Testing Virtual Machine Compute Resiliency in Windows Server 2016

No matter what high quality gear you use, how well you design your environment and how much redundancy you build in you will see transient failures in your environment at one point in time. In combination with the push to ever more commodity hardware and the increased use of converged deployments leveraging Ethernet transient failures have become more frequent occurrence then they used to be.

Failover clustering by tradition reacts very “assertive” to failures in order to provide high to continuous availability to our virtual machines. That’s great, we want it to do that, but this binary approach comes at a cost under certain conditions. When reacting too fast and too proactively to transient failures we actually can get  less high or continuous availability in certain scenarios than if the cluster would just have evaluated the situation a bit more cautiously. It’s for this reason that Microsoft introduced increased “Virtual Machine Compute Resiliency” to deal with intra-cluster communication failures in a Windows Server 2016 cluster.

I have helped out a number of fellow MVPs over the past 6 months with this new feature and I dove back into my lab notes to blog about this and help you out with your own testing. The early work was done with Technical Preview v1. In that release it was disabled by default (the value for cluster property “ResiliencyDefaultPeriod”  was set to 0) and the keyword “Default” was used in cluster property “resiliencylevel” for the what is now called ‘IsolateOnSpecialHeartbeat’ and is no longer the default at installation. If that doesn’t confuse you yet, I’ll find another reason to tell you to move to technical preview v2. In TPv2 Virtual Machine Compute Resiliency is enabled and configured by default but in TPv1 you had to enable and configure it yourself. I  advise you to stop testing with v1 and move to v2 and future technical preview release in order for you to test with the most recent bits and functionality.

Investigating the feature configuration

When testing new features in Windows Server Technical Preview Hyper-V you’re on your own once in a while as much is not documented yet. Playing around with PowerShell helps you discover stuff. A  Get-Cluster  | fl * teaches us all kinds of cool stuff such as these new cluster properties:


Here’s a screenshot of Windows Server 2016TPv1 (Please stop using this version and move to TPv2!)


Now when you’re running Windows Server 2016TP v2 this feature has been enabled by default (ResilienceyDefaultPeriod has been filled out as well as QuarantineDuration) and the resiliency level has been set to “AlwaysIsolate”.


After some lab work with this I figured out what we need to know to make VM Compute Resiliency to work in our labs:

  • Make sure your cluster functional level is running at version 9
  • Make sure your VMs are at version 6.X
  • Make sure the Operating systems of the VM is Windows Server Technical Preview v2 (Again move away from TPv1)
  • Enable Isolation/Quarantine via PowerShell:

(get-cluster).resiliencylevel = ‘AlwaysIsolate’ or 2
(get-cluster).resiliencylevel = ‘IsolateOnSpecialHeartbeat’  or  1

Please note that all nodes need to be on line to make this change in the technical preview. I got the two accepted values by trial and error and the blog by Subhasish Bhattacharya confirms these are the only 2 ones.

  • Set the timings to some not too high and not too low value to play in the lab without having to wait to long before it’s back to normal (the values I use in my current Technical Preview lab environment are not a recommendation whatsoever, they only facilitate my testing and learning, this has nothing to do with any production environment) . For lab testing I chose:

(get-cluster).ResiliencyDefaultPeriod = 60  Note that setting this to 0 reverts you back to pre Windows Server 2016 behavior and actually disables this feature. The default is 240 seconds

(get-cluster).QuarantineDuration = 300 The default is 7200 seconds, but I’m way to impatient in my lab for that so I set the quarantine duration lower as I want to see the results of my experiments fast, but beware of just messing with this duration in production without thinking about it. Just saying!

Testing the feature and its behaviour

Then you’re ready to start abusing your cluster to demo Isolation mode & quarantine. I basically crash the Cluster service on one of the nodes in the cluster.  Note that cleanly stopping the service is not good enough, it will nicely drain that node for you. which is not what we want to see. Crash it of force stop it via stop-process -name clussvc –Force.

So what do we see happen:

    • The node on which we crashed the cluster server experiences a “transient” intra-cluster communication failure. This node is placed into an Isolated state and removed from its active cluster membership.


  • The VMs running at version 6.2 go into Unmonitored state. The other ones just fail over. Unmonitored means you that the cluster is no longer actively managing the VM but you can still look at the condition of the VM via PowerShell or Hyper-V manager. image



Based on the type of storage you’re using for your VMs the story is different:

  1. File Storage backed (SMB3/SOFS): The VM continues to run in the Online state. This is possible because the SMB share itself has no dependency on the Hyper-V cluster. Pretty cool!
  2. Block Storage backed (FC / FCoE / iSCSI / Shared SAS / PCI RAID)): The VMs go to Running-Critical and then placed in the Paused Critical state. As you have a intra-cluster communication failure (in our case losing the cluster service) the isolated node no longer has access to the Cluster Shared Volumes in the cluster and this is the only option there is.


  • If the isolated node doesn’t recover from this presumed transient failure it will, after the time specified in ResiliencyDefaultPeriod (default of 4 minutes : 240 s) go into a down state. The VMs fail over to another node in the cluster. Normally during this experiment the cluster service will come back on line automatically.
  • If a node, does recover but goes into isolated 3 times within 1 hour, it is placed into a Quarantine state for the time specified in QuarantineDuration (default two hours or 7200 s) . The VMS running on this node are drained to another node in the cluster. So if you crash that service repeatedly (3 times within an hour) the Hyper-V Node will go into  “Quarantine” status for the time specified (in our lab 5 minutes as we set it to 300 s). The VMs will be live migrated off even if the node is up and running when the cluster service comes up again.

You might notice that this screenshot is a different lab cluster. Yes, it’s a TPv1 cluster as for some reason the Live Migration part on Quarantine is broken on my TPv2 lab. It’s a clean install, completely green field. Probably a bug.image

It’s the frequency of failures that determines that the node goes into quarantine for the amount of time specified. That’s a clear sign for you to investigate and make sure things are OK. The node is no longer allowed to join the cluster for a fixed time period (default: 2 hours)­. The reason for this is to prevent “flapping nodes” from negatively impacting other nodes and the overall cluster health. There is also a fixed (not configurable as far as I know) amount if nodes that can be quarantined at any give time: 20% or only one node can be quarantined (whatever comes first, in the case of a 2, 3 or for node cluster it’s one node max that can be in quarantine).

If you want to get a quarantined node out of quarantine immediately you can rejoin it to the cluster via a single PowerShell command: Start-ClusterNode –CQ  (CQ = Clear Quarantine). Handy in the lab or in real live when things have been fixed and you want that node back in action asap.


Now this sounds pretty good doesn’t it? And it is. Especially if you’re running you’re running your VMs on a SOFS share. Then the VMs will remain online during the Isolation / Unmonitored phase but when you have “traditional” block level storage they won’t. They’ll go in mode as the in that design you have lost access to the CSV. Now, if you ever needed yet another reason to move to a Scale Out File Server & SMB 3 to deliver storage for your VMs I have just given you one! Hey storage vendors … how is that full SMB 3 feature stack coming on your storage arrays? Or do you really just want us to abstract you away behind a Windows SOFS cluster?

Subhasish Bhattacharya Has blogged about this as well here. It’s a feature we’ll test at length to get a grip on the behavior so we know how the cluster nodes will behave under certain conditions. Trust, but verify is my mantra and it’s way better to figure out how a feature behaves in the lab than having to figure it out when you see it for the very first time in production based on assumptions. Just saying.

Using RAMDisk To Test Windows Server 2012 Network Performance

I’m testing & playing different Windows Server 2012 & Hyper-V networking scenarios with 10Gbps, Multichannel, RDAM, Converged networking etc. Partially this is to find out what works best for us in regards to speed, reliability, complexity, supportability and cost.

Basically you have for basic resources in IT around which the eternal struggle for the prefect balance finds place. These are:

  • CPU
  • Memory
  • Networking
  • Storage

We need both the correct balance in capabilities, capacities and speed for these in well designed system. For many years now, but especially the last 2 years it very save to say that, while the sky is the limit, it’s become ever easier and cheaper to get what we need when it comes to CPU, Memory. These have become very powerful, fast and affordable relative to the entire cost of a solution.

Networking in the 10Gbps era is also showing it’s potential in quantity (bandwidth), speed (latency) and cost (well it’s getting there) without reducing the CPU or memory to trash thanks to a bunch of modern off load technologies. And basically in this case it’s these qualities we want to put to the test.

The most trouble some resource has been storage and it has been for quite a while. While SSD do wonders for many applications the balance between speed, capacity & cost isn’t that sweet as for our other resources.

In some environments were I’m active they have a need for both capacity and IOPS and as such they are in luck as next to caching a lot of spindles still equate to more IOPS. For testing the boundaries of one resource one needs to make sure non of the others hit theirs. That’s not easy as for performance testing can’t always have a truck load of spindles on a modern high speed SAN available.

RAMDisk to ease the IOPS bottleneck

To see how well the 10Gbps cards with and without Teaming, Multichannel, RDMA are behaving and what these configuration are capable of I wanted to take as much of the disk IOPS bottle neck out of the equation as possible. Apart from buying a Violin system capable of doing +1 million IOPS, which isn’t going to happen for some lab work, you can perhaps get the best possible IOPS by combining some local SSD and RAMDisk. RAMDisk is spare memory used as a virtual disk. It’s very fast and cost effective per IOPS. But capacity wise it’s not the worlds best, let alone most cost effective solution.


I’m using free RAMDisk software provided by StarWind. I chose this as they allow for large sized RAMDisks. I’m using the ones of 54GB right now to speed test copying fixed sized VHDX files. It install flawlessly on Windows Server 2012 and it hasn’t caused me any issues. Throw in some SSDs on the servers for where you need persistence and you’re in business for some very nice lab work.


You also need to be aware it doesn’t persist data when you reboot the system or lose power. This is not an issue if all we are doing is speed testing as we don’t care. Otherwise you’ll need to find a workaround and realize those ‘”flush the data to persistent storage” isn’t full proof or super fast, the SSDs do help here.

You have to register but the good news is that they don’t spam you to death at all, which I find cool. As said the tool is free, works with Windows Server 2012 and allows for larger RAMDisks where other free ones are often way to limited in size.

It has allowed me to do some really nice testing. Perhaps you want to check this out as well. WARNING: The below picture is a lab setup … I’m not a magician and it’s not the kind of IOPS I have all over the datacenters with 4 Cheapo SATA disks I touched my special magic pixie dust.


With #WinServ 2012 storage costs/performance/capacity are the only thing limiting you  http://twitter.yfrog.com/mnuo9fp #SMB3.0 #Multichannel

Some quick tests with a 52GB NTFS RAMDisk formatted with a 64K NTFS Allocation unit size.

image image

I also tested with another free tool from SoftPerfect ® RAM Disk FREE. It performs well but I don’t get to see the RAMDisk in the Windows Disk Management GUI, at least not on Windows Server 2012. I have not tested with W2K8R2.

NTFS Allocation unit size 4K NTFS Allocation unit size 64K
image image

Flash Forward To Windows Server 2012 SP1

No, it doesn’t exist yet. But when you muck around in a lab a lot kicking the tires and trying to break stuff just to see how it reacts, doing unsupported stuff you can get a “flash forward” sometimes. image

Look at the picture above, this is what a rolling upgrade from Windows Server 2012 RTM to Windows Server 2012 SP1 might very well look like as this message is the one we all know from the previous versions Smile. Alright, that’s enough time travelling for today. Back to work.

Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 for Windows Server 2008 R2 available for public download

As TechNet subscribers, we had access to Windows Storage Server 2008 with Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.2  (also see Jose Barreto’s blog on this here). That was sweet but for one little issue. This SKU cannot be a Hyper-V Host. In order not to lose a physical host in the lab you could edit the MSI installer from the Windows Storage Server 2008 install media where you would delete the SKU check. Problem solved but not very legal so nobody ever did that.  You can install Windows Storage Server in a VM for the lab I know but that becoming very SkyNet like … Virtual servers providing virtual storage for virtual servers … and while a good option to have I like to have a hardware host.

Bring Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 along and Microsoft decided that we could have the iSCSI Software Target 3.3 software without constraints, except that you needed a TechNet/MSDN subscription, to install on W2K8R2. This is the one I’m running in my labs at the moment installed on a Physical Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise edition that also is a Hyper-V host. This provides all my iSCSI storage to both physical and virtual clusters. I used it to test MelioFS with FileScaler recently with a 2 node virtual cluster.

Today, Jose Barreto blogged about the public release of iSCSI Software Target 3.3 for Windows Server 2008 R2. This is very good news as now everyone has access to an iSCSI target for labs, testing, POCs, and even production. Thank you, Microsoft. Now with some luck, we could get some SMI-S support for it with SCVMM2012? Please?

If you need some help, Jose Barreto has a bunch of blog posts on configuring the iSCSI target, so I suggest you check out his site. As an added benefit, Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 setup & configuration is scriptable using PowerShell.