Deploying and Managing Scale-Out File Server Clusters with SCVMM 2012 R2

Today I wanted to share an awesome new feature of System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager, which is the ability to bare-metal deploy your file servers and form the cluster to be used as a scale-out file server using System Center 2012 R2 – Virtual Machine Manager. I also wanted to include how you can use SCVMM to manage your Scale-Out File Server and Storage Spaces such as creating storage Pools and shares.

Build of Materials

First things first I want to share the build of materials for my particular file server cluster. This BOM is by no means a reference to build your SOFS cluster, I am simply including the hardware I am using which is what I happened to have lying around the lab for testing purposes. Below is a quick snapshot of the servers and SAS enclosure I am using:

Servers (2 HP DL360P G8’s)

QuantityModel #Description
2646901-001HP DL360p Gen8 E5-2630 Base US Svr
16647893-B21HP 4GB 1Rx4 PC3L-10600R-9 Kit
4652605-B21HP 146GB 6G SAS 15K 2.5in SC ENT HDD
2647581-B21HP Ethernet 10Gb 2P 530FLR-SFP+ Adptr
2650926-B21HP H222 Host Bus Adapter
2656362-B21HP 460W CS Plat PL Ht Plg Pwr Supply Kit
1BK765AHP D2600 2TB 3G SATA LFF 24TB Bundle
4407339-B21HP Ext Mini SAS 2m Cable
### HP DS2700 (Direct Attached SAS Enclosure)

For this lab I got a bundled HP D2700 that came with 10 x 1TB SAS drives. It is important to note that these drives are dual domain, if these were SATA drives (Single Domain) they would not work for this cluster configuration as both servers would not be able to use the drives over SAS simultaneously.

QuantityModel #Description
1QK770AHP D2700 w/10 1TB 6G SAS 7.2K SFF Dual port MDL HDD 10TB Bundle
## Procedure to Deploy SOFS and Cluster Nodes from Bare-Metal with SCVMM

The following procedure is going to explain at a high level how to deploy your file server cluster using VMM. It should be noted that I am already assuming some familiarity with VMM and bare-metal deployment. I also already have my VMM environment functional with a PXE server added to the fabric.

Creating the Physical Computer Profile

You will notice that in VMM 2012 R2 they got rid of Host Profiles and added Physical Computer Profiles instead. When you go to create one of these you will have the option of creating either a VM Host or a Windows File Server.

  1. In the VMM Console, Navigate to the Library pane > Expand Profiles > Select Physical Computer Profiles > right click and select Create Physical Computer
  2. When this wizard opens you will need to type a useful name and set the role to Windows File ServerCreate_Physical_Computer_Profile
  3. On the OS Image page of the New Physical Computer Profile Wizard you need to select your Server 2012 R2 VHDX file which this server will boot from, this should by a sysprepped native boot VHDX file. Create_Physical_Computer_Profile_OS_Image
  4. On the Hardware Configuration page of the New Physical Computer Profile Wizard you need to configure your network settings. In my particular case I added an additional Physical Network Adapter because my hosts will have two and I set the CDN (Consistent Device Name) for each of these NICs. I am also leaving my NICs on DHCP for the purposes of demonstrating this technology.Create_Physical_Computer_Profile_Hardware_Configuration
  5. On the OS Configuration page you need to specify the domain you wish to join, a Run As account with permissions to join computers to the domain, Time Zone, Product Key etc. Create_Physical_Computer_Profile_OS_Configuration
  6. On the Summary page review your settings and click finish, that is as simple as it is to create the Physical Computer Profile for a file server.

Deploying your Cluster

It should be noted that I already have my servers cabled up, along with the Shared SAS enclosure before deployment. I have also configured my servers to PXE boot first in the boot order.

  1. In the VMM Console navigate the the Fabric Pane > select Create from the ribbon > select File Server Cluster from the drop down                    Create_File_Server_Cluster
  2. On the General page of the Create Clustered File Server Wizard you need to enter the Cluster name and the File server name. The cluster name will wind up being the core cluster name while the File Server Name will wind up being the Scale-out_File Server Cluster role deployed on the cluster. In this case I am leaving my cluster IP on DHCP.Create_File_Server_Cluster_General
  3. On the Provisioning Type page notice that you can use existing Windows Servers or deploy servers from bare-metal, in this case we are going to select the radio for Provision bare-metal computers with a new operating system by using a file server profile > and be sure yo select the File server profile we created in the previous stepCreate_File_Server_Cluster_Provision_Type
  4. On the Credentials and Protocol page we need to set the Run As account which has the the appropriate permissions to the BMC (iLO in my case) > and also set the Protocol in my particular case **IPMI **will do the trick but you also have **SMASH **at your disposalCreate_File_Server_Cluster_Credentials_and_Protocol
  5. On the Discovery Scope page I am going to enter the IP range containing the iLO addresses for my two physical hosts and hit next. It should be noted that this will cause an immediate cycle of the machine if it was already running, in my case these servers are turned off and this will wake them up to PXE boot. Create_File_Server_Cluster_Discovery_Scope
  6. On the Target Resources page VMM is going to display the BMC’s it found it the given range from the previously defined **Discovery Scope, **in my case I am going to select the two computers and click Next which is going to start the discovery process. At this point VMM is going to tell these computer to boot, when they attempt to PXE boot these servers are going to be served a WinPE image which contains the VMM agent, this will then do a discovery on the physical components of the computer which will allow us to customize the deployment to the discovered hardware. Create_File_Server_Cluster_Target_Resources
  7. On the Deployment Customization page you will need to wait until the Deep Discovery finishes as indicated by the spinning circles with the text displaying “Deep discovery in progress…” Once this completes we can enter the computer names, be sure the OS is detecting to install to the proper disk, and be sure each of the network adapters we defined with CDN were properly discovered. In my particular case I needed to check the box for “Specify which disk the OS should be applied to” along with selecting the internal disks because the discovery detected all of the disks in the SAS enclosure and would have attempted to install there. Once this is all validated click Next.Create_File_Server_Cluster_Deployment_Customization_1 Create_File_Server_Cluster_Deployment_Customization_2 Create_File_Server_Cluster_Deployment_Customization_3
  8. On the Summary page review your deployment settings and click Finish to start your awesome deployment! Review to the VMM jobs view to watch all the awesome stuff that is going on in the background. In my particular environment my File Server Nodes were deployed and the cluster was created in 37 minutes. The job did complete with warnings around the cluster validation tests it performed, it will include a link to the cluster report so you can review the cluster validation report. In my particular case I had warnings because I have two interfaces on each server on the same subnet which is not recommended – This is just for demonstration purposes and in production I would put these on two different networks. Create_File_Server_Cluster_Job

Validating your Cluster

After deployment, if you open the Failover Cluster manager and point to, in my case the SOFS00 cluster I can validate that this cluster is indeed present and that VMM deployed the SOFS01 Scale-Out File Server role


You can also view the cluster validation reports which will be stored one each of the SOFS nodes in the following location: $windir$WindowsClusterReports


Managing Spaces and SOFS Through SCVMM

The nice thing about deploying your File Server cluster using VMM is the VMM agent is already deployed, and the file server cluster will already be added to VMM so you can jump right in and start managing storage. Navigate to the Fabric pane in SCVMM > Expand Storage > Click File Servers and you will see that you can see your SOFS cluster role already added to VMM:


Create Storage Pool

With this Scale-Out File Server I am going the way of storage spaces, the 10 1TB disks in the SAS enclosure are currently JBOD so we can go ahead and pool these disks.

  1. Right click on your SOFS server in VMM and click Manage PoolsManage_Pools
  2. Once the Manage Pools of File Server window opens you can observe that there are currently not any pools on this server. We can then click New to create a new pool. Manage_Pools_1
  3. Once the New Storage Pool Wizard opens I can give my Pool a Name, create or use an existing Storage classification and finally select all of the disks I want to use for this pool. In my case my SAS enclosure has 10x 1TB 7.2K SAS drives which I am going to use for my Pool. Create_Pool

Create File Shares

Now that we have our pool defined we can move right into create File Shares on our SOFS server using our storage Pool.

  1. Click Create File Share in the ribbon once you have your SOFS server selectedCreate_File_Share
  2. Once the Create File Share wizard comes up we can give our share a NameDescription, define the Storage Pool we are going to use, select the previously created Classification set the Size in MB (this is for a 1TB share) and finally set the resiliency of the share, this one will be a 3-way mirror – This is the part where we are actually creating a space on the Pool of disks!


It should be noted that there are some optimizations that should be made on your SOFS cluster to take advantage of SMB Multichannel, RDMA etc. These settings are not optimized by SCVMM during deployment so there may be some messaging required after deployment for production deployments. The good thing here is the bulk of the deployment has been done for you.

You now hopefully have a better idea of the capabilities SCVMM 2012 R2 has to offer when it comes to deploying and managing Scale-Out File Servers and Storage Spaces. Hopefully I will continue with some content on this subject in future posts.