Failover Clustering Overview


Updated: October 17, 2013

Applies To: Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows Server 2012

This topic provides an overview of the Failover Clustering feature in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012. Failover clusters provide high availability and scalability to many server workloads. These include server applications such as Microsoft Exchange Server, Hyper-V, Microsoft SQL Server, and file servers. The server applications can run on physical servers or virtual machines. This topic describes the Failover Clustering feature and provides links to additional guidance about creating, configuring, and managing failover clusters that can scale to 64 physical nodes and to 8,000 virtual machines.

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A failover cluster is a group of independent computers that work together to increase the availability and scalability of clustered roles (formerly called clustered applications and services). The clustered servers (called nodes) are connected by physical cables and by software. If one or more of the cluster nodes fail, other nodes begin to provide service (a process known as failover). In addition, the clustered roles are proactively monitored to verify that they are working properly. If they are not working, they are restarted or moved to another node. Failover clusters also provide Cluster Shared Volume (CSV) functionality that provides a consistent, distributed namespace that clustered roles can use to access shared storage from all nodes. With the Failover Clustering feature, users experience a minimum of disruptions in service.

You can manage failover clusters by using the Failover Cluster Manager snap-in and the Failover Clustering Windows PowerShell cmdlets. You can also use the tools in File and Storage Services to manage file shares on file server clusters.

  • Highly available or continuously available file share storage for applications such as Microsoft SQL Server and Hyper-V virtual machines

  • Highly available clustered roles that run on physical servers or on virtual machines that are installed on servers running Hyper-V

New and changed functionality in Failover Clustering supports increased scalability, easier management, faster failover, and more flexible architectures for failover clusters.

For information about Failover Clustering functionality that is new or changed in Windows Server 2012 R2, see What's New in Failover Clustering.

For information about Failover Clustering functionality that is new or changed in Windows Server 2012, see What's New in Failover Clustering.

A failover cluster solution must meet the following hardware requirements:

  • Hardware components in the failover cluster solution must meet the qualifications for the Certified for Windows Server 2012 logo.

  • Storage must be attached to the nodes in the cluster, if the solution is using shared storage.

  • Device controllers or appropriate adapters for the storage can be Serial Attached SCSI (SAS), Fibre Channel, Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FcoE), or iSCSI.

  • The complete cluster configuration (servers, network, and storage) must pass all tests in the Validate a Configuration Wizard.

System_CAPS_ICON_note.jpg Note

In the network infrastructure that connects your cluster nodes, avoid having single points of failure.

For more information about hardware compatibility, see the Windows Server Catalog.

For more information about the correct configuration of the servers, network, and storage for a failover cluster, see the following topics:

  • You can use the Failover Clustering feature on the Standard and Datacenter editions of Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012. This includes Server Core installations.

  • You must follow the hardware manufacturers' recommendations for firmware updates and software updates. Usually, this means that the latest firmware and software updates have been applied. Occasionally, a manufacturer might recommend specific updates other than the latest updates.

In Server Manager, use the Add Roles and Features Wizard to add the Failover Clustering feature. The Failover Clustering Tools include the Failover Cluster Manager snap-in, the Failover Clustering Windows PowerShell cmdlets, the Cluster-Aware Updating (CAU) user interface and Windows PowerShell cmdlets, and related tools. For general information about installing features, see Install or Uninstall Roles, Role Services, or Features.

To open Failover Cluster Manager in Server Manager, click Tools, and then click Failover Cluster Manager.

The following table provides additional resources about the Failover Clustering feature in Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2012. Additionally, see the content on failover clusters in the Windows Server 2008 R2 Technical Library.

Content typeReferences
Product evaluationWhat's New in Failover Clustering | What's New in Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2012 [redirected] | Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform | Cloud and Datacenter Solutions Hub
PlanningFailover Clustering Hardware Requirements and Storage Options | Validate Hardware for a Failover Cluster | Network Recommendations for a Hyper-V Cluster in Windows Server 2012
DeploymentInstalling the Failover Clustering Feature and Tools | Validate Hardware for a Failover Cluster | Prestage Cluster Computer Objects in Active Directory Domain Services | Creating a Windows Server 2012 Failover Cluster | Deploy Hyper-V over SMB | Deploy Scale-Out File Server | iSCSI Target Block Storage, How To | Install and Configure High Availability Printing | Deploy an Active Directory-Detached Cluster | Deploy a Hyper-V Cluster | Using Guest Clustering for High Availability | Deploy a Guest Cluster Using a Shared Virtual Hard Disk | Building Your Cloud Infrastructure
OperationsConfigure and Manage the Quorum in a Windows Server 2012 Failover Cluster | Use CSVs in a Failover Cluster | Cluster-Aware Updating
Tools and settingsFailover Clustering Windows PowerShell Cmdlets
Community resourcesHigh Availability (Clustering) Forum | Failover Clustering and Network Load Balancing Team Blog
Related technologiesHyper-V overview | File and Storage Services | Storage Spaces | Scale-Out File Server for Application Data | Network Load Balancing | Microsoft SQL Server | Microsoft Server and Cloud Platform | System Center Virtual Machine Manager