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A collection of software, the Cluster Services provides automatic recovery from failure and an ability to move workloads for planned maintenance without downtime. It controls all aspects of cluster operations on a cluster system and has closely related, cooperating components:

  • Node Manager handles cluster membership and watches the health of the other cluster systems.
  • Configuration Database Manager maintains the cluster configuration database.
  • Resource Manager/Failover Manager makes all resource/group management decisions and initiates appropriate actions, such as startup, restart and failover.
  • Event Processor connects the components of the Cluster Service, handles common operations and controls Cluster Service initialization.
  • Communications Manager manages communications with all other nodes of the cluster.
  • Global Update manager provides a global update service used by other components within the Cluster Service.
  • Resource Monitor, while not a part of the Cluster Service, communicates with the Cluster Service via Remote Procedure Calls (RPC). It monitors the health of each resource through callbacks to the resources.
  • Time Service maintains consistent time within the cluster.

The Cluster Services in each node of a cluster are in constant communication with each other. In small clusters, all nodes are in direct communication. Intra-cluster communication uses RPC mechanisms to guarantee reliable, one-time delivery of messages. Applications are linked to the clustering services through Microsoft Cluster Server Resource DLL (dynamic link library). These resources may be customized to provide advanced services such as automated installation, to speed shutdown and recovery, or to detect subtle error conditions

Microsoft Windows NT Load Balancing Service (WLBS)
This service is an addition to Windows NT Server 4.0, Enterprise Edition. It allows you to combine the resources of up to 32 Windows NT Server-based machines into a single front-end cluster to deliver reliability and performance to your mission-critical services such as Web, FTP, virtual private networking (VPN), streaming media and proxy.

WLBS automatically balances the networking traffic between clustered computers, scaling the performance of your services to the desired level. If a computer fails or goes offline, WLBS automatically reconfigures the cluster to direct the client connections to the remaining computers. The offline computer can later rejoin the cluster and resume its share of the workload. WLBS operates in a fully transparent manner--invisible to your TCP/IP clients and your server applications. The cluster is accessed as if it is a single computer, using one IP address. Because it is an IP-based service, WLBS works exceptionally well with a wide variety of applications and services.
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