In Place upgrades of cluster nodes to Windows Server 2016

You will all have heard about rolling cluster upgrades from Windows Server 202 R2 to Windows Server 2016 by now. The best and recommend practice is to do a clean install of any node you want to move to Windows Server 2016. However an in place upgrade does work. Actually it works better then ever before. I’m not recommending this for production but I did do a bunch just to see how the experience was and if that experience was consistent. I was actually pleasantly surprised and it saved me some time in the lab.

Today, if you want to you can upgrade your Windows Server 2012 R2 hosts in the cluster to Windows Server 2016.

The main things to watch out for are that all the VMs on that host have to be migrated to another node or be shut down.

You can not have teamed NICs on the host. Most often these will be used for a vSwitch, so it’s smart and prudent to note down the vSwitch (or vSwitches) name and remove them before removing the NIC team. After you’ve upgraded the node you can recreate the NIC team and the vSwitch(es).

Note that you don’t even have to evict the node from the cluster anymore to perform the upgrade.

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I have successfully upgrade 4 cluster this way. One was based on PC hardware but the other ones where:

  • DELL R610 2 node cluster with shared SAS storage (MD3200).
  • Dell R720 2 node cluster with Compellent SAN (and ancient 4Gbps Emulex and QLogic FC HBAs)
  • Dell R730 3 node cluster with Compellent SAN (8Gbps Emulex HBAs)

Naturally all these servers were rocking the most current firmware and drives as possible. After the upgrades I upgraded the NIC drivers (Mellanox, Intel) and the FC drivers ‘(Emulex) to be at their supported vendors drivers. I also made sure they got all the available updates before moving on with these lab clusters.

Issues I noticed:

  • The most common issue I saw was that the Hyper-V manager GUI was not functional and I could not connect to the host. The fix was easy: uninstall Hyper-V and re-install it. This requires a few reboots. Other than that it went incredibly well.
  • Another issue I’ve seen with upgrade was that the netlogon service was set to manual which caused various issues with authentication but which is easily fixed. This has also been reported here. Microsoft is aware of this bug and a fixed is being worked on.

 

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First experiences with a rolling cluster upgrade of a lab Hyper-V Cluster (Technical Preview)

Introduction

In vNext we have gotten a long awaited  & very welcome new capability: rolling cluster upgrades. Which for the Hyper-V roles is a 100% zero down time experience. The only step that will require some down time is the upgrade of the virtual machine configuration files to vNext (version 5 to 6) as the VM has to be shut down for this.

How to

The process for a rolling upgrade is so straight forward I’ll just give you a quick bullet list of the first part of the process:

  • Evacuate the workload from the cluster node you’re going to upgrade
  • Evict the node to upgrade to vNext from the cluster
  • Upgrade (no in place upgrade supported but in your lab you can get away with it)
  • Add the upgraded node to the cluster
  • Rinse & repeat until all nodes have been upgraded (that can take a while with larger clusters)

Please note that all actions you administration you do on a cluster in mixed mode should be done from a node running vNext or a system running Windows 10 with the vNext RSAT installed.

Once you’ve upgraded all nodes in the cluster, the situation you’re in now is basically that you’re running a Windows Server vNext Hyper-V cluster in cluster functional level 8 (W2K12R2) and the next step is to upgrade to 9, which is vNext, no there no 10 yet in server Winking smile

You do this by executing the Update-ClusterFunctionalLevel cmdlet. This is an online process.  Again, do this from a node running vNext or a system running Windows 10 with the vNext RSAT installed. Note that this is where you’re willing to commit to the vNext level for the cluster. That’s where you want to go but you get to decide when. When you’ve do this you can’t go back to W2K12R2. It’s a matter of fact that as long as you’re running cluster functional level 8, you can reverse the entire process. Talk about having options! I like having options, just ask Carsten Rachfahl (@hypervserver), he’ll tell you it’s one of my mantras.

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When this goes well you can just easily check the cluster functional level as follows:

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When this is done you can do the upgrade of the VM configuration by running the Update-VMConfigurationVersion cmdlet. This is an off line process where the VMs you’re updating have to be shut down. You can do this for just one VM, all or anything in between. This is when you decided you’re committing to all the goodness vNext brings you.  But the fact that you have some time before you need to do it means you can  easily get those machine to run smoothly on a W2K12R2 cluster in case you need to roll back. Remember, options are good!

Doing so updates VM version from 5 to 6 and enables new Hyper-V features (hit F5 a lot or reopen Hyper-V Manager to see the value change.

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Note: If in the lab you’re running some VMs on a cluster node are not highly available (i.e. they’re not clustered) they cannot be updated until the cluster functional level has been upgraded to version 9.

Exchange 2010 SP3 Rollup 5 Added Support for Windows Server 2012 R2 Active Directory

6 weeks ago (February 25th 2014) Microsoft finally took away the last barrier to upgrading some of our Windows Server 2012 Active Directory Environments to R2.  Most of them are still running Exchange 2010 SP3 and not Exchange 2013. The reason is that Exchange 2013 was not deployed is whole other discussion Eye rolling smile.

However that dis mean that until the release of  Exchange Server 2010 SP3 Update Rollup 5 last month we could not upgrade Active Directory to Windows Server 2012 R2. Rollup 5 brought us support for exactly that. We can now:

  • Support Domain Controllers running Windows Server 2012 R2
  • Raise the Active Directory Forest Function Level and Domain Functional Level to Windows Server 2012 R2

Please note that you cannot deploy Exchange Server 2010 (SP3 RU5) on Windows Server 2012 R2 and you’ll probably never will be able to do that. I’m not sure Microsoft has any plans for this.

Now our office moves have been concluded, meaning I can get back to IT Infrastructure instead of being an glorified logistics & facility peon, we’re doing the upgrade.

This also means we can move the Active Directory environments to the latest version so we have the best possible position for any future IT projects at very low risk. The environments are already at W2K12 functional level. If the budgets get so tight they lose/scrap EA or volume licensing it also allows them to run at this level for many years to come without causing any blocking issues.

Reverting the Forest & Domain Functional Levels in Window Server 2008 R2, 2012, 2012 R2

Since Windows Server 2008 R2 and now with Windows Server 2012(R2)you can roll back the domain and forest functional level under certain conditions. This was not possible before with previous versions of Windows. In these cases you would have to revert to a restore from backup. Yup pretty hefty so raising functional levels has to be done with care.

Now this isn’t a free fire zone there are some conditions as listed in the table below.

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So you cannot have advanced features like the AD recycle bin enabled in some conditions. Enabling this is irreversible, so you cannot revert the Forest Functional Level of your environment to a level that supports the AD recycle bin when it has been enabled. Today that means from Windows Server 2012(R2) to Windows Server 2008 R2.

You also need Enterprise Administrator rights to do so, which I hope you’ll understand. It’s also a Windows PowerShell only feature (Set-ADDomainMode).

I used this information recently during an upgrade of an Windows Server 2008 R2 domain to Windows Server 2012 where they wanted to raise the domain and forest functional level. As they had a Forest Trust between the (now) Windows Server 2012 forest/domain and another Windows Server 2008 R2 forest/domain. They had enabled the Recycle Bin when still at Windows 2008 R2. They wanted to know if they would have issues with the trust and if so whether they could revert the levels in that case.

Well I could put their mind at ease. Look at the table. Yes you can go back to Windows 2008 R2 Forest Functional level as that’s a version that also supports AD Recycle bin so it doesn’t matter that is enabled.  And no, the forest trust capability is not affected by the forest functional level in this case as all you need there is to be at a minimum level of Windows 2003 to be able to do a forest trust. Forest Trust is enabled from and above Windows Server 2003 Forest functional Level. In a Windows Server 2000 Forest functional Level, Forest Trust is disabled. That means you can do them between forests at different functional levels a long as non of them is lower than Windows 2003. In this case it’s Windows 2008 R2 that’s the lowest, so again, not an issue.

How? Very simple:

Set-ADDomain Mode mydomain.com -DomainMode Windows2008R2Domain

Set-ADForestMode mydomain.com -ForestMode Windows2008R2Forest

Take a look at these TechNet Resources Understanding Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) Functional Levels  and Set-ADDomainMode for more information.