Using Multiple Client Access Points (CAP) in a Windows Server 2008 (R2) Failover Cluster

Quite a while back I wrote a blog on a new functionality in Windows Server 2008 Failover Clusters called ‘file share scoping’ (http://blogs.technet.com/b/askcore/archive/2009/01/09/file-share-scoping-in-windows-server-2008-failover-clusters.aspx). I was informed recently that our Networking Support Team refers to this blog frequently when working with customers who are migrating to Windows Server 2008 Failover Clusters and discover that CNAME (Canonical Names) records in DNS, that had been in-place to support their Windows Server 2003 File Server clusters, no longer work with Windows Server 2008 Failover Clusters. Users keep asking if there is a way to disable this functionality or if it can be changed by adding a registry key or something. At this time, there is no disabling this behavior and our Product Team has been made aware of the feedback we have been receiving on this. No official plans have been announced with respect to making any changes in future releases of the Operating System.

While we wait and see what the future holds, I have been asked to write a short blog on how users can better work within the constraints of this functionality. In a File Server Resource Group you typically have a Client Access Point (CAP), a File Server Resource, a Physical Disk resource and some Shared Folders (Figure 1).

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Figure 1

Suppose, in a Windows Server 2003 cluster environment, there were several CNAME records created in DNS that pointed to the same File Server Cluster so users from various organizations within a company could access their data files. For example, suppose we had CNAME records for OPS-FS1, Academics-FS1 and Executive-FS1. After completing a migration to a Windows Server 2008 R2 File Server cluster, these CNAME records no longer work and end users can no longer access their data. How can we fix that?

To remedy the situation, create additional CAPs in the File Server Resource group that contains the shared folders that contain the data the users need to access. To do this will require stepping outside of the normal wizard-based process that was used to create the original highly available File Server resource group and instead use the procedures described in KB 947050.

Start by selecting the File Server resource group and in the Right-hand Actions pane select Add a resource (Figure 2).

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Figure 2

From the list of available resources, select Client Access Point (Figure 3).

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Figure 3

Provide the requested information and complete the wizard. Do this for all required Client Access Points. When completed, bring all the CAPs Online. Here is my result (Figure 4).

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Figure 4

At this point, decide which shared folders need to be available to users when each Client Access Point connection is made. Then, create the shared folders in the correct context. Figure 5 shows the selections available when executing the Add shared folder action in the Actions pane.

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Figure 5

As an example, in my 2-Node cluster, all folders shown in Figure 1 were shared in the context of CONTOSO-FS1. After adding the additional Client Access Points that were needed, a decision was made that the Academics share was needed in the Academics-FS1 context, the Executive and Archive folders were needed in the Executive-FS1 context and finally the Operations folder was needed in the OPS-FS1 context. When sharing folders in multiple contexts, the display can start getting a little cluttered (Figure 6).

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Figure 6

When all File Server resources are Online, all shared folders associated with those resources are displayed. If a multiple File Server resources are associated with the same shared folder, multiple entries are displayed (Figure 6). This is in addition to the administrative share for the associated physical disk resource.

To help clarify some of the confusion, modify the Description on the Sharing tab for the Property page of the shared folder to reflect its associated File Server resource (Figure 7).

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Figure 7

This provides some organization to what can be a cluttered display (Figure 8).

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Figure 8

Additional administrative overhead is incurred here as well because multiple Access Control List (ACLs) entries must be maintained on the same set of folders. Depending on the tools used to migrate the data to a windows Server 2008 Failover cluster, that information could already be present on the storage and not be an issue.

I hope this helps provide a solution for you organization. See you next time.

Chuck Timon
Senior Support Escalation Engineer
Microsoft Enterprise Platforms Support