Why Learning About Windows Server Failover Clustering Can Help You Become a Better SQL Server DBA or Consultant

While working on the video ad for my online course Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC) for the Smart SQL Server DBA, I couldn’t help but take stock of the different skills I had acquired throughout my lifetime to come up with the final result.

  • started playing piano at 5
  • learned how to play guitar at 11
  • started playing the bass guitar at 14
  • learned few tricks to becoming a video cameraman and director at 16
  • learned the basics of audio engineering at 18
  • tried motion animation with Adobe (then Macromedia) Flash at 19
  • learned the basics of music sequencing using Cakewalk (now SONAR) at 21
  • learned the concepts storytelling at 33
  • learned the basics of digital photography at 34
  • learned the basics of lighting for photography and film at 36
  • re-learned the concepts of sound synthesizers at 37
  • learned copywriting at 38

I could list all of the things that I have learned throughout my lifetime that led to me creating the video.

I’m not a pro at any of the skills I listed above. But you be the judge.

Skills You Will Acquire When You Learn About Windows Server Failover Clustering

The technology industry is constantly changing and evolving. If you want to be successful in your career as a SQL Server DBA, knowing things outside of your area of expertise is a must. You don’t need to be an expert on those things, an awareness of how it affects your work and an understanding of the basics are enough.

When you start learning about WSFC, you learn these things as well:

  1. Active Directory and DNS. OK, I’ll admit. I knew Active Directory (AD) and DNS even before I started learning about WSFC. I designed and implemented AD sites, managed an enterprise using group policy objects (GPOs) and leveraged DNS for standardizing access points to servers and applications using a 4-part naming convention. Which was why it was an easy transition for me to learn WSFC. Because as of Windows Server 2012 R2, WSFC is still very much dependent on AD and DNS. But if you do not know AD nor DNS, don’t worry. You just need to know what happens in AD and DNS when you create a WSFC and objects like SQL Server failover clustered instances (FCI) and Availability Groups (AG.) It will be easy for you to have that conversation with your AD administrator when you request for that computer account. You can speak his language and get your job done quicker. Besides, according to Microsoft SQL Server PSS, AD-related issues are still on their list of the top issues commonly faced by customers deploying SQL Server FCI and AG.
  2. Networking. Seriously, both technical and social. Technical because the WSFC nodes have to communicate with each other via the heartbeat and you need to make sure that the appropriate port numbers (3343 for the heartbeat, 445 for SMB, 1433 for SQL Server and several others) are allowed on your firewall – both Windows Firewall and corporate firewall. Even more when you use iSCSI as your shared storage. Social because you will be communicating with the AD/DNS administrators, network administrators, application developers, storage administrators, project managers, etc. There are so many moving parts that require interaction with different teams, hence, forcing you to really improve your communication skills.
  3. Storage. You won’t necessarily become a SAN administrator. But it will give you an idea of what they are doing – how they provision the LUNs, whether the LUNs are thin-provisioned or not, whether the LUNs are shared or dedicated, how the WSFC nodes are connected to the storage, etc. You’ll learn how to talk IOPs and not just storage capacity to your storage administrators.
  4. Excellent Analytical Troubleshooting. Solving problems is what really good SQL Server DBAs and consultants do. But unless you develop the skill of process-driven analytical troubleshooting, your career won’t go beyond just a technician or an operator. Now, there is nothing wrong with that if that’s all that you want. But you’ve read this blog post up to this point to show that you really are serious about your career. With a lot of moving parts in a complex WSFC implementation  – AD, DNS, network, storage, SQL Server, etc. – and the need to maintain the system highly available, you will slowly develop the skill of process-driven analytical troubleshooting like that of a really good sports car mechanic. Those guys get paid really well.

I’ve only listed a handful of the technical skills that you will acquire when you learn about WSFC on top of what you need to learn about SQL Server. I haven’t even included some of the non-technical skills like project management, presentation skills, leadership, persuasion, etc.

Feeling helpless and confused when dealing with Windows Server Failover Clustering  (WSFC) for your SQL Server databases?

You’re not alone. I’ve heard the same thing from thousands of SQL Server administrators throughout my entire career. These are just a few of them.

“How do I properly size the server, storage, network and all the AD settings which we do not have any control over?”

“I don’t quite understand how the Windows portion of the cluster operates and interacts with what SQL controls.”

“I’m unfamiliar with multi-site clustering.”

Our servers are setup and configured by our parent company, so we don’t really get much experience with setting up Failover Clusters.

If you feel the same way, then, this course is for you. It’s a simple and easy-to-understand way for you to learn and master how Windows Server Failover Clusters can keep your SQL Server databases highly available. Be confident in designing, building and managing SQL Server databases running on Windows Server Failover Clusters.

But don’t take my word for it. Here’s what my students have to say about the course.

“The techniques presented were very valuable, and used them the following week when I was paged on an issue.”

“Thanks again for giving me confidence and teaching all this stuff about failover clusters.”

“I’m so gladdddddd that I took this course!!”

“Now I got better knowledge to setup the Windows FC ENVIRONMENT (DC) for SQL Server FCI and AlwaysON.”

NOTE: Registration for my online course Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC) for the Smart SQL Server DBA will re-open in January 2018. But be sure you do not miss out. This will be the last time that the course will be offered. After this, you will no longer be able to register for the course.


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