Thursday 19 June 2014

Cluster Node BIOS and Hardware Configuration Tips

Here are some tips for configuring the nodes in a Hyper-V or Scale-Out File Server failover cluster.

Staggered Start


  • Stagger the node start times to give storage enough time to come online

One of the important tests to run when working with a new JBOD unit or storage shelf is to time the unit's power-up to production ready time.

In the case of the Intel JBOD2224S2DP with 24 Seagate Savvio spindles installed the staggered start of each disk group actually takes a bit of time to process. So, we set our Grizzly Pass servers to start at 150 seconds and up for each storage node and then 210 and up for each Hyper-V server node.

Processor C States


  • Processor C States are set to Disabled

Why the C States interfere with storage access and transfer abilities is a bit of a mystery but they do need to be turned off.

Also, take careful notes of all BIOS settings set up on one node and make sure to set all other node's BIOS settings to the same ones.

Performance Setting

Pedal to the metal:


Make sure the performance profiles are set to maximum!

We need all available power at all times.

PXE Boot

We suggest turning PXE Boot and the NIC's option ROM off.


Confirm in the Boot Order manager that there are no NICs available for boot. If any show up there make sure to disable them.

While in the NIC configuration settings one can make a note of the NIC MAC addresses to help with configuration further on into the node setup process.

Reboot and OS Boot Checks

We've seen some issues with OS Boot Watchdog Timers:


Most modern BIOS firmware should be able to sense that Windows Server 2012 R2 has booted and settled into its working role. But, we have seen cases in older BIOS versions where the server would mysteriously reboot after 10 minutes (we timed it after noticing that the reboots were happening close to the same time).

Boot Options

And finally, for now we are not enabling EFI Optimized Boot options on our nodes:


We need to run some tests with 2012 R2 U1 before we commit to the new setup in production.

Make sure to disable the USB Boot Priority or that OS Load flash drive will be booted to on node reboots!

Cluster Node Configuration

When it comes to setting up the node specifications one needs to choose carefully.

This again is one area where Intel Server Systems outshine Tier 1.

The Intel Server System R1208JP4OC is an Intel Xeon Processor E5-2600 v1/v2 series 1U server with a single socket. The big plus to this server is the ability to have two SAS HBAs and two 10GbE or 56Gb InfiniBand cards installed.

As far as we know no Tier 1 single socket 1U server shares this ability anywhere. So, we get a really good performing server at an excellent entry level price point.

We make sure to design our clusters around their intended purpose at the storage, Scale-Out File Server, and Hyper-V levels.

With these tools that are included in Windows Server 2012 RTM/R2 we have an amazing ability to build a single asymmetric cluster (2 nodes and 1 JBOD) at a very lucrative price that fits in really well at the SMB level (12-13 seats plus - yes, we sell clusters into SMB) right up to a million IOPS plus transaction oriented cluster.

Remember that consistency in hardware, firmware, settings, and drivers is the key to cluster performance and stability.

Philip Elder
Microsoft Cluster MVP
Co-Author: SBS 2008 Blueprint Book
Chef de partie in the SMBKitchen ASP Project
Find out more at
Third Tier: Enterprise Solutions for Small Business

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