net Beta and try that "Majority node set cluster" thingy, sounds interesting.
st_steveAuthor Commented:
I'm splitting the points 50-50 between "leew" and "jkrautner".

Any objections or suggestions?

This is only my third question and I've never done a points split before, so a little help on this one too :D
There is one excellent solution for Windows 2000 ADV clustering without shared disk is using GeoCluster from NSI Software. This software work together with MS Clustering service. It works!
See for detail.
st_steveAuthor Commented:
Thanks "quang"

I'll check it out and get back to you.
st_steveAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your comments. If you got any more info on these two services, please let me know. :)

I'm still giving you an A grade since I didn't want to tarnish your good record of receiving A grades ;)

I've created a separate question for you to claim your points.
st_steveAuthor Commented:

I'm sorry I couldn't offer you any points, since I'm just trying to set up NLB and MSCS as a personal experience and I'm not looking for some professional solutions. Thanks for the thought though :)
Hi, I don't need your point as I have many and I don't
use them much. So I just would like to help.
The advantage of my solution is that you can create
a cluster with very cheap IDE drives. So it is not
more professional solution than the solution from
leew because the total cost to buy two SCSI card
with a big SCSI harddisk is not very low.
Another big advatange of my solution is now you don't need
to worry a single point failure (shared SCSI drive).
In fact Geocluster is the only solution to provide
a complete fault-tolerant which is one of the ultimate goals of clustering.
st_steveAuthor Commented:

Thanks for more input from you.

Now that you have explained it even more, I might reconsider my line of thinking and have a look at that site and product again.

Again, I stress that I'm venturing into this topic only to gain personal experience. I can't afford to buy expensive software/hardware that I know I will only use for a couple of days. I'm only a young guy (24) :) and I can't afford to "throw away" money at the moment. Perhaps there's a one-week evaluation version I could try. As I understand it, GeoCluster is a software solution?
Yes, it is software solution. For your information, just see:

There is no way to do clustering in Windows Env without some extra spending.
st_steveAuthor Commented:
Yep, I've read the "how it works" page when you first posted the link. Sounds interesting, like I said, would you have an evaluation copy of the software? Or does the company even make such a "scaled-down" version?

I wouldn't mind playing with this GeoCluster thingy, it might come in handy one day. :)

"There is no way to use Micro$oft products without some extra spending."
st_steveAuthor Commented:

I have created a new question for you. If you have any more comments on GeoCluster, please post there, thanks.

I don't want to clog other experts' mailboxes with unnecessary emails notifications. :)
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