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Minimum Required SAN for a cluster

Posted on 2005-05-04
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I work at a farily small company (around 150 users). We have three main servers that provide our core network services, DNS, DHCP, Filesharing and printing. 1 of them is a Novell 5 server that handles most of the file sharing and the other 2 run Win2003 Enterprise as DC's and do everything else. Right now the two win servers share DNS, one does DHCP and the other does Printing. We also have a small (250Gb) RAID 5 array on another member server that mostly just serves the IT dept and is the DFS root.

I want to somehow load balance the DHCP and Printing between the 2 win servers so I can take one down and have the other take over. From what I've read the best way to do this is through clustering, but that requires a SAN. We have the largely unused RAID 5 array that would be perfect but I don't know what the cheapest way to set it up on a SAN that will work with a cluster. I have no Fiber Channel experiance and if possible I would like to stay away from that because of the cost and I don't really think I need the performance. The 2 Win servers have dual gigabit NICs and I could pick up a couple pretty cheap for the RAID server. Will this work? What kind of protocols would I need? iSCSI?

If I am stuck with Fibre Channel what pieces do I need? 3 fiber channel "Network cards" I assume, but do I need a F/C switch as well or can I daisy chain them together?
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Question by:tommyboy22481
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by:kdkirmse
ID: 13930908

You could use a the package "SANmelody" from Datacore Software to present an iSCSI disk to be used as a shared disk for the cluster. For the amount of storage you are talking about the software price is modest. Adding 1GB ethernet cards to the storage server and the client servers would probably be a good idea. The biggest cost you are going to have to deal with is the cost to upgrade your Windows 2003 servers to Enterprise Edition to support the clustering.
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by:Duncan Meyers
Duncan Meyers earned 200 total points
ID: 13931587
You don't need a SAN to sset up clustering, although you do need some shared storage. Your options are:

a cheap and cheerful SAN box such as EMC's AX100 or AX100i (iSCSI version)
Direct attach storage - an external rack of SCSI attached disks
or iSCSI.

The main benefit of going with something like an AX100 is that you'll have plenty of storage that you can attach to any server. Plenty of growth potential.

>If I am stuck with Fibre Channel what pieces do I need? 3 fiber channel "Network cards" I assume, but do I need a F/C switch as >well or can I daisy chain them together?

If you were to attach 3 servers then you'd need a minimum of 3 fibre channel HBAs (6 would be better for redundancy) and a fibre channel switch. The cheap-and-cheerful (which is relative) swicth from Brocade has 8 ports arranged as 2 sets of 4 shared bandwidth ports. Its sort of a cross between a hub and a switch. You cannot daisy chain the HBAs.

For direct attach storage you'll need a rack of SCSI disk and this will be your chepeast hardware based option. Dell sells the PowerVault 220S and I know HP and IBM also sell them. You'll need a RAID controller that supports clustering for the two clustered servers. You then connect the external storage to the RAID controller in each server.  
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by:tommyboy22481
ID: 13931635
I looked into iSCSI a bit and it seems like it might actually be what I am looking for. Any external storage is out of the question since we are on a tight budget. I want to be able to do this with existing hardware.

One thing that concers me is wheather the iSCSI driver from MS (  http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=12CB3C1A-15D6-4585-B385-BEFD1319F825&displaylang=en  ) will support my RAID cluster as it is active disk based. My RAID card only support 1, 0 and 1+0, so if I can't use my active disk array then I would have to strip the disks and I dont want to do that. Whats all involved in setting up iSCSI?

 kdkirmse - We are already running 2003 Enterprise, and two of the three servers already have Gbit NIC's.
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gjohnson99 earned 300 total points
ID: 13931654
iSCSI is the way to go

By loading software on your computer you can turn any local drive into SAN type drive that will work with windows cluster. Very easy to setup and works good. You would need no more hardware than you have now.

http://www.stringbeansoftware.com/   They Have demo you can down load.
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by:tommyboy22481
ID: 13931675
Is there any free iSCSI software out there? Will the driver I linked to in my previous post work?
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by:gjohnson99
ID: 13931710
Not that are real good for windows - linux yes but not as easy to intall

The stingbean stuff will run you around $500 for two clients.
 
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Author Comment

by:tommyboy22481
ID: 13931731
I'm not worried about real good, just something that works. I MIGHT be able to spend around $100 if I'm lucky, and that would go towards a couple Gbit NICs. If I can't do it for free it aint happening, which is why I asked here. Anyone can throw money at the problem and fix it.
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by:gjohnson99
ID: 13931748
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Author Comment

by:tommyboy22481
ID: 13931798
Thanks, but thats not entirely free unless we qualify.  "In some particular cases we provide licenses free of charge for the non-commercial organizations (funds and foundations etc)."  Which we could try but I'm doubting it. Of course I could alwys find a cracked copy but my boss is very strict about running illegal s/w so thats out.
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by:gjohnson99
ID: 13931807
It on your honor
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by:tommyboy22481
ID: 13931823
Could you post a link directly? I saw a link to download the trial version, but the non-commercial version you had to contact them to get. I will send them an email to see if we qualify but I don't think we will.
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by:gjohnson99
ID: 13932742
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Author Comment

by:tommyboy22481
ID: 13935925
That actually looks pretty promising, I will try that this afternoon. Also I guess my question has pretty much been answered, I should look into iSCSI. If we had any money an external HD rack would be better but we really dont need that level of hardware. For F/C I would need 3 HBA's and a F/C Switch. Thanks guys!
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