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Exchange 2010 Database Availability Group (DAG)

Tariq M. Jaber [MCSE 2003, MCTS (ISA 2006, Exchange 2007)]

Tariq M. Jaber [MCSE 2003, MCTS (ISA 2006, Exchange 2007)] Photo

Tariq is a senior Microsoft Systems Engineer. He implemented several Microsoft infrastructure projects for various major companies. He is now focusing on Active Directory and Exchange server administration and implementation.

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In this article we will explain the new Exchange 2010 high availability feature; Database Availability Group (DAG). An overview, how it works and how to deploy a highly available Exchange 2010 environment.

Database Availability Group (DAG) is the new Exchange 2010 high availability feature. This feature provides data availability together with service availability. DAG now is the only built-in way to protect data in Exchange 2010.

This article is composed of an introductory section where we look at the key facts of Database Availability Groups and a walk through the implementation of DAG. The introductory sections where authored after researching various TechNet articles and here I am reproducing salient information taken from TechNet. This information was restructured for Administrators to have a central reference point rather than having to go through many TechNet articles. So credits for the article introduction go to TechNet.

In Exchange 2007, we have Local Continuous Replication (LCR), Cluster Continuous Replication (CCR), Single Copy Clusters (SCC) and Standby Continuous Replication (SCR). Exchange 2010 combined on-site data replication (CCR) and off-site data replication (SCR) to produce one method to protect mailbox databases.

DAG is a group of up to 16 mailbox servers that host a set of databases and provide automatic database-level recovery from failures that affect individual servers or databases. Those mailbox servers can be geographically dispersed to replicate mailbox databases across sites. Any server in a DAG can host a copy of a mailbox database from any other server in the DAG.

Storage groups no longer exist in Exchange 2010. The mailbox database name is unique within an Exchange 2010 organization, they are now global objects and, as a result, the primary management interfaces for Exchange databases has moved within the Exchange Management Console from the Mailbox node under Server Configuration to the Mailbox node under Organization Configuration. Also continuous replication now operates at the database level because of Storage Group removal from Exchange 2010.

Mailbox Databases under Organization Configuration

In Exchange 2007 the Microsoft Exchange Replication service on the passive node connects to the share on the active node and copies, or pulls, the log files using the Server Message Block (SMB) protocol. In Exchange 2010 SMB is no longer used for Log shipping and seeding. Instead, Exchange 2010 continuous replication uses a single administrator-defined TCP port, by default DAG uses port 64327. Also, Log shipping no longer uses a pull model where the passive copy pulls the closed log files from the active copy; now the active copy pushes the log files to each configured passive copy.

Another good enhancement is that seeding is no longer restricted to using only the active copy of the database. Passive copies of mailbox databases can now be specified as sources for database copy seeding and reseeding. In addition, Exchange 2010 includes built-in options for network encryption and compression for the data stream.

There are two editions of Exchange 2010, standard and enterprise editions. Both editions include DAGs, but standard edition is limited to 5 databases per server while the enterprise edition can host up to 100 databases per server. Note that if you want to use DAG with failover clustering, you have to install Exchange 2010 on the enterprise editions of Windows Server 2008. And all DAG members should run the same operating system, either Windows Server 2008 on all members or Windows Server 2008 R2 on all members.

Creating and Configuring DAG

There are specific networking requirements that must be met for each DAG and for each DAG member. Each DAG has a single MAPI network, which is used by other servers (e.g., other Exchange 2010 servers, directory servers, witness servers, etc.) to communicate with the DAG member, and zero or more Replication networks, which are networks that are dedicated to log shipping and seeding. However, unlike previous Exchange versions, database availability group configuration is supported using single network.

An IP address (either IPv4 or both IPv4 and IPv6) must be assigned to the DAG. This IP address must be on the subnet intended for the MAPI network.

You can assign static IP addresses to the DAG by using the DatabaseAvailabilityGroupIpAddresses parameter. If you use the Exchange Management Console (EMC) to create the DAG, or if you use the New-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup cmdlet without the DatabaseAvailabilityGroupIpAddresses parameter, the task will configure the DAG to use Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) to obtain the necessary IP addresses. If you don't want the DAG to use DHCP, you can use the Set-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup cmdlet to configure one or more IP addresses for the DAG after it has been created.

Now we will create the DAG. In EMC | Organization Configuration | Mailbox. Click the Database Availability Groups tab, right-click and select New Database Availability Group:

New Database Availability Group

Type a name for the DAG. Remember that the DAG must have a unique name inside the Exchange organization and it can consist of up to 15 characters. I will select the server that hosts the Hub Transport and Client Access server roles as a witness server, and define C:\DAG1-WS as the witness directory

New Database Availability Group - Configuration

Click Next to start creating the DAG:

New Database Availability Group - Finished

After DAG has been created, we can run the command "Get-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup DAG1 | fl" to see the default properties of the DAG:

Get-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup

Note that the DAG has no IP addresses configured. I don't have DHCP in my test environment, so we have to configure an IP address for the DAG. To do so, we will use the command:
Set-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup DAG1 -DatabaseAvailabilityGroupIpAddresses 20.20.0.6

DatabaseAvailabilityGroupIpAddresses

Now you can add servers to the DAG. In EMC | Organization Configuration | Mailbox, click the Database Availability Groups tab, right-click the DAG you want to manage, and then click Manage Database Availability Group Membership:

Manage Database Availability Group Membership

Click Add then select the servers you want to add. I will chose one server then add the second server using Exchange Management Shell.

Manage Database Availability Group Membership - Add Server

Click Manage to add the server as a member to the DAG

Manage Database Availability Group Membership - Finished

Now we will configure the DAG networks to allow the replication on one subnet other than the MAPI network subnet. From the Database Availability Groups tab, select the DAG. At the bottom pane we can then configure the network properties for the selected DAG.

DAG Networks

I will add an IPv4 subnet and remove the IPv6 subnet. Also make sure that the Enable replication check box is selected to allow the replication to happen over this network

DAG Network Properties

Next we will disable the replication on the MAPI network. Open the properties of the second network which is configured with the IP of your internal network, uncheck Enable replication check box

Disable Replication

Now we will add the second server using the command:
Add-DatabaseAvailabilityGroupServer -Identity DAG1 -MailboxServer Ex14Mbx2 -Verbose

Add-DatabaseAvailabilityGroupServer

The -Verbose parameter instructs the command to provide detailed information about the operation.

To check the memebers after we have two members in the DAG, we can use the command:
Get-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup

Get-DatabaseAvailabilityGroup

Adding Mailbox Database Copies

Now that we have configured the DAG, we will continue by adding mailbox database copies to start protecting our databases.

We will configure the following scenario:
In all we have two mailbox servers, Ex14Mbx1 and Ex14Mbx2, with two mailbox databases, Main-DB01 and Main-DB02. Ex14Mbx1 holds the active Main-DB01 database copy and a passive copy of Main-DB02, the same applies for Ex14Mbx2; it holds the active Main-DB02 database copy and a passive copy of Main-DB01.

Completed DAG Setup

From EMC | Organization Configuration | Mailbox, click the Database Management tab, and right-click the database for which we want to add a copy

Add Mailbox Database Copy

In the Add Mailbox Database Copy window click browse and select the DAG member that you will configure to host the database copy

Add Mailbox Database Copy - Configuration

In the Add Mailbox Database Copy window, there is an Activation preference number. This value is used when multiple database copies are added for one database and all the copies meet the same criteria for activation. In this case the copy assigned the lowest activation preference number will be activated.

Click add and wait for the command to complete successfully

Add Mailbox Database Copy - Finished

After the copy has been created, we can check the health of the database copy using Exchange Management Console. In Exchange 2007 we had to use the Exchange Management Shell to check for mailbox databases and replication health. Now we can use the Database Management tab and look at the Copy Status colomn

Database Management - Copy Status

Mailbox Database Switchover

The Mailbox server that hosts the active copy of a database is called the mailbox database master. Sometimes you may need to take the mailbox database master down for maintenance. In this case we need to move the active mailbox database to another mailbox server. This process is called a database switchover. In a database switchover, the active copy of a database is dismounted on the master and a passive copy of that database is mounted. The active mailbox database is mounted on another mailbox server which in its turn becomes the master.

To activate the mailbox database on another server, in EMC | Organization Configuration | Mailbox, click the Database Management tab, at the bottom pane right-click the copy that is hosted on the server on which you want to activate the copy

Activate Database Copy

The following drop down list will appear to select from:

Activate Database -  Override Mount

The options in the list are:

  • Lossless If you specify this value, the database doesn't automatically mount until all logs that were generated on the active copy have been copied to the passive copy.

  • Good Availability If you specify this value, the database automatically mounts immediately after a failover if the copy queue length is less than or equal to 6. Exchange will attempt to replicate the remaining logs to the passive copy and then mounts the database. If the copy queue length is greater than 6, the database doesn't mount.

  • Best Effort If you specify this value, the database automatically mounts regardless of the size of the copy queue length. Because the database will mount with any amount of log loss, using this value could result in a large amount of data loss.

  • Best Availability If you specify this value, the database automatically mounts immediately after a failover if the copy queue length is less than or equal to 12. The copy queue length is the number of logs recognized by the passive copy that needs to be replicated. If the copy queue length is more than 12, the database doesn't automatically mount. When the copy queue length is less than or equal to 12, Exchange attempts to replicate the remaining logs to the passive copy and then mounts the database.

Click ok to start activating the copy on the second server. When the process finishes we can see the results in the console:

Activate Database - Complete

We can also activate the mailbox database copy on another server through Exchange Management Shell using the command:
Move-ActiveMailboxDatabase -Identity Main-DB02 -ActivateOnServer Ex14Mbx1

Move-ActiveMailboxDatabase

Conclusion

In this article we went through a brief overview of database availability groups. We introduced DAG, created and configured DAG to include two member servers. We created mailbox database copies within the DAG and tested moving the database copies between member servers.

References

Managing Mailbox Database Copies

Planning for High Availability and Site Resilience

New High Availability and Site Resilience Functionality

Understanding Database Availability Groups

Cluster Continuous Replication

User Comments - Page 1 of 1

Add New Comment...

Dinesh Khot 28 May 2014 23:38
Great ... Very Very helpful....



Praba 25 Feb 2014 23:27
Nice explanation for DAG
anonymous 7 Apr 2012 14:11
In the article it is stated that a database copy can be seeded using a non active database copy as the source, if I understood the intent correctly. How is this accomplished because the Add-MailboxDatabaseCopy cmdlet does not show or offer and -source parameter options.
Awesome really helpful 10 Jan 2012 09:27
Awesome really helpful
roger 28 Aug 2011 22:07
How does one protect echange now with out installing a second exchange server.
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