19 December 2007

Windows, iSCSI and NAS (Network-attached Storage) in Test Environment

Recently, I worked on a project to be deployed on a Windows servers cluster.
Before setting up the production environment, it was necessary to check if one of the required applications will work on a cluster.

To those of you who doesn’t know what a cluster is, just take a look at what’s written on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer_cluster

That time, I had no extra servers for testing, so I decided to setup the cluster in a virtual environment. To do this, I created 2 Windows 2003 Servers on my VMWARE station.
However, the biggest problem was the storage space.

Anyone who worked at least once with clusters, knows that they need a shared storage, also called a NAS (Network-attached Storage).
Unfortunately, I have no NAS in my lab, so I used another technique for my test.
If you do Googling a bit, you will find a lot of Linux-based NAS software, like FreeNAS.

However, I wanted a Windows-based software and I founded probably one of the best (IMHO), which is StarWind, available for FREE in a Personal edition.
Now, I’m not going to show you how to install a cluster, I just would like to show how to connect two (or more) servers to the same Network-attached Storage by using the iSCSI technology, and how to do this in a test environment.

When you launch StarWind for the first time, you will see a screen like this one:

The first step is to add a device.
To do this, right click on the localhost:3260 icon and select Connect.
For the username and password, simply use the word test.

When the connection will be established, click on the Add device button to display the following screen:

Here, select Image File device and click on the Next button.

On the next window, select Create new image and click on the Next button. You'll have to enter a name, a location and a size for the image.
For best performance, it's recommended to avoid image compression and encryption.
The next screen is of the highest importance.

REMEMBER to select Allow multiple concurrent iSCSI connections (clustering).
If you forgot to select this option, your cluster setup will fail.

The next steps are just about few clicks on some Next buttons and a Finish one.

Finally, you should see a screen similar to this one:

Before connecting the Windows Server 2003 to the iSCSI storage, we need to install the iSCSI Initiator, that can be downloaded from Microsoft.

While I was writing this article, the setup of a Windows Server 2008 RC1 with Hyper-V Beta finished.

Since the procedure for connecting iSCSI disks to a Windows Server 2008 is quite similar to connecting them to a Windows Server 2003, I'd like to show how to do this on a Windows Server 2008.

So, from the Control Panel we start iSCSI initiator. When we do that for the first time, we get the message below:

Click on the Yes button. On the next window also click on the Yes button and you will see the following window:

Click on the Discovery tab, click on the Add Portal button, enter the IP address of the iSCSI machine (where StarWind is installed), and click on the OK button.

Click on the Targets tab, and click on the Log on button.

Select the options according to the picture below, and then don't forget to click on the OK button.

Click on the Volumes and Devices tab, and click on the Autoconfigure button.

Now, we are ready to click on the last OK button, and go to the Disk Management.

If all the previous steps were done correctly, you should see a screen similar to this one:

The next steps are very simple, and I don't think that I've to explain how to create a volume and a partition in Windows.

When done, if we open My Computer we will see a new Local Disk, like in my example:

At this point, we have successfully configured an iSCSI storage under Windows, and we are ready to go on.


16 December 2007

PXE, aka Pre-Execution Environment and Acronis - Part 2

Since I've published article "PXE, aka Pre-Execution Environment - Part 1" I've got a lot of emails with the same question - 'Where is a Part 2?". So, here it is.

I know many Network Administrators who work with Acronis products and i also sometime work with those good products. This week i did a project for one of my clients in Seattle, WA. The main idea was to deploy an Acronis image on new servers and configure those servers according to system requirements. So, again, those servers came without floppy drive and CD/DVD :) and as all of you know, to restore Acronis image on a new machine we have to use Bootable Rescue Media, aka Bootable CD with Acronis on it. Yes, I know, that Acronis provides a products with PXE integrated, but i don't have it :) and I've used my own PXE server.

The first step I did was create Bootable Rescue Media. Then I took 2 files, kernel.dat and ramdisk.dat from Acronis's directory and put them into C:\PXEServer\TFTPRoot\Boot directory. Well, now was the time to make a small changes to our "default" file (default file located in C:\PXEServer\TFTPRoot\Boot\pxelinux.cfg\ directory). After all those changes my "default" file now looks as follow:

DEFAULT menu.c32



MENU LABEL ^Acronis Bootable
kernel kernel.dat
append initrd=ramdisk.dat vga=791 ramdisk_size=32768 acpi=off quiet noapic

LABEL NetworkBoot
MENU LABEL ^Network Boot
kernel memdisk
append initrd=w98se-netboot.IMA

LABEL CleanBoot
MENU LABEL ^Clean Win 98 Boot
kernel memdisk
append initrd=W98.IMA

MENU LABEL ^Memory Test
kernel memdisk
append initrd=W98_MemTest.IMA

The next steps were pretty simple ;), Boot, Select Acronis from the menu, Select Image for recovery and.....

Thanks to time PXE saved me I was able to spend some time in very beautiful city Seattle.

Relaited Articles
PXE, aka Pre-Execution Environment - Part 1


07 December 2007

PDC 2008 Announced

Next Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC): October 27–30, 2008 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

PDC is the definitive Microsoft event for software developers and architects focused on the future of the Microsoft platform.


06 December 2007

Windows XP Service Pack 3 white paper

Microsoft has released a white paper on Windows XP SP3, which can be downloaded from the Microsoft download center.

Windows XP Service Pack 3 Overview

05 December 2007

Download Windows XP SP3 RC directly from Microsoft ;)

Today, one of my friends asked me how to get SP3 RC1 for Windows XP. Many of you know that this release available for Beta Testers, but Friend of mine is NOT beta tester. So, you can use a Hack that will allow you to download Windows XP SP3 RC1 directly from Microsoft. Windows XP SP3 will be the final service pack for really good Operating System from Microsoft. SP3 will bring a lot of bug fixes and some new features from Vista. Well, if you can't wait for official release, create a .bat file, let say xpsp3rc1.bat. Copy & Past toxpsp3rc1.bat following commands:

@echo off
reg delete HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\XPSP3 /f 2> NUL
reg add HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\WindowsUpdate\XPSP3 /v RCPreview /t REG_SZ /d 1c667073-b87f-4f52-a479-98c85711d869 /f
echo XP SP3 RC1 registry key has been set. Please check for updates in Windows Update.

Once you have created the file run the file by double clicking it. Wait for the Confirmation Message on screen. The Above file adds a few entries to the Windows Registry that makes Microsoft suppose that you are a part of the Private beta program Check for new updates on Windows Update. You will see Windows XP SP3 listed in the available updates. Download and install it. Remember to Reboot :). Please note this hack is the exact way Microsoft expects its beta testers to try Windows XP SP3 out, so you don’t have to worry too much about Microsoft catching hold of you.

I tried this on Windows XP Machine and this hack worked.