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How to implement servers with double redundancy and realtime backup in case of failure

Posted on 2008-06-09
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Last Modified: 2012-05-05
Hello everyone. I am very new to actually implementing servers with redundancy and a critical system that needs to have 100% uptime and if one server dies the next one jumps in. Can someone tell me your experience and what hardware/software you would recommend to do this.

Here is the situation: I have a server that is running a database software (exact) that users use. The company wants it to have double redundancy in the case that the server crashes. They want to be able to continue working as if nothing went wrong. I have no experience in setting up servers in this way and frankly I have no idea how to implement it. Can someone provide me with their Expertise I would greatly appreciate it!

Thanks
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Question by:nichiaiinc
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Expert Comment

by:patrickfromsc
ID: 21753124
What you are talking about is called a cluster (heh, exactly).  For Server 2003, this requires the Enterprise versions of Server, and possibly a different version of the application.

I have setup and supported Exchange 2007 clusters, and this configuration works great, but it is quite complex.  Not only is the setup complicated, but service packs and updates can be quite involved compared to a single stand-alone server.  You might really want to check with local IT consultants that have some experience with clustering.

Exchange Enterprise has capabilities built into it that allows it to keep a second server up to date, called log shipping.  You will need to check with your database vendor to see if they have such a provision.

Regards,
PfSC
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Expert Comment

by:wtstadd
ID: 21754898
Another thing you need to consider is where is the redundant server going to be located? Is it going to be in the same location? How are they going to be connected... etc....
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Author Comment

by:nichiaiinc
ID: 21761380
Thanks for your guys input. I will need to do this inhouse, so I will have to learn somehow. The secondary server will be in house. I am aware that clustering is difficult, is this needed? Of course it woudl probabyl lbe the best solution, but is there another alternative, such as a software solution such as double take?

I also heard windows server has this feature actaully built in, is this true?

Thanks
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patrickfromsc earned 500 total points
ID: 21763517
Enterprise edition has the Cluster service built in.  But the software still has to have some provision to keep an offline copy up to date.  You see, the cluster presents a single resource to clients, and the traffic is directed to the active node in the cluster.  The cluster service monitors the nodes, and if it sees the active node become unavailable, it makes the backup node active and begins directing traffic there instead.  But for this to occur smoothly, without down time, the backup or standby copy has to be kept up to date.

Double Take and similar products are backup / restore utilities.  They have no provision for redirecting clients from one database resource to another, or for keeping a standby database up to date.

I believe that the cluster is the only redundant solution that is going to work without down time in the event of a server failure.  With my Exchange clusters, we typically see about a 45 second transition time if a server becomes unavailable.

It took me about a month to come up to speed on clusters.  Study up on the database (exact?) and see if there is some provision for keeping an offline copy synchronized.  If so, try creating the cluster in a lab environment, and test it thoroughly until you are comfortable with its behavior.
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Author Comment

by:nichiaiinc
ID: 21827758
Thank you Patrick for that very informative post. I will research into the software a bit as well as Microsoft's Cluster service.

There is one point I am still unclear on. How does the switching to the next server occur. If I have a cluster, I still need to provide one IP address to the client pc to connect to the database. If all the servers are connected in a cluster I can understand how one of them would know the other one is dead or missing. But if the end user's PC has the IP address of one of the servers and that server dies then how does the connection remain or switch to one of the available servers. I would really appreciate it if you could help me understand this point.

Thanks!
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Author Closing Comment

by:nichiaiinc
ID: 31465626
Patrick gets the points. I would just like to know the answer to my last question. But either way, it was very helpful. thank you Patrick!
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