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Need a shopping list for a basic cluster server

I have searched for a while, and although there are several articles about constructing a cluster server, there seem to be no hints on what equipment to buy.  I am not a wealthy man so will be looking for the poor mans cluster, but I will want it to be Microsoft Windows Based.
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CEORACE
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CEORACE
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1 Solution
 
Share-ITCommented:
Ballpark budget?

Do you want to use 2 servers and a proper shared storage array or are we talking a home setup to play with?
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Share-ITCommented:
The only real requirement for a cluster above a normal system is shared storage. This could be a single SCSI disk "hanging" between 2 machines.

 
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CynepMeHCommented:
Depends on the purpose of cluster. If you're going to be setting up a "true" cluster - e.g. to provide an actual cluster functionality, then you'll need:

2 servers with aproximately similar hardware specs
2 NICs per server - 1 for network, 1 for heartbeat
1 shared storage, preferrably with enough space to accomodate your data and quorum plus logs
1 cross-over cable for your NIC-to-NIC heartbeat

Shared storage is the trickiest part, because that usually requires SCSI connection. However, you can use iSCSI, which may allow you to connect to some network-attached storage or storage box. For example, some devices allow you to connect USB drives on one end and network on another end and they support iSCSI.

Also, there are some solutions which allow you to run a NAS (network attached storage) software, which in turn allows you to present a drive or portion there of as an iSCSI volume, to which you can connect via iSCSI connector from your server. For that, you'll need an additional NIC in your servers that supports 1GB.

However, if you're planning to set up a cluster just for testing purposes - you may want to consider using VMWare based cluster (e.g. "cluster in a box").

So, reply what your goals are and I'm sure you can get some useful info in return.
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Gerald ConnollyCommented:
Are you looking for a general purpose cluster or a compute cluster?
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CEORACEAuthor Commented:
Here is the plan.  I have a web server and a mail server.  I have 2 internet feeds to the office.  I am using a product called Simple Failover, which is basically a commercial strength DDNS client.  

When the Main feed fails, the simple failover will change all the DNS to point to the other internet feed, however as you cannot use 2 gateways in the server without it shutting down (voice of experience here, you can't even disable one and hope for stability) I was thinking that if I cluster 2 servers, one on one network, and one on the other, then when one fails, the other side will take over.  

Please, if you have a better solution besides clustering or a router that costs thousands of dollars, I am open to any other suggestions, but the cluster is the only thing I could think of that would do it.
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CynepMeHCommented:
If the feeds are terminating directly into the server itself, why not just install 2 similar nics and enable NIC teaming? Aside from your usual concerns about staging servers on an unprotected segment, I'd have no qualms.

Now, if you don't mind getting dirty, you can install a linux-based solution. Essentially, you can take a cheapy box (1Ghz P4 or better would suffice), load linux on it, install NICs in it and configure it as your redundant link / firewall appliance. There are some pre-compiled builds already available online. You need to be linux/unix savvy but it's worth a try and cheap. Essentially, you can configure that router as dual-link teaming/firewall. It ain't for a faint of heart or begginers, mind.

Now, there are some solutions available - one of the cheapest and easiest solutions I've found (besides being most well-documented), there's a little trick:

You can buy a WRT54G series Linksys router (about $80 or so bucks) and load a custom firmware build on it which essentially turns it into a corporate-strenghth appliance. People have been doing all kinds of cool stuff with it and one of the benefits is that you can take any of the available ports and turn them into a fail-over ports. So, on top of firewall functionality you also have link redundancy.

Lastly, depending on the connection type for your feeds, you can get an older (used) cisco router, most likely under $1000. You just need to check which model supports failover on dual ether ports. I think perhaps a dual-port 2600 can support failover but I'm not very sure. As a bonus, you may find them on ebay already loaded with a firewall featureset. Even though they may be old(er) but they are quite reliable and usefull.

In any situation, I don't think cluster is needed in this situation. For curiosity reasons, please explain how are  your connections terminating into your setup right now and also if these systems are sitting on the inside or outside of your network. I also didn't quite understand about your web/email server - whether connection 1 goes to web, connection 2 goes to mail server? Share some details if you can.
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CEORACEAuthor Commented:
"You can buy a WRT54G series Linksys router (about $80 or so bucks) and load a custom firmware build on it which essentially turns it into a corporate-strenghth appliance. "

I have 4 of these now, how do you go about doing that?

As for the connections, I have two ISP's.  One is 12mbps up and 1mbps down, the other is 512k up and down.  Currently I have the mail and web serves on the higher speed one and want them to fail over to the slower one in case of service interruption.  My DNS servers are placed one on each system so the redundancy there is built in.

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CynepMeHCommented:
Ceorace, I'm still not clear about your set up but I don't think it's critical.

Even though you can convert your linksys router and get some of the functionality you're looking for, keep in mind that performance may be an issue, depending on how much traffic you're sending through.

Here's process in a nutshell:
http://lifehacker.com/software/router/hack-attack-turn-your-60-router-into-a-600-router-178132.php

Here's website dedicated to the project
http://www.dd-wrt.com/

Have fun!
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CEORACEAuthor Commented:
Connection 1 is Cable modem

connection 2 is wireless from another provider.

Currently all equipment runs on connection 1.

I want automatic failover to connection 2 (a separate line) if connection 1 fails.

I am not sure if I can explain it better, but that is it in a nutshell.  I tried 2 NIC's thinking that that would do it, but of course the 2 gateways clash and the system does not run, from there I was stuck.  That is why I am here, I am looking for an easy way to make it failover to the second line if the main goes down.
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CynepMeHCommented:
When you say "wireless" - is it EVDO (e.g. cell-phone) based? If so, you may have some additional options available. Anyway, the way you need to be set up is as follows (see diagram)

You will need a router with a fail-over capability. Off the top of my head, I think Juniper Netscreen 5GT or 5XT should work nicely for you. They are about $200 - $300 on ebay or about $1000 if you buy through retailer with support and whatever options you need.

You terminate your primary connection into interface 0. backup connection goes into interface 1. Your "trusted" (e.g. LAN) connection goes to your switch out to the network and into your servers.

Router's internal interface is your default gateway address for the servers. External interfaces are configured to allow the required traffic inside. No clustering and your servers are behind a firewall/router. When connection 0 goes down the router should be able to fail over to connection 1.

Depending on a router and features available, they all have different ways of finding out if the connection is down. There are several dozen products that are under $1000 and can accomplish what you're trying to do. The only caveat, some of them may or may not support dynamic IP address. I'm not sure if your connections use static IPs, so that's something to consider when looking what to buy.

Try looking at some of these:

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&complete=1&hl=en&q=router+failover&aq=f



sketch.JPG
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CEORACEAuthor Commented:
By wireless I mean my provider uses a wireless system to send me a signal.  It is not cellular.  I hook up through ethernet via an antenna on the roof.  To my system it appears as just another ISP.  I just want them to failover to each other but don't know how.
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