Demonstrating the Wildest AG You’ve Ever Seen on Microsoft’s “Data Exposed”

On a random Thursday in September, our brave SQL Server heroes, OJ Ngo, Co-Founder and CTO at DH2i, and Amit Khandelwal, Senior Product Manager of SQL Server at Microsoft, set out on Microsoft’s “Data Exposed” show with the lofty goal to drop jaws and completely redefine how SQL Server Availability Groups can be leveraged in heterogeneous environments. The results of their efforts can be well summarized by the reaction of the show’s host, Anna Hoffman:

“I’m blown away by one, that this is possible, and two, how few commands you can do it in.”

What exactly did they show though? Let’s start from the beginning.

SQL Server Always on Availability Groups

Microsoft’s Always On Availability Groups (AGs) technology has now been around for over a decade since its original introduction in SQL Server 2012. Delivering high availability and disaster recovery, this powerful step up from traditional failover clustering is now appropriately regarded as a staple in the SQL Server high availability arena.

With each subsequent release since its creation, enhancements and features have been added to make AGs an increasingly powerful tool for SQL Server disaster recovery and HA. However, one particular bottle-necking constraint has never been removed from SQL Server Availability Groups; the need for the underlying cluster nodes to be like-for-like. This means only Windows nodes can be clustered together in a single Windows Availability Group, or only Linux nodes together in their own separate Linux Availability Group.

This is an unfortunate reality for IT pros to wrestle with because hybrid, mixed-platform deployments aren’t just growing more common; they’ve effectively established themselves as the new normal. In-turn, organizations with a need for both highly available Windows and Linux SQL Server in their environment are forced into a situation of managing multiple AGs, or a combination of other clunky SQL Server HA solutions like Pacemaker or Windows Server Failover Clustering. This equates to a high degree of management complexity, as well as a massive recurring technology and licensing expense.

Breaking Free from SQL Server Cluster Failover Constraints

DH2i set out to solve this problem with DxEnterprise (DxE) Smart High Availability Clustering software and already had a solution capable of clustering Windows and Linux nodes together several years ago. Not only that, but this technology unveiled cross-platform failover—the ability to failover a SQL Server database in Windows straight to Linux, or vice versa.

These accomplishments were the first couple building-blocks for the grand finale of technical capability that DH2i brought to the table in this episode of “Data Exposed.”

Setting Up the SQL Server Availability Group

Jumping into the demo introduction, OJ and Amit start by providing a brief description of the Always on Availability Group they will be creating; one single, unified AG containing:

  • One replica running Windows on OJ’s laptop
  • One replica running Linux on a VM in Azure
  • One replica running in a container in Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Once configured, this unique cross-platform Availability Group will give the user the ability to right-click failover workloads between Windows, Linux, and containers within this same AG. This is worth a pause for dramatic effect…

Moving on, OJ begins the demo and prepares each replica and enters each of them into the AG quorum by running just a few simple commands. Most impressively—as Amit elaborates on—the last step on the AKS node uses a single command leveraging a DxEnterprise Helm chart to deploy a SQL Server container side-by-side in the same pod (sidecar). This Helm chart capability drastically simplifies initial configuration and reduces time to deployment. DH2i’s sidecar capability allows users to totally eliminate any combined-container image headaches and simplify ongoing support.

A big part of the “secret sauce” of this solution stack also comes down to how the SQL Server AG replicas are connected. The beauty of the DH2i software used in this demo is that the entire Availability Group is connected using secure, highly-performant zero trust network access (ZTNA) tunnels, a built-in feature in DxEnterprise. This means this AG was set up without opening any firewalls or establishing any VPNs to connect the three replicas. Connections were established using certificate-based endpoint authentication without creating any TCP commands, with all certificate creation being taken care of on the backend. 

Demonstrating Cross-Platform AG Failover Capability

After creating the 3-replica AG quorum, OJ moved on to adding a database to actually put the Availability Group to use. To demonstrate the true cross-platform capability of the AG, this database was then manually failed over from the Windows node to the Azure VM running Linux in a matter of seconds. “The SQL Server engine remains the same whether you run it in Windows, Linux, or containers,” Amit added.

The last step in the demo involved demonstrating automatic failover. While having the AKS container replica set as the primary database, OJ went ahead and executed a command to delete the pod. This prompted fast automatic failover of the workload to the Windows node facilitated by DxEnterprise. Additionally, AKS did its job and started up a new pod that it rejoined to the DxE and AG quorum. And within seconds of the original pod deletion, full database synchronization was reached between the three replicas with the Windows node operating as the new primary database.

Everything you just read about was shown in a 10-minute demo, so that demonstrates just how fast you can stand up a 3-replica Availability Group with DH2i. As an additional clarification, much of the demo showed management through the UI, but DxEnterprise can be administered exclusively through the CLI as well. This means these processes can be completely scripted for automation—something many DH2i customers are doing already to automate Kubernetes container deployments.

SQL Server AGs Spanning Anywhere to Anywhere

The DH2i team was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be featured in this episode of Data Exposed, and even more excited to have a senior member of the Microsoft SQL Server product team evangelize DxEnterprise right beside us. So, huge thanks to Amit for joining OJ on this session.

The duo demonstrated DxEnterprise’s capability in a Windows, Ubuntu, and AKS cluster in this session, but there is no limit to this technology. You can create highly available Always On Availability Groups across sites, platforms, distributions, and containers. It is truly a cross-environment solution to unify heterogeneous IT installations anywhere. Deployment is made easy with Helm chart capability, and your whole Availability Group is effortlessly secured with built-in ZTNA tunneling technology.

As Amit mentioned, this whole stack is production-ready with Microsoft supporting the SQL Server component, and DH2i supporting the clusterware. You can get started whenever you’re ready by downloading free trial software right here.

Please let us know if you have any questions about the content in this blog and feel free to reach out if you’d like to schedule a personalized demo for your organization.



Deploy SQL Server Always On High Availability Mirroring Data in Kubernetes with Automatic Failover

DevOps Engineer, Mohammad Falahat, participated in a free trial of DxEnterprise Smart High Availability Clustering software and wrote an article about using it to create a SQL Server Availability Group inside of a Kubernetes cluster.

He included a 6-step tutorial that you can follow along with to create the cluster and test failover capability. DxEnterprise is the only solution on the market currently that enables fully automatic database-level failover for SQL Server Availability Groups in Kubernetes.

Read more on Medium

Cybersecurity Awareness Month

October of 2023 marks the 20th year of Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Our CEO and Co-Founder, Don Boxley, had the opportunity to provide some insight on this topic to several industry publications.

He and many other IT leaders around the globe recognize pursuing innovation and adopting solutions such as software-defined perimeter as the keys to overcoming today’s cyber threats.

CIO Influence

Cyber Protection Magazine

DevPro Journal

Digital Journal

The IT Nerd

MSSP Alert

Network World

UK Tech News

VM Blog

Upcoming Webinar: Modernization in Minutes – Take SQL Server to K8s with DH2i and SUSE

FORT COLLINS, CO – September 18, 2023 – DH2i®, the world’s leading provider of always-secure and always-on IT infrastructure solutions, today announced an upcoming webinar titled, “Modernization in Minutes – Take SQL Server to K8s with DH2i and SUSE” taking place next week on September 28, 10:30 AM – 11:00 AM Eastern Time (ET).

Why Attend

In 2023, even the most heavy-duty SQL Server environments can’t escape the pressure of digital transformation. Organizations around the globe are being forced to adapt to remain competitive and provide the best experiences to their clients and customers. One way organizations are adapting is by moving from deploying SQL Server on virtual machines to containers.

Join SUSE and DH2i for a short demo and conversation on why containerizing SQL Server with Kubernetes is your organization’s best approach to digitally transform while keeping downtime prevention and peak security top-of-mind. Learn more about what to expect in the webinar below.

Attendees Will Learn:

  • Why so many organizations are migrating SQL Server to Kubernetes
  • The easiest way to get there with Rancher, DxEnterprise, and Availability Groups
  • Built-in SDP security technology that makes this solution stack perfect for the cloud

Featured Speakers:

  • Vince Matev Partner Alliance Manager, SUSE
  • OJ Ngo, Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder, DH2i

Can’t attend the live event? No problem! All registrants will receive on-demand access to the full webinar recording after the presentation has concluded.

Registration Link: https://dh2i.com/modernization-in-minutes-take-sql-server-to-k8s-with-dh2i-and-suse/

Additional Resources:

About DH2i

DH2i Company is the world’s leading provider of multi-platform smart high availability (HA) clustering and software-defined perimeter (SDP) software for Windows, Linux, and containers. DH2i enables users to securely connect and failover enterprise applications – from anywhere to anywhere. DH2i’s DxOdyssey® SDP software, the unVPN® networking solution for Zero Trust security, enables users to create highly available application-level Zero Trust Network Access tunnels across any mix of locations and platforms. DH2i’s DxEnterprise® smart high availability clustering software – now optimized for containers, delivers an all-in-one clustering solution for any application, any OS, any server configuration, and any cloud. DxEnterprise is the only SQL Server clustering solution to deliver fully automatic failover of SQL Server AG in Kubernetes. To learn more, please visit: www.dh2i.com, call: 800-380-5405 or +44 20 3318 9204, or email: [email protected].

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©DH2i Company 2023. DH2i, Smart Availability, DxEnterprise, DxOdyssey, DxConsole, DxHADR, DxTransfer, DxCollect and InstanceMobility are trademarks of DH2i Company. All other brand or product names contained in this press release may be trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders.

PR Contact:

Nicole Gorman
DH2i
Corporate Communications/PR
508-397-0131
[email protected]

Achieving Adequate Uptime for SQL Server in Kubernetes Means Thinking Outside the Pod

There is a reason why SQL Server isn’t exactly considered low-hanging fruit for Kubernetes containerization projects. The average SQL Server environment can be accurately described as nothing less than a “beast.” These environments can be massive in size and have a reputation for gobbling up much more than their fair share in budget dollars. Additionally, SQL Server environments:

  • Hold organizations’ most valuable data assets and require stringent security
  • Have critical uptime requirements, necessitating planned and unplanned downtime mitigation
  • Involve a high degree of management complexity with disparate OSes and infrastructure

Containers pose massive potential for significant gains in SQL Server agility, flexibility, cost-reduction, and more for organizations, but the uptime requirements of SQL Server workloads represent the critical bottleneck in the move to containerized deployments in Kubernetes.

Kubernetes Out-of-the-Box High Availability

As a standalone technology, Kubernetes does integrate some high availability functionality to help protect containerized SQL Server workloads. Built-in capabilities include pod replication, load balancing, service discovery, persistent volumes, and StatefulSets. These features allow Kubernetes to protect against things like:

  • Pod failure – Individual pods crashing due to resource contention issues or something else
  • Node failure – Anytime node becomes unavailable to cluster e.g. Hardware failure
  • Cluster failure ­– The loss of cluster communication capability e.g. Failure of control plane node

However, this is where an important distinction needs to be made—the distinction between high availability (HA) solutions that are ready to handle critical SQL Server workloads, and those that are not.

Kubernetes is a feature-rich container orchestration technology that has unlocked amazing possibilities for container-use in the IT industry, but when leveraged as a standalone HA solution, it cannot be considered a viable option for SQL Server workloads. This is predominantly due to the inherent latency associated with failover. By default, it takes Kubernetes five minutes to reschedule workloads from unreachable nodes. In 2023, this is not an acceptable failover baseline for SQL Server by any stretch of the mind. For the largest corporations, SQL Server downtime expense can reach well into the thousands of dollars per second, and settling for a 5-minute minimum downtime window for any failover is totally unacceptable.

So, while Kubernetes is the perfect technology for many container implementations, it does not have the chops to take on SQL Server high availability by itself. Fortunately, the surrounding technology ecosystem has evolved to bring integrated solutions to eliminate excessive downtime from SQL Server Kubernetes deployments.

High Availability Tailormade for SQL Server Containers

DxEnterprise (DxE) Smart High Availability Clustering software has been around for over a decade helping customers throughout the world ensure high availability for their mission-critical SQL Server environments. Now, what started as a solution for native SQL Server instances has been enhanced with industry-leading capabilities to unlock virtually zero downtime for SQL Server Kubernetes environments.

DxEnterprise takes Kubernetes cluster control to an even finer level of granularity—integrating health monitoring and failover automation at the database-level rather than the pod-level. In fact, DxEnterprise has been officially endorsed by Microsoft as the best approach to facilitating high availability for SQL Server in Kubernetes due to the powerful functionality it provides like:

  • Automatic failover for SQL Server Availability Groups in Kubernetes
  • Cross-site, cross-region, and cross-cloud Availability Group deployments
  • Boosted network performance through proprietary UDP tunnelling
  • Significantly reduced failover time from minutes to seconds
  • Ease of deployment using Rancher and/or Helm charts

This swath of DxEnterprise-derived enhancements helps add the secret sauce to Kubernetes to optimize high availability for even the most heavy-duty SQL Server environments. And the best part; it’s easier than ever to modernize your SQL Server with containers and unlock unparalleled cost-control, agility, and portability.

Reach out at [email protected] or get signed up for a personalized demo to learn how you can migrate your SQL Server to containers in literal minutes.

Ensuring AI Workload HA: SQL Server in K8s Made Reliable

Leveraging containerized stateful workloads such as Microsoft SQL Server to support AI applications is a practice that’s growing increasingly common. However, one of the primary conundrums in this scenario is enabling an adequate level of high availability (HA).

Container management solutions such as Kubernetes do a fantastic job letting you manage your containerized environments with increased agility and scalability, but out-of-the-box pod-level failover is grossly inadequate for the needs of enterprises and their SQL Server workloads. DH2i’s Don Boxley tells you about how software-defined perimeter technology and Smart HA software can solve this issue for good.

Spiceworks