Set the preferred site for a CSV in a site-aware stretched failover cluster


I have presented many time over the past tears on the new and enhanced capabilities of Microsoft Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2016 (Experts Live, Cloud & Datacenter Conference Germany, MicroWarehouse’s Windows Server 2016 Launch Event etc.) Feedback has shown me that there is still a lot of need for good failover cluster design and implementation guidance.

One area of enhancement is that you now have site-aware failover clusters in Windows Server 2016. That helps optimize the, availability, behavior and performance of the workload. It leveraged cluster fault domains and in this case those fault domains are the sites where the cluster nodes reside.


Set the preferred site for a CSV in a site-aware stretched failover cluster

You can leverage the site awareness to do all kind of configuration optimizations. You can set a preferred site creating a primary and a DRC site. The cluster behavior will optimize for that scenario. It will also help with situation like quorum split more easily and elegantly. You can create an “Active-Active” site configuration because a cluster groups, such as virtual machines can have their own preferred site.

As you can see in the picture above there is a thing called Storage Affinity. That means that VMs follow storage and are placed in same site where their associated storage resides. As such VMs will begin live migrating to the same site as their associated CSV after 1 minute. The CSV load balancer will distribute within the preferred site. That’s cool. But when setting a preferred site at the cluster group level like for virtual machines, how does one do this for a CSV?

It’s actually quite simple. A CSV is a cluster group, just like a VM is. So, for every CSV you can set that preferred site. You just grab the cluster group a bit differently. Let’s look at an example.

For a VM you’d do this: (Get-ClusterGroup -Name DidierTest01).PreferredSite = ‘Dublin’

Now for a CSV we go about it as follows:

Get-ClusterSharedVolume “Cluster Disk 1” | Get-ClusterGroup | Fl *


The preferred site has not been set yet. To set the preferred site for a CSV you can do the following:

$NTFS01 = Get-ClusterSharedVolume “Cluster Disk 1” | Get-ClusterGroup $NTFS01.PreferredSite = “Dublin”


You can remove a preferred site by setting it to $Null:

$NTFS01.PreferredSite = $Null

That was not to hard was it? There is one other thing to keep in mind. Do not forget to set up your site fault domains first and set the site for your cluster nodes before you start configuring preferred sites at the cluster group level or it will throw an error. That’s the minimal setup of a site-aware cluster you need to have in place before you can do more fine-grained configurations.

New-ClusterFaultDomain –Name Dublin –Type Site –Description “Primary” –Location “Dublin DC1”
New-ClusterFaultDomain –Name Cork –Type Site –Description “Secondary” –Location “Cork DC2″
Set-ClusterFaultDomain –Name Node-A –Parent Dublin
Set-ClusterFaultDomain –Name Node-B –Parent Dublin
Set-ClusterFaultDomain –Name Node-C –Parent Cork
Set-ClusterFaultDomain –Name Node-D –Parent Cork


If you don’t do this and try to set preferred sites at the cluster group level you’ll get an error like:

Exception setting “PreferredSite”: “Unable to save property changes for ‘e95ad724-97d3-4848-91db-198ab8312737’.
The parameter is incorrect”
At line:1 char:1
+ $NTFS01.PreferredSite = “Dublin”
+ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
+ CategoryInfo : NotSpecified: (:) [], SetValueInvocationException
+ FullyQualifiedErrorId : ExceptionWhenSetting


There is a lot more to say about site-aware stretched clusters but how to deal with setting a preferred site for a CSV must be the most common question I get on this subject. Well, now it’s published to help you all out. I hope it helps.

In-place upgrade of an Azure virtual machine


In the cloud it’s all about economies of scale, automation, wipe and (redeploy). Servers are cattle to be destroyed and rebuild when needed. And “needed” here is not like in the past. It has become the default way. But not every one or every workload can achieve that operational level.

There are use cases where I do use in place upgrades for my own infrastructure or for very well known environments where I know the history and health of the services. An example of this is my blog virtual machine. Currently that is running on Azure IAAS, Windows Server 2016, WordPress 4.9.1, MySQL 5.7.20, PHP. It has never been reinstalled.

I upgraded my WordPress versions many times for both small incremental as major releases. I did the same for my MySQL instance used for my blog. The same goes for PHP etc. The principal here is the same. Avoid risk of tech debt, security risks and major maintenance outages by maintaining a modern platform that is patched and up to date. That’s the basis of a well running and secure environment.

In-place upgrade of an Azure virtual machine

In this approach updating the operating system needs to be done as well so my blog went from Windows Server 2012 R2 to Windows Server 2016. That was also an in place upgrade. The normal way of doing in place upgrades, from inside the virtual machine is actually not supported by Azure and you can shoot yourself in the foot by doing so.

The reason for this is the risk. You do not have console access to an Azure IAAS virtual machine. This means that when things go wrong you cannot fix it. You will have to resort to restoring a backup or other means of disaster recovery. There is also no quick way of applying a checkpoint to the VM to return to a well known situation. Even when all goes well you might lose RDP access (didn’t have it happen yet). But even if all goes well and that normally is the case, you’ll be stuck at the normal OOBE screen where you need to accept the license terms that you get after and upgrade to Windows Server 2016.


The default upgrade will boot to that screen and you cannot confirm it as you have no console access. If you have boot diagnostics enabled for the VM you can see the screen but you cannot get console access. Bummer. So what can you do?

Supported way of doing an in-place upgrade of an Azure virtual machine

Microsoft gives you two supported options to upgrade an Azure IAAS virtual machine in

An in-place system upgrade is not supported on Windows-based Azure VMs. These approaches mitigate the risk. The first is actually a migration to a new virtual machine. The second one is doing the upgrade locally on the VHD disk you download from Azure and then upload to create a new IAAS virtual machine. All this avoids messing up the original virtual machine and VHD.

Unsupported way of doing an in-place upgrade of an Azure virtual machine

There is one  way to do it, but if it goes wrong you’ll have to consider the VM as lost. I have tested this approach in a restored backup of the real virtual machine to confirm it works. But, it’s not supported and you assume all risks when you try this.

Mount your Windows Server 2016 ISO in the Windows Server 2012 R2 IAAS virtual machine. Open an administrative command prompt and navigate to the drive letter (mine was ESmile of the mounted ISO. From there you launch the upgrade as follows:

E:\setup.exe /auto upgrade /DynamicUpdate enable /pkey CB7KF-BWN84-R7R2Y-793K2-8XDDG /showoobe none

The key is the client KMS key so it can activate and the /showoobe none parameter is where the “magic” is at. This will let you manually navigate through the wizard and the upgrade process will look very familiar (and manual). But the big thing here is that you told the upgrade not to show the OOBE screen where you accept the license terms and as such you won’t get stuck there. So fare I have done this about 5 times and I have never lost RDP access due to the in-place upgrade. So this worked for me. But whatever you do, make sure you have a backup, a  way out, ideally multiple ways out!

Note that you can use  /Quiet to automate things completely. See  Windows Setup Command-Line Options

Nested virtualization can give us console access

Since we now have nested virtualization you have an option to fix a broken in-^lace upgrade but by getting console access to a nested VM using the VHD of the VM which upgrade failed. See:


If Microsoft would give us virtual machine console access or  DRAC or ILO capabilities that would take care of this issue. Having said all that, I known that in place upgrades of applications, services or operating systems isn’t the cloud way. I also realize that dogmatic purism doesn’t help in a lot of scenarios so if I can help people leverage Azure even when they have “pre cloud” needs, I will as long as it doesn’t expose them to unmanaged risk. So while I don’t recommend this, you can try it if that’s the only option you have available for your situation. Make sure you have a way out.

IAAS has progressed a tremendous amount over the last couple of years. It still has to get on par with capabilities we have not only become accustomed to but learned to appreciate over over the years. But it’s moving in the right direction making it a valid choice for more use cases. As always when doing cloud, don’t do copy paste, but seek the best way to handle your needs.

Veeam Vanguard nominations are now open for 2018!

Just a quick blog post on the Veeam Vanguard program. The nominations for 2018 are open! That means that if you know people who would make a Veeam Vanguard you can nominate them. You can even nominate yourself, that’s perfectly fine. It’s not frowned upon, but it also doesn’t change anything in terms of evaluation for the program.


Rick blogged on this yesterday on the Veeam blog in “Veeam Vanguard nominations are now open for 2018!” and gave some more insight of what the program is, tries to achieve and does. He also discusses the selection. The key take-away is that you cannot study for this and that it is not some kind of certification or such. Some of the current Vanguards were quoted on how they look at the program and one thing is constant in that. The fact that the people in these programs are contributors to the global tech community and it’s about sharing and helping others getting the best out of their environment and their investment in Veeam. It also helps Veeam as they get a very communicative group of people to give them feedback on their offerings, both products and services. It’s just one more tool that helps them get things right of fix thing when they got it wrong. Likewise understanding Veeam and their products better for us helps us make better decisions on design, implementation and operation of them.

You can have a look at the current lineup of Veeam Vanguards over here.


You’ll find a short video on the program on that page as well. So go meet the Vanguards and find their blog, their communities and follow @VeeamVanguard and the hash tag #VeeamVanguard to see what’s going on.


So, people, this is the moment if you want to nominate someone or yourself to join the Veeam Vanguards in 2018. You have time until December 29th 2017 to do so. I have always felt honored to be selected and have found memories of the events I was able to go to and I to this day I’m happy to be active in the Veeam Vanguard ecosystem. It’s a fine group of professionals in a program of a great company.

Software-Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials

The last few months I spent some of my down time and commute time reading a book. A paper one actually. It’s Greg Schulz’s “Software-Defined Data Infrastructure Essentials”. It is as the sub title states about cloud, converged and virtual fundamental server storage I/O tradecraft.

It is not a book you’ll read to learn about a particular technology, product or vendor. It is a more holistic approach to educating people in todays IT landscape. That vast area of expertise in which all the considerations around storage in a modern IT environment come together. Where old and new, established and emerging ways of handling storage IO for a variety of  use cases meet and mix.


Reading the book helps to become more well versed in the subject and takes us out of our product or problem specific cocoons. That the main reason I’d recommend anyone to read it. I’m impressed by how well Greg managed to write a book on such a diverse subject that is accessible to all levels of expertise.The depth and the breadth of this subject make this quite a feat. On top of that this book is usable and valuable to both novice and experienced  professionals. I have said it before (on Twitter), but if I was teaching IT classes and needed to bring the student up to date in regards to the software defined cloud data center data considerations this would be the text book. It acknowledges the diversity of solutions and architectures in the real world and doesn’t make bold marketing statements. Instead it focuses on what you need to know and consider when discussing and designing solutions. I wish many IT manager, consultant and analyst would attend my fictional class but I’d settle for them reading this book and learning about a big part of what they need to manage, It would serve them well and help understand concerns other involved parties might want to see addressed.

For me an extra benefit was that I enjoy talking shop with Greg but I only get those opportunities on rare occasions during conferences.  As such, this book gave me some more time to read his views and insights. That’s the best next thing.