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W2003 Clustering Advise For Web Servers...

Hello all.  I'm currently looking into clustering and wondering what you guys would do in my situation.

I currently have one web server that hosts 6 web sites and it has started to get enough traffic that it slows down dramatically and even stops serving (ColdFusion actually stops serving) once we hit our high peeks during the late afternoon.  We're planning on hosting up to 6 more sites on this/these servers in the future.

So I'm wondering what are we to do?  Our options are below:

-- Option 1: No Clustering --
1 Web Server - Host 3 web sites
1 Web Server - Host the other 3 sites
-----------------------------
Benefit: No need for Win 2003 Enterprise Licenses or Attached Storage
Downfall: Not fault-tolerant
Downfall: We have to carefully pick which server each site will go on
-----------------------------

-- Option 2: Clustering --
1 File Server - Host the data for each node in the cluster
1 Web Server - Share hosting responsibilities for all six sites
1 Web Server - Share hosting responsibilities for all six sites
-----------------------------
Benefit: Fault-tolerant, easy to add more nodes in the future
Downfall: Pricier, Need to buy a file server and W2003 Enterprise
-----------------------------

I guess my first questions are:  Can I reliably host 12 decent sized sites, and even more on a cluster like this?  In one way having only a few sites localized to one computer allows that computer to dedicate more memory and resources to those few sites.  On the other hand, if we can cluster and we run into processor problems again in the future we can simply add another server to the cluster to load-balance a bit more.

Thanks.  I know this is a difficult question to definitively answer, but I will do my best to accept the answers that help me in the direction we're trying to go.

Andrew
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rebies
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rebies
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Dave_DietzCommented:
Option 2 is the best bet - hands down.  But, if I may make a suggestion - check into Windows 2003 Web Server edition for your front end machines.  You'll have to talk to an OEM about it since you can't easily buy W2K3 WSE directly, but it is designed for exactly what you're looking to do.

It will only support two CPUs per box and has a RAM limitation of 2GB (may be 4 but I believe it's 2) and there are some other limitations on what software you can install, but it is also less expensive than Enterprise Edition and it natively supports WLBS out of the box.

Buy yourself a couple blade servers with W2K3 WSE and a 2003 Standard edition as a file server and you should be good to go.  :-)

Dave Dietz
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rebiesAuthor Commented:
Dave, can you explain further why you say:  "Buy yourself a couple blade servers with W2K3 WSE and a 2003 Standard edition as a file server and you should be good to go."

Why is W2K3 Standard recommended for a file server?  Also, in the past I have stayed away from the Web Server as it does not include the Internet Connection Firewall, but is this as big of a deal that I make of it?

Andrew
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Dave_DietzCommented:
Blade servers will likely cost less than regular servers because they don't use as many components and have limited expansion capability.  Additionally they take up less room and can be installed in a higher density configuration.  Not a big deal if you're looking at two or three, but if you expand beyond that regualr server can take up wuite a bit of room compared to a stack of 1U blade servers.

Standard Edition will serve well as a file server.  Web Server Edition has a limitation on the number of inbound SMB requests so it isn't well suited to the role of a file server.  If you wanted to work with some sort of SAN device that would work as well.  As a matter of fact 2000 Server (or even NT) would work fine as a back end file server for a cluster of Load Balanced front-end blade web servers.

ICF is fine for personal machines or for machines on an Intranet, but if you are planning on making these Internet facing servers it would be best to put a decent Firewall (device or ISA server) in front of them to protect them from malicious access attempts.

                                   +-  Load Balanced web server -+      +-> back end file server(s)
Internet -> Firewall --> +-  Load Balanced web server --+----+
                                   +- (Load Balanced web server)-+      +-> back end DB server(s)

With a setup like this you have protection at the front, a scalable and fault tolerant presentation layer in the middle and easy to maintain data on the backend.

Dave Dietz
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Is your cloud always on? With an Always On cloud you won't have to worry about downtime for maintenance or software application code updates, ensuring that your bottom line isn't affected.

 
rebiesAuthor Commented:
Okay, a few more quick questions to see if I can't get closer to what I'm looking for:

1.) How do I sync IIS settings?  I've read that you should not run a Load-Balanced Cluster with a Failover cluster, so if I'm load-balancing what is the best way to synchronize settings in IIS across the servers?  (From what I'm reading, it looks like the WWW Clustering is a failover clustering only)

2.) Along the same lines, is there a way to automatically synchronize the system DSNs (ODBCs) across these servers?  I have not found anything about clustering ODBCs, so I'm wondering if this is possible.  Or maybe accomplishable with Active Directory; which happens to be another thing I am unfamiliar with.

Andrew
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rebiesAuthor Commented:
Thanks Dave for the help.
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Dave_DietzCommented:
Q1) Open the Help file for IIS 6 and do a search on iiscnfg.  This should tell you all you need to know (and probably more).....

Q2) Not sure this can be done.  Application Center 2000 only supports replicating System DSNs so I imagine there is some technical difficulty in replicating USer and File DSNs or they would likely be supported as well.  Might be able to do this with some sort of registry export/import but DB (and ODBC for that matter) are not my strong points....  :-)

Dave Dietz
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