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Broken Cluster? Clear it up.

Three years ago I wrote an article about cleaning up nodes of clusters that had been corrupted and destroyed (See Cluster Issues… how to clean out cluster nodes from destroyed clusters). 

Unfortunately the cluster command has been deprecated in Windows Server 2012 R2, so we need to go to PowerShell… which frankly is where we should be going anyways!

PS C:\> Clear-ClusterNode –Cluster Toronto –Force

In this example we had a cluster named Toronto that is no longer accessible.  Unfortunately one of the nodes was off-line when the cluster was destroyed, so it didn’t ‘get the message.’  As such, when we try later to join it to a new cluster we get an error that the server is already a node in another cluster.

The cmdlet only takes a minute to run, and when you do run it you are all set… you will immediately be able to join it to another cluster.

For the fun of it, I have not figured out yet how to (natively) run this cmdlet against a remote server, so you can either do it by connecting to each server or…

Invoke-Command –ComputerName Server1 –ScriptBlock {Clear-ClusterNode –Cluster Toronto –Force}

I covered this option in a previous article (Do IT Remotely) which shows how to run cmdlets (or any script) against a remote server.

No go forth and script!

New (and Free!) E-Books

Last month I posted an updated list of free ebooks that Microsoft Press offers (Free E-Books… Way beyond PDF Files!) which was extremely well received.  Well today I was given information that MS Press released two new ebooks this month, both of which are extremely of interest to a lot of my readers.

Microsoft System Center Deploying Hyper-V with Software-Defined Storage & Networking

Microsoft System Center Software Update Management Field Experience

You can download one or both of them from here.  They are not yet available on but I hope that will change soon!

Cluster-Aware Updates: Be Aware!

When I started evangelizing Windows Server 2012 for Microsoft, there was a long list of features that I was always happy to point to.  There are a few of them that I have never really gone into detail on, that I am currently working with.  Hopefully these articles will help you.

Cluster Aware Updates (CAU) is a feature that does exactly what it says – it helps us to update the nodes in a Failover Cluster without having to manually take them down, put them into maintenance mode, or whatever else.  It is a feature that works in conjunction with our patch management servers as well as our Failover Cluster.

I have written extensively about Failover Clusters before, but just to refresh, we need to install the Failover Clustering feature on each server that will be a cluster node:

PS C:\Install-WindowsFeature –Name Failover-Clustering –IncludeManagementTools –ComputerName <ServerName>

We could of course use the Server Manager GUI tool, but if you have several servers it is easier and quicker to use Windows PowerShell.

Once this is done we can create our cluster.  Let’s create a cluster called Toronto with three nodes:

PS C:\New-Cluster –Name Toronto –Node Server1, Server2, Server3

This will create our cluster for us and assign it a dynamic IP address.  If you are still skittish about dynamic IP you can add a static IP address by modifying your command like this:

PS C:\New-Cluster –Name Toronto –Node Server1, Server2, Server3 –StaticAddress

Great, you have a three-node cluster.  So now onto the subject at hand: Cluster Aware Updates.

You would think that CAU would be a default behaviour.  After all, why would anyone NOT want to use it? Nonetheless, you have to actually enable the role feature.

PS C:\Add-CauClusterRole –EnableFirewallRules

Notice that we are not using the –ComputerName switch.  That is because we do not install the role service to the servers but to the actual cluster.  You will be asked: Do you want to add the Cluster-Aware Updating clustered role on cluster “Toronto”? The default is YES.

By the way, in case you are curious the Firewall Rules that you need to enable is the ‘Remote Shutdown’ rule.  This enables Cluster-Aware Updating to restart each node during the update process.

Okay, you are ready to go… In the Failover Cluster Manager console right-click on your cluster, and under More Actions click Cluster-Aware Updating.  In the window Failover – Cluster-Aware Updating click Apply updates to this cluster.  Follow the instructions, and your patches will begin to apply to each node in turn.  Of course, if you want to avoid the management console, all you have to do (from PowerShell) is run:

PS C:\Invoke-CauRun

However be careful… you cannot run this cmdlet from a server that is a cluster node.  So from a remote system (I use my management client that has all of my RSAT tools installed) run:

PS C:\Invoke-CauRun –ClusterName Toronto

You can watch the PowerShell progress of the update… or you can go out for ice cream.  Just make sure it doesn’t crash in the first few seconds, and it should take some time to run.

Good luck, and my the cluster force be with you!

Gone Phishing… NO!!!!

I remember the first time I got a phishing request from a bank.  Not only was it a bank I had never done business with, I had in fact never heard of them.  I looked into it, and sure enough they were a real bank… but that didn’t change the fact that I did not do business with them.

In the twelve or so years since (have they really been around that long??) I have gotten hundreds of them, most of them are blocked by my spam filter but some of them get through.  Of those, only once or twice did I get a phishing attempt disguised as a bank I do actually do business with them… but the glaring mistakes made it obvious, even if I did not look closer.
As I got to my office one morning this week my phone beeped with the following e-mail:


I do have a credit card with TD, and while I had not used it for several months, I did use it to pay for my parking this morning… the first time I used it in months.  So while it might have been reasonable for them to contact me with a security issue, most phishing attempts are still pretty easy to detect… to someone who is looking for them.


When I hovered over the Verification Link I got a completely ridiculous URL… what the heck would TD Canada Trust be using for?  No way.  And besides, let’s take a look at the original mail header again:


Who the heck is Definitely not a good sign.

Here’s the long and the short of it… If your bank is worried about you, they might call you but they will never e-mail you and tell you to ‘click here.’  By the way, when they do call you, they won’t ask for your password… although they will ask for information that will confirm who you are.

It is sad to think that phishing scams are still out there… because if people didn’t get caught every day, they would have stopped a long time ago.  It is a sad reality, and I can only hope that my readers are more informed than the folks getting duped.  But if you do hear about someone getting phished, send them here and have them read up on it!

Follow-up to a comment.

Per my comment reply to Peter, this is from the My Certifications > MCSE: Private Cloud page.


To Recertify, or NOT to Recertify… THAT is the question.

I was definitely a proponent of expiring certifications when the topic came up.  Why?  Because my value as an MCSE was diminished by others who held the same title… from Windows NT.  By making professionals renew their certifications we obtained the ability to differentiate between someone with current value and skills and knowledge and someone whose knowledge and skills were obsolete.

I am not saying this position is coming back to bite me, only that I am probably at a cross-roads, and I have some decisions to make.


I got this e-mail recently.  I actually got two of them that were nearly identical, with the one line differentiator:


Okay, so I have to decide whether to renew my VCP credentials.  It is not an easy decision – not because I have not found value in being a VCP (I have).  However I have not spent as much time in the past couple of years working with large scale VMware environments, and I don’t know if I would have the time and resources needed in order to study for and pass the exam.  It is a tough choice (not on the VCP4, but for VCP5).

I am not only on the line for VMware though… I remember when I earned my MCSE: Private Cloud certification with Microsoft Learning.  It was cool to be among the first to earn what I consider to be a very prestigious certification.  Seeing the words CHARTER MEMBER along the top was not exactly new to me, but I still took great pride in it.


Fast-forward three years (slightly more, as the renewal exams were not ready in time) and I notice, when looking at my MCP page, the following ugly note:


Of course, if we look back to the beginning of this article, I would be a hypocrite if I really thought this was an ugly note… it is just the reality, and if I want the renewal to apply to others so that my certifications retain their value, obviously I have to renew as well so that everyone else’s certifications retain their value.

The question is though… would I pass the required exams if I sat them today?  The answer is, unfortunately, probably not. 

I have a couple of options. 

  1. I can make the decision to allow these certs to lapse.  I will always be a ‘Former VCP and Former MCSE: Private Cloud.’
  2. I can decide to buckle down and study, preparing for the exams.

The long-time faithful readers of my blog will know that I have said before that you should not study for exams (see article).  I said ‘The best way to know technology is to use it, and if you read the recommended pre-requisites for most exams they say that you should have a minimum of two years experience with the technology.’  Well I already proved that I knew the technologies – I proved it by earning the certs in the first place.  However over the last three years my career my priorities were different, and I took extended breaks from using the technologies the certs apply to.

Does that mean I am done?  No… when I said I took a break I meant it, and I am currently working on a number of projects, some involving VMware and some involving Microsoft’s Private Cloud.   While I know that for the Microsoft certs I will need to take a recertifying exam, for the VCP I found the following on their FAQ:


Well at least they don’t beat around the bush.

On the VMware side I now have just under two months to prepare (if I am going to), and on the Microsoft side I have until the end of October.  Will I do it? On one? On both?

I don’t know if I will recertify on VMware… Exam prep is tough, and I frankly do not think I get the same benefit out of it that I do Microsoft.  That is to say, I do not think that there is an opportunity that I would lose if I said ‘I was a VCP-DCV, but let it lapse.’  Most of my clients are just as happy knowing that I am proficient in VMware, even if the cert has lapsed.

Microsoft is a different story.  Don’t get me wrong – my reputation with regard to Microsoft technologies is pretty solid.  However if I let that cert lapse I do not know if I will be able to renew my MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) for 2016 (I just renewed it for 2015, but we have to think ahead).  You never know what requirements they will ask at renewal time, and every senior certification on my transcript is a step in the right direction.

With that being said, according to the Certification Planner on the Microsoft Learning portal, I am a single exam shy of earning both my MCSA: Windows Server 2012 and my MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure, and one more exam short for my MCSE: Server Infrastructure certifications.  (411 and 413 for those who are counting).  To recertify for MCSE: Private Cloud I need to write exam 981, which is essentially an upgrade exam (based on the exam objectives for 246 and 247).  If you type the term “Upgrade Exam” into the search box of this blog, you can read about how unpleasant those can be.

With all of that being said, I passed them once… I should be able to pass them again… I think, hope, pray.  Fortunately, I have two things going for me: 1) There is a Second Shot Free offer currently available, so if I fail an exam I can retake it at no cost… well, at the cost of another half-day off of work. 2) As an MCT I am entitled to a 50% discount off my exams.

I haven’t decided which way I will go… in theory, four exam passes will give me five key certifications:

  • VMware Certified Professional: Datacenter Virtualization
  • MCSA: Windows Server 2012
  • MCSE: Desktop Infrastructure
  • MCSE: Server Infrastructure
  • MCSE: Private Cloud

Since MCSE: Private Cloud is no longer offered, I wouldn’t mind holding onto it for the sake of nostalgia.  The other MCSEs? Well, none of them would hurt to hold.  As for the MCSA… Yeah, I am sure there are a bunch of you who are surprised that I don’t hold that one.  When I came back from Japan last year it was my intention to sit a bunch of exams, and I did… but many of you know that my head was very much elsewhere, and what with my personal issues my head just wasn’t in it… I have been one exam shy for a long time, but I do plan to go get it.

So I guess during the writing of this article I have talked myself back into a certification mode… who’s with me? Smile

Cloud Storage: What’s your favourite?

A few weeks ago Bauke Roesink, a fellow blogger, reached out to me to ask for a blub for a piece he was doing on Cloud Storage.  He asked me to write up what platform I use to share large files, and why.  The results would be featured in a piece he was doing, that eventually became Transfer Big Files – 44 pros reveal how to send large files.

I did not have a single answer; I use several different platforms, and that is what I wrote up.  Is one better or worse than another?  Probably not, depending on what platform you need to use it from (OneDrive certainly integrates more seamlessly with Windows 8 than the others because it was developed by the same company; I would expect Google Drive wins hands down on Android devices).  I listed the four that I use (I excluded FTP, even though I do use that from time to time) and the reasons I use them.  I list my favourite as OneDrive, and I explain my reasons.

So if I prefer OneDrive, you may ask, why don’t I just stick to the one?  Simple… not all of the people I share files with use it.  I have been supporting DropBox and Google Drive for several months since I joined Yakidoo in August, but I only created a DropBox account for myself when one of my colleagues at Taekwondo told me he was using that platform to share videos and information that I will need to prepare for my upcoming test, as well as videos of our demo team.

I only heard about Box recently when I was at an event on the Microsoft Campus and one of the presenter’s machines had an icon for it in their task bar.  A few days later I found out that one of the companies I work for was investing heavily in a PoC on Box, so I was instantly introduced to it.

The article was published this week and I read it (I did not read all of the bits about why people use which platform) and I think it is a great exposé… with one glaring inaccuracy.  The article lists the 15 best cloud storage services.

Aside from the fact that a number of the options listed are not actually cloud storage services (e-mail certainly would not be classified as such, nor BitTorrent Sync), I am wondering if a more accurate title wouldn’t be ‘the 15 most popular cloud storage solutions.’  If there is one thing that Windows 95 taught is it is that Best and Most Used are not necessarily one and the same.

Nonetheless it is certainly an interesting read… I am not surprised that many of us noted that we use more than one service (if we can agree that OneDrive and OneDrive for Business are two separate services, then I use four).  In some cases we list that it is the features we like, often it is the price.  Some list that they have aligned with a vendor and use that product exclusively.  Who is right and who is wrong?  None of us.

I am always concerned when I hear that one or the other service has been hacked or otherwise compromised, and am glad that to date my favourite has been secure.  What will the future hold?  Who knows.  In the meantime, I only keep files on-line that if they were to be made public would not actually ruin me.  What should you use? You decide!


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