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Appendix A: Failover Cluster Requirements

Applies To: Windows Server 2008

To create a failover cluster, you need the hardware, software, accounts, and network infrastructure described in the sections that follow:

Hardware requirements for a failover cluster

Software requirements for a failover cluster

Network infrastructure and domain account requirements for a failover cluster

For additional information about planning for a failover cluster, see Identifying Your Failover Cluster Deployment Goals and Mapping Your Deployment Goals to a Failover Cluster Design.

Hardware requirements for a failover cluster

You will need the following hardware for a failover cluster:

  • Servers: We recommend that you use a set of matching computers that contain the same or similar components.


You should use only hardware components that are compatible with Windows Server 2008. For information about compatible hardware, see the Windows Server Catalog (

  • Network adapters and cable (for network communication): The network hardware, like other components in the failover cluster solution, must be compatible with Windows Server 2008. If you use iSCSI, your network adapters must be dedicated to either network communication or iSCSI, not both.

    In the network infrastructure that connects your cluster nodes, avoid having single points of failure. There are multiple ways of accomplishing this. You can connect your cluster nodes by multiple, distinct networks. Alternatively, you can connect your cluster nodes with one network that is constructed with teamed network adapters, redundant switches, redundant routers, or similar hardware that removes single points of failure.


If you connect cluster nodes with a single network, the network will pass the redundancy requirement in the Validate a Configuration Wizard. However, the report from the wizard will include a warning that the network should not have single points of failure.

For more details about the network configuration required for a failover cluster, see Network infrastructure and domain account requirements for a failover cluster, later in this topic.  
  • Device controllers or appropriate adapters for the storage:

    • For Serial Attached SCSI or Fibre Channel: If you are using Serial Attached SCSI or Fibre Channel, in all clustered servers, all components of the storage stack should be identical. It is required that the multipath I/O (MPIO) software and Device Specific Module (DSM) software components be identical.  It is recommended that the mass-storage device controllers—that is, the host bus adapter (HBA), HBA drivers, and HBA firmware—that are attached to cluster storage be identical. If you use dissimilar HBAs, you should verify with the storage vendor that you are following their supported or recommended configurations.


With Windows Server 2008, you cannot use parallel SCSI to connect the storage to the clustered servers.

  - **For iSCSI**: If you are using iSCSI, each clustered server must have one or more network adapters or host bus adapters that are dedicated to the cluster storage. The network you use for iSCSI cannot be used for network communication. In all clustered servers, the network adapters you use to connect to the iSCSI storage target should be identical, and we recommend that you use Gigabit Ethernet or higher.  
    For iSCSI, you cannot use teamed network adapters, because they are not supported with iSCSI.  
    For more information about iSCSI, see the iSCSI FAQ on the Microsoft Web site ([](  
  • Storage: You must use shared storage that is compatible with Windows Server 2008.

    Storage requirements include the following:

    • To use the native disk support included in failover clustering, use basic disks, not dynamic disks.

    • We recommend that you format the partitions with NTFS (for the witness disk, the partition must be NTFS).

    • For the partition style of the disk, you can use either master boot record (MBR) or GUID partition table (GPT).

Deploying storage area networks with failover clusters

When deploying a storage area network (SAN) with a failover cluster, follow these guidelines:

  • Confirm compatibility of the storage: Confirm with manufacturers and vendors that the storage, including drivers, firmware, and software used for the storage, are compatible with failover clusters in Windows Server 2008.


Storage that was compatible with server clusters in Windows Server 2003 might not be compatible with failover clusters in Windows Server 2008. Contact your vendor to ensure that your storage is compatible with failover clusters in Windows Server 2008.

Failover clusters include the following new requirements for storage:  
  - Because improvements in failover clusters require that the storage respond correctly to specific SCSI commands, the storage must follow the standard called SCSI Primary Commands-3 (SPC-3). In particular, the storage must support Persistent Reservations as specified in the SPC-3 standard.  
  - The miniport driver used for the storage must work with the Microsoft Storport storage driver.  
  • Isolate storage devices, one cluster per device: Servers from different clusters must not be able to access the same storage devices. In most cases, a LUN that is used for one set of cluster servers should be isolated from all other servers through LUN masking or zoning.

  • Consider using multipath I/O software: In a highly available storage fabric, you can deploy failover clusters with multiple host bus adapters by using multipath I/O software. This provides the highest level of redundancy and availability. For Windows Server 2008, your multipath solution must be based on Microsoft Multipath I/O (MPIO). Your hardware vendor will usually supply an MPIO device-specific module (DSM) for your hardware, although Windows Server 2008 includes one or more DSMs as part of the operating system.


Host bus adapters and multipath I/O software can be very version sensitive. If you are implementing a multipath solution for your cluster, you should work closely with your hardware vendor to choose the correct adapters, firmware, and software for Windows Server 2008.

Software requirements for a failover cluster

The servers for a failover cluster must run the same version of Windows Server 2008, including the same hardware version (32-bit, x64-based, or Itanium architecture-based). They should also have the same software updates (patches) and service packs.

Network infrastructure and domain account requirements for a failover cluster

You will need the following network infrastructure for a failover cluster, and an administrative account with the following domain permissions:

  • Network settings and IP addresses: When you use identical network adapters for a network, also use identical communication settings on those adapters (for example, Speed, Duplex Mode, Flow Control, and Media Type). Also, compare the settings between the network adapter and the switch it connects to and make sure that no settings are in conflict.

    If you have private networks that are not routed to the rest of your network infrastructure, ensure that each of these private networks uses a unique subnet. This is necessary even if you give each network adapter a unique IP address. For example, if you have a cluster node in a central office that uses one physical network, and another node in a branch office that uses a separate physical network, do not specify for both networks, even if you give each adapter a unique IP address.

    For more information about the network adapters, see Hardware requirements for a failover cluster, earlier in this guide.

  • DNS: The servers in the cluster must be using Domain Name System (DNS) for name resolution. The DNS dynamic update protocol can be used.

  • Domain role: All servers in the cluster must be in the same Active Directory domain. As a best practice, all clustered servers should have the same domain role (either member server or domain controller). The recommended role is member server.

  • Account for administering the cluster: When you first create a cluster or add servers to it, you must be logged on to the domain with an account that has administrator rights and permissions on all servers in that cluster. The account does not need to be a Domain Admins account, but can be a Domain Users account that is in the Administrators group on each clustered server. In addition, if the account is not a Domain Admins account, the account (or the group that the account is a member of) must be given the Create Computer Objects and Read All Properties permissions in the domain.


There is a change in the way the Cluster service runs in Windows Server 2008, as compared to Windows Server 2003. In Windows Server 2008, there is no Cluster service account. Instead, the Cluster service automatically runs in a special context that provides the specific permissions and privileges that are necessary for the service (similar to the local system context, but with reduced privileges).