The Windows 2000 Cluster Service offers a host of high availability and fault tolerance benefits. However, it can run only on expensive, specialized hardware. Although some companies may be willing to shell out big money for equipment that will guarantee high availability, many of them will be less willing to pay for a mirror set of equipment that can be used on a test network. Of course, administrators cannot bypass testing apps and services that will run on the Cluster Service, so an alternative solution is needed.

One viable option is to test and configure Windows clustering using VMware rather than having to buy thousands of dollars’ worth of computer equipment. I will show you how to install and configure three virtual computers in VMware and prepare them to install the Windows 2000 Cluster Service.

Getting started
In my previous article, I introduced VMware and explained the process of creating virtual machines. I will assume that you are now familiar with VMware, so we’ll look at the nuts and bolts of configuring Windows clustering.

I’ll begin by explaining how to prepare your VMware system to work with clustering. I will then walk you through the configuration of clustering. Finally, I will show you how to test your configuration and format your disks in preparation for the Win2K cluster installation.

To install and configure the three VMware virtual computers you’ll use to test Windows 2000 clustering, you need to do the following:

  • Install and configure a domain controller (NT or Win2K) as a virtual server.
  • Install two virtual machines with Windows 2000 Advanced Server, which is required for the Cluster Service.
  • Download a VMware (virtual) SCSI disk.

Configuring VMware clusters
In our test lab, we have already configured a Windows 2000 domain controller (DC), and we have installed and configured two additional Windows 2000 Advanced Servers and connected them to the DC, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Virtual domain controller and two virtual servers

After making sure that all virtual machines are powered down, we’ll download our VMware SCSI disk to a folder on our hard drive (Figure B).

Figure B
Folder containing the VMware SCSI disk files

In this example, I have created a folder called clustdisk and downloaded my VMware SCSI disk within that folder. Note that the download is a zipped file and contains a PLN and a DAT file. The PLN is the configuration file, and the DAT file is the virtual shared disk.

This zipped file will act as your shared disk storage. To configure it properly, browse to where you extracted your PLN file and open it up with Notepad, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C
The PLN file is a text-based configuration file.

In the Access section in the PLN file, enter the path where you placed your shared disk (DAT file). For example, I placed my shared disk (DAT file) within D:\clustdisk, so my path appears like the one in Figure C.

Now, you will set up the configuration file of the two virtual servers that will be clustered. Each virtual server has its own VMX file. For this example, I created two virtual servers, called swcluster1 and swcluster2, and a folder was created for each of these virtual servers. Inside each of these folders is a group of files including a VMware configuration file (VMX file), as shown in Figure D.

Figure D
Files for a virtual server

At this point, you have to edit both virtual servers by opening the VMX file with Notepad. Just right-click on the VMX file, click Open With, and select Notepad (Figure E).

Figure E
Opening the VMX file with Notepad

Then, you need to add the following lines to the configuration file, as shown in Figure F:
scsi1:0filename=” D:\my virtual machines\plainscsi1gb.pln”

Figure F
Adding configuration data

If you want to add an additional shared disk, download and configure another disk and repeat the process above. As you probably noticed in Figure F, I have two shared disks.

Once you’ve successfully added the shared disk, you can power up the first virtual server and verify that you can see the unformatted shared disk via Disk Management. When you power up the virtual machine, you may be asked which version of VMware you want to boot. Choose Version 2, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G
Select Version 2 if you’re prompted for the VMware version.

Note that when you go into Disk Management for the first time, you will be prompted to upgrade the disk to a dynamic disk. Choose No, because clustering needs to have basic disks to work properly.

Once you’ve verified that you can see the shared disk, you can partition the disk according to the applications you will be clustering. In this example, I’ll be clustering SQL Server (Figure H).

Figure H
Partition the virtual disk just as you would a production server.

You may want to cluster SQL Server, IIS, and/or Exchange. To do so, you may have to add more shared disks, but there is nothing preventing you from configuring your system to meet the needs of your testing environment. When formatting your drives, make sure that you create a Quorum drive for your cluster file storage. I’ll discuss this in my next article.

After you’ve verified that the shared disk is available, test that you can create a text file on the shared disk and then power down. Then, power up the second machine and verify that you can see the shared drive—only this time, the drive or drives should already be formatted for you.

Next step
We’ll stop here for now. In my next article, we’ll look at the installation of the Windows 2000 Cluster Service with VMware.