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in layman's terms: what is clustering and why would you do it for Exchange?

ThinkPaper
ThinkPaper asked
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Last Modified: 2013-11-15
I've been thrown into the Exchange environment. I don't know too much about setting/managing the Exchange Server besides sending emails on it and setting up profiles. And I don't know anything about clusters. From what they (the exchange admin) are telling me they are saying that they initially had 2 servers (one front end and one back end) and that they had switched to a cluster environment, eliminating the need for a front end server. Could someone explain to me in simple terms what a cluster is and how (and why) you would be using it for the Exchange environment? And why did they have 2 servers before -- is this the norm in setting an exchange environment up? And in general terms, what would be needed to cluster it (does it physically mean you need another server or software to install?)

And are there any good useful (and easy to understand) sites I can go to?

Thanks
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A simple cluster server would consist of 2 identical servers. These servers act as 1 virtual server on the network.
These servers share a common external storage array.
The 2 servers are connected via a "heartbeat" cable. If something happens to one server then the other server will take over.

They can be configured in Active/Active (A/A) or Active/Passive (A/P).
A/P mode:
One node is the active server. If there is some sort of hardware issue then all the Exchange services will fail over the the passive node.

A/A mode:
Both nodes are active.

Obviously since both nodes share a common storage array, then if the problem lies in corruption of the databases or storage failure, then clustering will not help you.

I have just touched on the high points here. Obviously there is much more to it.

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Top Expert 2006

Commented:
What Exchange_Admin has mentioned is correct.
You can also do a search on support.microsoft.com for the word "cluster" and it will give you a long list of good cluster resources.
ThinkPaperIT Consultant

Author

Commented:
thanks for the quick answer. I guess I still got a lot more to learn about the whole thing.
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