SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 1: Introduction

SQL-Server-2012-imageThis series of posts will show you how to configure SQL 2012 on VMware using a Microsoft failover cluster. Now that VMware vSphere 5.5 is out, I’m excited that VMware finally got on board with officially supporting clustering the vCenter database. However, their only official clustering option they support is what I call the SQL “legacy” failover cluster. No database mirroring, no SQL AlwaysOn replication. So yes, you need shared LUNs and Microsoft Cluster Services. But, VMware has made noises that AlwaysOn support may be in the future, so bug your VMware TAM and submit feature requests.

Most VMware administrators are probably not SQL DBAs, and may never have fully configured a traditional SQL cluster with shared LUNs. I am FAR, FAR from a DBA but have installed more SQL servers than I care to remember. I try and follow best practices (or break them where it makes sense), and not just do a bone headed click-next install. So to that end, this series of posts will be how to install SQL Server 2012 SP1 Enterprise Edition on Windows Server 2012 Standard.

People may be apprehensive to virtualize SQL server, probably due to some bad past experience. I would dare to say those bad experiences are due to human induced issues (poor planning, over subscription, not following best practices, tuning, etc.) and NOT due to the virtualization layer. Yes, doing a traditional shared LUN cluster on VMware is a bit tricky, which is one reason why I favor AlwaysOn clusters. But done right, it will perform extremely well and you gain the advantages of virtualization.

But, the good news is that with vSphere 5.5 several of the former restrictions/headaches have been addressed. Specifically:

  • Fibre Channel, iSCSi and FCoE is now supported (formerly only FC was supported)
  • You can use round-robin multi-pathing
  • Windows Server 2012 clusters are officially supported (5.1 had some glitches)

I’m personally not a fan of RDMs, since they cause operational constraints. So, for this series what I’m going to be doing is in-guest iSCSI for the shared LUNs. This is fully VMware and Microsoft supported, and works around some of the limitations of doing RDMs. There’s a great VMware KB article on all of the supported Microsoft cluster configs here. It has NOT (as of the date of this blog) been updated with 5.5 information.

vSphere 5.5 is now GA’d (a few hours ago) but the series was done on 5.1. So pretend I’m using 5.5 and ignore the 5.1 looking screenshots. My config will assume the 5.5 clustering features exist in your environment. Now that my long winded introduction is out of the way, the next several posts will show you all the required configuration steps for SQL 2012 on VMware vSphere 5.5.

What to Expect

This is no click-next installation, as I’ve tried to work in common virtualized SQL best practices. Covered in this series will be:

  • Windows Server 2012 failover clustering
  • Using mount points for SQL databases/logs
  • Windows firewall configuration
  • SQL SSL certificates
  • Configuring e-mail alert notifications
  • Implementing maintenance/backup plans
  • Other best practices

Blog Series

SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 2: VM Deployment
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 3: iSCSI Configuration
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 4: Cluster Creation
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 5: Service Accounts
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 6: Node A SQL Install
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 7: Node B SQL Install
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 8: Windows Firewall
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 9: TempDB
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 10: Email & RAM
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 11: Jobs N More
SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Pt. 12: Kerberos n SSL

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