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Switchovers and Failovers

Exchange 2010
 

Applies to: Exchange Server 2010 SP3, Exchange Server 2010 SP2

Topic Last Modified: 2013-11-01

Switchovers and failovers are the two forms of outages in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. A switchover is a scheduled outage of a database or server that's explicitly initiated by an administrator, typically in preparation for performing a maintenance operation. Switchovers involve an administrator moving the active mailbox database copy to another server in the database availability group (DAG).

A failover refers to unexpected events that result in the unavailability of services, data, or both. A failover involves the system automatically recovering from the failure by activating a passive mailbox database copy to make it the active mailbox database copy.

The high availability platform in Exchange 2010 is designed to handle both switchovers and failovers.

Looking for management tasks related to high availability and site resilience? See Managing High Availability and Site Resilience.

There are three types of switchovers in Exchange 2010:

  • Database switchovers

  • Server switchovers

  • Datacenter switchovers

A database switchover is the process by which an individual active database is switched over to another database copy (a passive copy), and that database copy is made the new active database copy. Database switchovers can happen both within and across datacenters. A database switchover can be performed by using the Exchange Management Console (EMC) or the Exchange Management Shell. Regardless of which interface is used, the switchover process is the same:

  1. The administrator initiates a database switchover to move the current active mailbox database copy to another server. The switchover can be initiated by using the Move-ActiveMailboxDatabase cmdlet or by using the Activate a Database Copy wizard.

  2. The client used for the task makes an RPC call to the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on a DAG member.

  3. If the DAG member doesn't hold the Primary Active Manager (PAM) role, the DAG member refers the task to the PAM.

  4. The task makes an RPC call to the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the PAM.

  5. The PAM reads and updates the database location information that's stored in the cluster database for the DAG.

  6. The PAM contacts the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the DAG member whose passive copy is being activated as the new active mailbox database copy.

  7. The Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target server queries the Microsoft Exchange Replication services on all other DAG members to determine the best log source for the database copy.

  8. The database is dismounted from the current server and the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target server copies the remaining logs to the target server.

  9. The Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target server requests a database mount.

  10. The Microsoft Exchange Information Store service on the target server replays the log files and mounts the database.

  11. Any error codes are returned to the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target server.

  12. The PAM updates the database copy state information in the cluster database for the DAG.

  13. Any error codes are returned by the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target server to the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the PAM.

  14. The Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the PAM returns any errors to the administrative interface where the task was called.

  15. Remote PowerShell returns the results of the operation to the calling administrative interface.

For detailed steps about how to perform a database switchover, see Move the Active Mailbox Database.

A server switchover is the process by which all active databases on a DAG member are activated on one or more other DAG members. Like database switchovers, a server switchover can occur both within a datacenter and across datacenters, and it can be initiated by using both the EMC and the Shell. Regardless of which interface is used, the switchover process is the same:

  1. The administrator initiates a server switchover to move all current active mailbox database copies to one or more other servers. The switchover can be initiated by using the Move-ActiveMailboxDatabase cmdlet, or by using the Switchover Server UI.

  2. The task performs the same steps described earlier in this topic for database switchovers (Steps 2 through 4) for each of the active databases on the current server.

  3. The PAM reads and updates the database location information that's stored in the cluster database for the DAG.

  4. The PAM contacts the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on each DAG member that has a passive copy being activated.

  5. The Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target servers query the Microsoft Exchange Replication services on all other DAG members to determine the best log source for the database copy.

  6. The database is dismounted from the current server and the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on each target server copies the remaining logs.

  7. The Microsoft Exchange Replication service on each target server requests a database mount.

  8. The Microsoft Exchange Information Store service on each target server replays the log files and mounts the database.

  9. Any error codes are returned to the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target server.

  10. The PAM updates the database copy state information in the cluster database for the DAG.

  11. Any error codes are returned by the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the target server to the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the PAM.

  12. The Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the PAM returns any errors to the administrative interface where the task was called.

  13. Remote PowerShell returns the results of the operation to the calling administrative interface.

For detailed steps about how to perform a server switchover, see Perform a Server Switchover.

A datacenter or site failure is managed differently from the types of failures that can cause a server or database failover. In a high availability configuration, automatic recovery is initiated by the system, and the failure typically leaves the messaging system in a fully functional state. By contrast, a datacenter failure is considered to be a disaster recovery event, and as such, recovery must be manually performed and completed for the client service to be restored and for the outage to end. The process you perform is called a datacenter switchover. As with many disaster recovery scenarios, prior planning and preparation for a datacenter switchover can simplify your recovery process and reduce the duration of your outage.

For more information about datacenter switchovers, including detailed steps for performing a datacenter switchover, see Datacenter Switchovers.

For assistance with performing a datacenter switchover, see Guided Walkthrough: Exchange Server 2010 Datacenter Switchover for a Database Availability Group.

A failover is an automatic activation process that can occur at either the database or server level. Failovers occur in response to a failure that affects an individual database (for example, an isolated storage loss) or an entire server (for example, a motherboard failure or a loss of power).

DAGs and mailbox database copies provide full redundancy (and therefore rapid recovery) of both the data and the services that provide access to the data. The following table lists the expected recovery actions for a variety of failures. Some failures require the administrator to initiate the recovery, and other failures are automatically handled by the system.

 

Description Automatic activation Automatic repair action State during repair: Active State during repair: Passive Repair actions Comments

Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) soft database failure: The drives storing the database are returning errors on some reads (for example, a -1018 error).

Possible short outage.

Possible automatic failover.

Automatic patching of bad page.

Manual switchover, automatic failover, or online repair.

Failed

RAID rebuild, database and database copy repair, restore and run recovery then page patching, or page patching from copy.

There may be other soft database failure codes.

Doesn't include NTFS file system block failures.

If failover or switchover is performed, host server is updated.

ESE "semi-soft" database failure: The drives storing the database are returning errors on some writes.

Short outage during automatic failover.

Automatic volume/disk rebuilt after possible drive replacement.

Dismounted if can’t be recovered.

Failed

RAID rebuild may solve the problem.

Copy and repair, restore and run recovery, or volume/disk rebuilt after possible replacement.

An ESE semi-soft write error means some writes are successful.

Doesn't include an NTFS block failure.

ESE "semi-soft" log failure: The drives storing the log data are returning non-recovered errors on some reads or writes.

Short outage during automatic failover.

Automatic volume/disk rebuilt after possible drive replacement.

Dismounted if can’t be recovered.

Failed

RAID rebuild may solve the problem.

Copy and repair, restore and run recovery, or volume/disk rebuilt after possible replacement.

An ESE semi-soft read/write error means some reads/writes are successful.

If the database fails, automated recovery will occur before log data recovery processing starts.

ESE software error or resource exhaustion: An error where ESE terminates instance (for example, Event ID 1022, checkpoint depth too deep).

Short outage during automatic failover.

None.

Dismounted if can’t be recovered.

Failed

Fix underlying resource issue.

This failure could be the surfaced error of other cases.

NTFS block failures: The drives storing the database or logs experiences a read or write error to an NTFS control structure.

Short outage during automatic failover.

Volume completely rebuilt after possible drive replacement.

Dismounted if can’t be recovered.

Failed

RAID rebuild may solve the problem. NTFS utilities may solve the NTFS problems. Exchange recovery may be required.

This is more likely to occur when RAID isn't in use. If this impacts the active log volume, some recent log files will be lost.

Doesn't include errors automatically corrected by NTFS or its underlying software or hardware stack.

Database or log drive failure: A drive storing the database or logs has completely failed and is inaccessible.

Short outage during automatic failover.

Drive reformatted or replaced, followed by complete volume rebuild.

Dismounted if can’t be recovered.

Failed

Drive replacement followed by possible RAID rebuild.

Drive replacement followed by complete volume rebuild.

Complete volume rebuild.

Not applicable.

Database or log volume failure: The volume fails due to NTFS or lower level volume issues.

Short outage during automatic failover.

Drive reformatted or replaced.

Dismounted if can’t be recovered.

Failed

Drive replacement followed by possible RAID rebuild.

Drive replacement followed by complete volume rebuild.

Complete volume rebuild.

Not applicable.

Database or log volume out of space: The NTFS file system with the database or log files is out of space.

Automatic failover if other copy isn't in similar state.

None.

Dismounted.

Failed

Run full or incremental backups, manually delete logs, let time pass, resume database copy, or repair failed database copy.

Not applicable.

Administrator dismounts the wrong database.

If automatic failover isn't blocked by the administrator, there will be a short outage.

If automatic failover is prevented, there will be an outage until the database is mounted.

None.

Dismounted.

Not applicable

Administrator corrects the error.

Not applicable.

Administrator suspends the wrong database copy.

Depending on configuration and impacted copy, auto recovery may be prevented.

None.

Not applicable.

Suspended

Administrator corrects the error.

Not applicable.

Administrator dismounts a database for storage, NTFS, or volume maintenance.

If automatic failover isn't blocked by the administrator, there will be a short outage.

If automatic failover is blocked, there will be an outage until the administrator completes the task.

None.

Dismounted.

Not applicable

Administrator completes the task.

Not applicable.

Administrator suspends a database copy for storage, NTFS, or volume maintenance.

Depending on configuration and impacted copy, auto recovery may be prevented.

None.

Not applicable.

Suspended

Administrator completes the actions.

Not applicable.

Administrator dismounts a database for offline database maintenance.

Outage until repaired.

None.

Dismounted.

Suspended

Administrator completes the actions.

Active and passive database copies are diverged.

Administrator must suspend copies.

Storage area network (SAN), disk, or storage controller failure.

Short outage during automatic failover.

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Repair hardware.

A passive database copy will be in the state that existed at the time when the system failed.

Server hardware maintenance.

Short outage during automatic failover (unless blocked by an administrator).

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Complete actions.

A passive database copy will be in the state that existed at the time when the system was shut down.

Server software maintenance.

Short outage during automatic failover (unless blocked by an administrator).

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Complete actions.

A passive database copy will be in the state that existed at the time when the system was shut down.

Microsoft Exchange Information Store service is stopped or paused by an administrator.

None.

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Restart the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service.

A passive database copy will be in the state that existed at the time when the service was stopped.

Microsoft Exchange Information Store service fails; operating system is still running.

Short outage during automatic failover.

Service Control Manager restarts the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service.

Dismounted.

Any

Manually or automatically restart the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service.

A passive database copy will be in the state that existed when the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service failed.

Partial Microsoft Exchange Information Store service failure; some part of the Exchange store stops functioning, but it's not identified as completely failed.

Possible short outage during automatic failover.

None.

Mounted and partially functional.

Any, but may be only partially functional

Restart server, operating system, or Microsoft Exchange Information Store service.

Not applicable.

Server failure: The server fails for one of the following reasons:

  • Complete power failure

  • Unrecovered failure of the processor chip, motherboard, or backplane

  • Operating system stop error

  • Operating system stops responding

  • Complete communication failure

Short outage during automatic failover.

Restart computer.

Dismounted.

Any

Restore power, change operating system settings, change hardware settings, replace hardware, restart operating system, service operating system, service hardware, or repair communication problems.

Not applicable.

DAG experiences a quorum failure.

Outage until repaired.

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Repair failed quorum, assign new quorum, or restore the network that's causing quorum failure.

A passive database copy will be in the state that existed at the time when the system failed.

MAPI network communication failure: The server is no longer available on the MAPI network.

Short outage during automatic failover; must be lossless.

None. Communication continues to be attempted.

Dismounted.

Any

Fix communication problem by correcting hardware or software issues.

Not applicable.

Replication network communication failure: The server can’t receive heartbeats, log copies, or seed through the failed replication network.

Possible short copying or seeding outage while the workload is switched to other network.

None. Communication continues to be attempted.

None.

Any

Fix communication problem by correcting hardware or software issues.

Resiliency impacted by failure.

Multiple network communication failure: The server can’t receive heartbeats, log copies, or seed through multiple networks.

Short outage during automatic failover; must be lossless.

None. Communication continues to be attempted.

Dismounted.

Any

Fix communication problem by correcting hardware or software issues.

At least one network is still functional.

Partial failure of one or more networks: Networks experience high error rates.

Failure not detected; no action.

None.

Mounted, but possible performance issues.

Any

Fix communication problem by correcting hardware or software issues.

Network experiences higher than normal error rates.

Undetected operating system hang: Operating system stops responding but it's not detected by monitoring or clustering.

None.

None.

Any.

Any

Restart or terminate the resources that aren't responding.

Hang isn't detected so no action is taken.

Some functionality may be operational.

Operating system drive experiences a failure.

Short outage during automatic failover.

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Replace drive and rebuild server or rebuild volume by using RAID.

Not applicable.

Operating system drive out of space.

Short outage during automatic failover.

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Manually free space on the volume.

Not applicable.

Drive containing Exchange binaries experiences a volume or drive failure.

Short outage during automatic failover.

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Replace drive and reinstall application or rebuild volume by using RAID.

Not applicable.

Drive containing the Exchange binaries is out of space.

Short outage during automatic failover.

None.

Dismounted.

Any

Manually free space on the volume.

Not applicable.

Invalid new log detected: The log sequence is disrupted by an existing file.

Short outage during automatic failover; assume other copies don't have the same problem.

None.

Dismounted.

Failed

Remove disruptive logs after determining source.

The disruptive logs shouldn't replicate.

Continuous replication detects invalid log: Replay detects an inappropriate log during copy or replay.

Not applicable.

Discard log.

Not applicable.

Failed

Discard invalid log; move impacting log stream.

Not applicable.

A database failover occurs when a database copy that was active is no longer able to remain active. The following occurs as part of a database failover:

  1. The database failure is detected by the Microsoft Exchange Information Store service.

  2. The Microsoft Exchange Information Store service writes failure events to the crimson channel event log.

  3. The Active Manager on the server that contains the failed database detects the failure events.

  4. The Active Manager requests the database copy status from the other servers that hold a copy of the database.

  5. The other servers return the requested database copy status to the requesting Active Manager.

  6. The PAM initiates a move of the active database to another server in the DAG using a best copy selection algorithm.

  7. The PAM updates the database mount location in the cluster database to refer to the selected server.

  8. The PAM sends a request to the Active Manager on the selected server to become the database master.

  9. The Active Manager on the selected server requests that the Microsoft Exchange Replication service attempt to copy the last logs from the previous server and set the mountable flag for the database.

  10. The Microsoft Exchange Replication service copies the logs from the server that previously had the active copy of the database.

  11. The Active Manager reads the maximum log generation number from the cluster database.

  12. The Microsoft Exchange Information Store service mounts the new active database copy.

A server failover occurs when the DAG member is no longer able to service the MAPI network, or when the Cluster service on a DAG member is no longer able to contact the remaining DAG members. The following occurs as part of a server failover:

  1. The Cluster service on the PAM sends a notification to the PAM for one of two conditions:

    1. Node Down   The server is reachable but is unable to participate in DAG operations.

    2. MAPI Network Down   The server can't be contacted over the MAPI network and therefore can't participate in DAG operations.

  2. If the server is reachable, the PAM contacts the Active Manager on the affected server and requests that all databases be immediately dismounted.

  3. For each affected database copy:

    1. The PAM requests the database copy status from all servers in the DAG.

    2. The PAM receives a response from all reachable and active DAG members.

    3. The PAM tries to determine the best log source among all responding servers by querying the most recent log generation number from each of the responders.

    4. Each of the servers responds with the log generation number.

  4. The PAM retrieves the current search index catalog status from the cluster database.

  5. Based on the log generation number and catalog health of each database copy, the PAM selects the best copies to activate.

  6. The PAM updates the mounted location of the database in the cluster database.

  7. The PAM initiates database failover by communicating with the Active Manager on one or more other servers.

  8. The Active Manager on the selected servers requests that the Microsoft Exchange Replication service attempt to copy the last logs from the previous server and set the mountable flag.

  9. When the database is mountable, the Active Manager on the servers mounts the databases.

For more information about Active Manager's best copy selection process, see Understanding Active Manager.

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