Setup Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster in VMware Workstation

Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster

Here you can see how to setup Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 failover cluster in VMware Workstation.This article contains step by step method on Microsoft windows 2008 R2 failover cluster with freenas iscsi disks in VMware workstation just on your computer.  if you search on internet about setting up Windows 2008 R2 cluster in any desktop virtualization software, you can’t find it in one place.

Installation and setup procedure for MS windows 2003 cluster and earlier versions are available on internet, but not Windows 2008 or R2 failover cluster. Everybody including me stuck in one place while setting up Windows 2008 or R2 cluster in Virtualization environment, which is Cluster disk validation.  This is the main issue on MS windows 2008 R2 cluster in VMware workstation or Sun virtual box desktop virtualization software.

Windows 2008 and R2 failover clusters require SCSI-3 persistent reservation target disks as their cluster disks. Now question is how to setup SCSI-3 persistent reservation cluster disks in VMware workstation? I already wrote an article on setting up SCSI-3 persistent reservation cluster  iSCSI disks in VMware workstation using FreeNAS. Before continue reading this post, please read my previous article and create cluster disks in your VMware workstation according to cluster need.

Let’s start the installation and setup of Windows 2008 or R2 Failover cluster in desktop virtualization software VMware workstation.

Required Software

a)      VMware workstation

b)      Windows 2008 or R2 Operating System

c)       FreeNAS

Read more about Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover cluster in normal environment

Prerequisites setup

a)      Installation of Windows 2008 or R2 Operating System in VMware Workstation ( Three Windows 2008 R2 Server virtual machines required.  One as domain controller and other twos as cluster nodes)

b)      Setup domain on one server and join other two servers with domain. Use domain administrator login for servers. ( in this example, domain name is and cluster server names are vm-clus1 and vm-clus2)

c)       Install failover cluster feature in two windows 2008 or R2 servers you are going to setup failover cluster in VMware workstation.

d)      Install second network card in both cluster servers. Give two separate IP addresses, so both servers can communicate through this network also. This network will be used as ‘heart beat’ network for both servers. Make sure, this network name is identical in both servers. (in this example, heart beat network named as ‘ internal’ on both servers)

e)      Create cluster disks in your FreeNAS virtual machine.   Read my previous post on creating SCSI-3 persistent reservation target iSCSI disks in FreeNAS.
( in this example,
Qurom disk – 512MB,
Storage disk1- 2GB,
Storage disk 2- 2GB,
Storage disk 3 – 2GB,
and Backup disk 4GB)

Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster

Start Setup – Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster in VMware workstation

1)      In first cluster server, Open iSCSI initiator under administrative tools.  Click Yes, if it asks to start the iSCSI service.

2)      Give FreeNAS IP address in Target and press Quick Connect.

It will detect your target disks. Pres Done.

Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster

3)      You can see each disk shows Inactive status. Click on each target and press connect until all targets’ status show as connected.

Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster

4)      Go to Volumes and Devices tab, and press Auto Configure button. Your all targets will come as disks under this tab.

Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster

5)      All iSCSI disks will be listed under disk management is server manager. Right Click on each disk, make it online and Initialize the disks.

Windows 2008 R2 Cluster VMware Workstation

6)      Create simple volumes by right clicking and selecting on each unallocated space. Format the drives and give name for each disk.

7)       After all disks formatted and named successfully, right click on each drives and make them offline again.
see below.

Windows 2008 R2 Cluster VMware Workstation

8)      Now go to second cluster server. Start iSCSI services and detect all target disks as you did in first server. But you do not need to format and name the disks in second server. Here also, make sure all disks detected and made offline in disk management.

9)      Now, start failover cluster manager in features under server manager. Before create cluster, better to validate cluster configuration, especially the tricky part SCSI-3 persistent reservation iSCSI disks which we configured in FreeNAS.

10)   Click on Validate a configuration under management.

Windows 2008 R2 Cluster VMware Workstation

11)   Click Next and browse the cluster servers from active directory or enter full name of servers.

Windows 2008 R2 Cluster VMware Workstation

12)   If you are confident,  run all tests or run part by part. Wait for result…. Here we go.

My all tests passed, and ready for create windows 2008 or R2 cluster in VMware workstation.


13)   Final validate configure result shown below.

desktop virtualization software

Now, create cluster and start making. Other steps are very easy. I don’t need to explain deeply, because cluster validation is very important.

14)   I gave cluster name ‘ vm-cluster’ and separate IP address

desktop virtualization software

15)   That’s it. We have successfully created windows 2008 or R2 failover cluster in vmware workstation using FreeNAS.

desktop virtualization software

Unfortunately, it took one of my 2GB disk as quorum disk. But no problem, we can change it later. That option is available in windows 2008 R2 cluster.

Obviously, server performance will be poor, since we run 3 windows 2008 R2 servers and FreeNAS operating systems inside VMware workstation. This is just for testing and learning purpose only.

Feel free to share your comments and problems on this. If you are satisfied with this post and blog, don’t miss to subscribe our RSS feed, so you will not miss anything.

31 thoughts on “Setup Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Failover Cluster in VMware Workstation”

  1. Yes, it can be done in VirtualBox if you install Windows 2008 R2 and FreeNAS, and setup network among guest machines properly. Then Windows 2008 R2 cluster will work fine in Sun VirtualBox.

  2. Hi Dinesh,

    Great article.

    Thought I’d share my experience of using your technique (incl. FreeNAS) and confirm that I have this working using VMware Server v2.0.2 with a Win2008 Ent R2 host and two Win2008 Ent R2 guests, the guests sitting in a virtual domain with another Win2008 Ent R2 guest as Domain Controller.

    Only one issue I came up against. When creating volume names in FreeNAS, beware of using characters such as underscore ‘_’, as these are invalid characters for the Windows iSCSI initiator. Apart from that, the rest worked straight off.

    Again, thanks for sharing your work.




  3. On my validation of the cluster I receive the following error on List Potential Cluster Disks section:

    Failed to access sector 11 on disk with identifier 6c60acfd from node xxxxx.

    Do you know where could be the problem?

    • Sorry, strange problem. I think may be some issues with iSCSI creation in FreeNAS. Try to give disk name without space and any characters in FreeNAS. Also while adding disk to FreeNAS VMware virtual machine, allocate the space completely.

  4. Just quick note to thank you for your hard word creating this post. I found it to be perfectly detailed and everything I need to know for my first setup seems to be included. I write my own blog so I know how much work goes into being accurate and detailed. So thanks again for such a good job and helping me on me first Windows Clustering project.

    I have one question, How do you import a program like MS Exchange 2007 from one server to another? Do you have to completely reinstall Exchange on the second and third servers in your Cluster? Do you have any references on how to do that? Please advise…

    Dale Allen

    • @Dale Allen,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m not that great in Exchange 2007, but we are using on our company and have some experience.
      If you are going to move your existing Exchange 2007 to cluster server, then you have to re install the program. Then you can import the information storage from old server to new cluster server.
      Thats the only one way I know.

      Let me know if this is useful, also correct me if I’m wrong.

      Good luck.

  5. I have noticed having set up the iscsi facility in two machines on vmware that the disks do not update until after a reboot. am i doing something wrong or i have missunderstood something in this article

  6. Hey,

    nice article(s).

    I’ve successfully set up this solution (two R2, one FreeNAS) and is working ok.

    I have one question though.

    Why do we need a domain controller server? (the third machine).

    If the nodes are not in the same domain (but in the same group) will it fail the solution?

    I am trying to understand and find a definitve argument for this.


  7. I may sound silly, but I was able to install the cluster without the heartbeat network, is this something possible in win2k8r2 or it is mandatory to have a heartbeat network.

  8. Manju – I too have been able to setup the cluster without a heartbeat network interface, however, the cluster validation report has reported this as a “warning” because I only have 1 network card per node.
    It says “It is possible that this network path is a single point of failure for communication within the cluster. Please verify that this single path is highly available or consider adding additional networks to the cluster.”

    Dinesh – thank you very much for posting this, it’s been a great help.

  9. Very Nice article, perhaps I would name it as a SOP – Std. Operating Procedure.

    Thanks, much appreciated !

  10. Dear
    In step 8 when connect clus2 server to starwind server, iSCSI INITIATOR show “server unavailable” message and don’t connected to starwind. plz help me?

  11. hi Dinesh
    Thanks for your great article I Have problem joining two cluster,
    validation process has no error.

    An error occurred while creating the cluster.
    An error occurred creating cluster ‘Vlab2’.
    This operation returned because the timeout period expired

  12. Thank you so much creating this wonderful article, I will certainly try this cluster layout using vmware.

  13. Hi,

    I just tried out free NAS configuration and 2008 cluster build and its working fine, thank you for your post, its really awesome

  14. Great post, Just set this up using Virtual Box and it’s working a treat. Needed to test a 2008 cluster migration to a new domain and having a virtual environment setup has saved me a lot of grief.


  15. I have worked this using FreeNAS 8 as well, and works wonderful, but I do have a question for the masses.

    I have run into the same situation where instead of using the 500mb quorum drive for cluster configuration it stole one of the 2GB drives. Surfing through all the options I have not found the method of adjusting the drives for the clustering configurations.

    The only way I have found around this is to connect to only the quorum drive first, create the cluster without an storage drives. Afterwards, connecting to each of the remote drives and then added them as storage to the cluster. Just seeing if this is the only way to accomplish this or is there a proper work around internally within the cluster management console.

  16. Dear All

    At last all trouble I have been facing are no longer. This article I can say is a Heaven sent. One quick question I have. Will me required to have Exchange server 2007 Enterprise to be able to set up Cluster environment for exchange at this stage. As of now I have exchange 2007 Standard. Will it support this cluster mode I’m envisioning.


Comments are closed.