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Streamline SQL Server Availability Group Deployments and Management with DxAG


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Problem

I have seen many of your tips on SQL Server Availability Groups and really see the value in the technology in terms of simple data replication, read-only secondaries, etc.  The problem is that I need to manage Windows and Linux clusters across my organization, so my team not only needs to know SQL Server but also numerous versions of Windows and Linux.  I also face constraints with both Windows and Linux in terms of setup and deployment.  For example, the configuration and management for each cluster is different, which is a steep learning curve for my team.  We are also looking into options where our business can get value from the public cloud for short term needs, for testing and for particular applications.  I cannot put my team in a situation where they need to be experts on each server, I need to make sure everyone on my team is able to confidently manage all of the servers if they are on-call, a team member is on vacation or we are bogged down with new initiatives.  How can I simplify the management of my SQL Server Availability Groups?

Solution

Traditionally, SQL Server Availability Groups (AG) have been an Enterprise Edition only SQL Server feature.  With SQL Server 2016 and newer, Microsoft has extended the functionality with a single database per Availability Group on Standard Edition.  The reality is AGs are not highly available on their own.  AGs replicate data between instances and rely on operating system level clustering below the AG to provide a complete high availability solution.

Windows Server Failover Clustering (WSFC) is fairly consistent between operating system versions, but each version still has its nuances.  On Linux, Pacemaker has been the long-standing clustering option.  Unfortunately, Pacemaker is ecosystem bound, requires the distributions match, deployment is difficult and day to day management is challenging.  In an environment with multiple versions of SQL Server, Windows and Linux, managing the high availability solution becomes far more complex and requires your team to be well versed in numerous technologies to support the environment.

As a team of SQL Server DBAs and Infrastructure Engineers, how can you most efficiently manage a heterogenous environment of SQL Server, Windows and Linux clusters on-premises as well as in the cloud?  One solution that I would like to recommend is DxAG from DH2i.  DH2i has been delivering reliable high availability and disaster recovery solutions for numerous years for on-premises and cloud solutions.  With SQL Server 2017, Microsoft has introduced a Cluster Type of External, which has enabled partners to provide solutions to help the SQL Server community.  DH2i has recently introduced DxAG to simplify and extend the functionality of SQL Server Availability Groups including:

  • Fault detection and automated failover solution for SQL Server Availability Groups
  • Standardized clustering solution for Windows and Linux across the enterprise
  • Straightforward cluster deployment, configuration and 24x7 support
  • Reduce the learning curve to manage clustering
  • Ability to deploy a single cluster across different versions of Windows and Linux
  • Solution for physical, virtual and cloud servers including Windows Server 2012 or newer, RedHat 7.0 or newer,  CentOS 7.0 or newer, Ubuntu 16.0 or newer and SQL Server 2017
  • Cross platform failover Windows to Linux or vice versa
  • Enable migrations from Windows to Linux (or vice versa) and maintain high availability for the application

DxAG is a clustering solution for SQL Server AGs and is easier to setup than WSFC and Pacemaker.  DxAG is the cluster manager enabling cross-platform clustering and failover between various Windows and Linux distributions.  This enables organizations to have the choice and flexibility when deploying their SQL Server infrastructure.  Let’s dive into how DxAG works.

How does DxAG work?

DxAG has a simple process to install and manage the product.  Start off by installing DxAG on each instance by copying and running a short wizard-based application.  This will install the clustering solution on each instance which are a set of services.  Once completed, navigate to the DxAG management console where you will setup the cluster.  The first step is to configure the Vhost Properties, which includes the process of adding the nodes to the cluster.  In this example, there are three nodes (Windows, Red Hat and Ubuntu) and they are configured in priority order.

DxAG Vhost Properties

Once configured, then it is time to add the SQL Server Availability Group by right clicking on the Vhost that was just created and select the “Add availability group” as shown below.

DxAG Add Availability Group

The AGS Management interface is where each server, instance name, port, synchronization method and credentials are configured.

DxAG Availability Group Management

At this point the SQL Server Availability Group configuration is partially completed as shown below.  The instance configuration is complete, but databases still need to be added.

Review Properties of DxAG Availability Group

The next step is to connect to the primary instance in the SQL Server Availability Group and add databases as shown below.

DxAG Availability Group Database Configuration

At this point the SQL Server Availability Group configuration is complete and the databases are syncing up between the instances.

DxAG Availability Group Database Configuration

By default, the SQL Server Availability Group will failover from the primary to secondary instance if a failure occurs.  However, if you have a need to failover between instances, you can do so by right clicking on the node and selecting the “Start hosting on Node” option as shown below.

DxAG Availability Group Failover Between Nodes

What are the DxAG licensing options?

There are two licensing options for DxAG:

  • Perpetual License - $1000 USD per server and $240 USD per server per year for support
  • Subscription - $600 USD per server per year which includes support

How do I get started with DxAG?

  1. Take time to learn more about DxAG and register for a free trial.
  2. Schedule a demo with the DH2i team to see just how easy it is to setup DxAG and simplify your SQL Server management.
  3. Setup a test environment with physical or virtual SQL Servers and install DxAG.
  4. Put DxAG through its paces and outline the benefits to your organization:
    1. High availability solution for SQL Server 2017 on Windows, Linux and in the cloud – All in 1 tool
    2. Significant time savings to install and manage for SQL Server Availability Groups
    3. Low learning curve for your team to manage clustering
    4. And more…
  5. Share the results with your team and determine your next steps.
Next Steps

MSSQLTips.com Product Editorial sponsored by DH2i, makers of DxAG.



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About the author
MSSQLTips author Jeremy Kadlec Since 2002, Jeremy Kadlec has delivered value to the global SQL Server community as an MSSQLTips.com co-founder and Edgewood Solutions SQL Server Consultant.

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