Windows Updates may seem as ordinary business or something that you will deal with when the time is there, bear with us for a moment to explain why automatic updates on Storage Spaces Direct are different.
For a long time now, we all know that it’s important to update our servers regularly with the latest Windows Updates for several reasons.
It improves security because all software contains security flaws. Those flaws can be exploited for the wrong reasons by the wrong people. The updates fix the known security issues.
In some cases, it may improve performance because after all data from the field may give insights and some bits or bytes were not working as efficient as planned.
The stability of your environment may also increase. Since bugs are reported and get fixed and released through Windows Updates.
Not your regular set of servers
There are lots of ways to update your servers. You could do nothing, and Windows Update will at some point install the updates and eventually reboot your server. You could use Group Policies to download updates from Microsoft and schedule installation and reboot times to fit the company update policy. Other tools like Windows Server Update Service (WSUS) with GPO’s, System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), Azure Update Management, or other third-party tools can also help to update your servers in a more controlled, centralized, and efficient way. When we look at clusters, in this case specifically Hyperconverged Infrastructure clusters, most of these tools are not sufficient enough and you should avoid using them. These HCI servers are not your regular set of servers, they require special attention and procedures to update them.
Not very time-efficient but you can do it manually. Before you start, first validate the cluster status is healthy, then put a node in maintenance mode, install updates, restart the node. When it’s back online, monitor and wait for the storage to synchronize. When done, you can resume the node in the cluster. Now you can continue with the second node and repeat the process for every node in the cluster. Updating one node and waiting for the storage synchronization could take anywhere between 10 minutes and several hours depending on the change rate and performance of the nodes. You can imagine that this can take up several nights or weekends of IT personnel that could be spent otherwise.
Virtual Machine Manager
System Center Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) can help with automatically updating your S2D clusters by automating the update procedure. This way IT personnel can use their time on other matters and human errors is brought to the minimum. Virtual Machine Manager has specific support for Storage Spaces Direct or Azure Stack HCI clusters and takes care of the updating, restarting, and monitoring the storage repair jobs for you. You only need to start it, sit back, and let Virtual Machine Manager take care of the rest.
Cluster Aware Updating
Where SCVMM is additional software you need to purchase or may already have purchased, Cluster Aware Updating (CAU) is a free tool embedded in every Windows System as a feature. CAU is also capable of dealing with S2D or Azure Stack HCI clusters. Just like VMM, CAU also automates the update procedures and is aware of storage synchronization jobs.
Three benefits of using Cluster Aware Updating;
1. CUA allows update scheduling to install updates on a specific day and time
2. Ability to use pre/post scripts to perform custom (Powershell) actions before or after an update of a node.
3. CUA is able to install drivers and firmware in the process.
Azure Update Management is a new way of automating Windows Updates on your servers. These servers can run in Azure or in your own datacenter. As it is a cloud offer on Azure, Microsoft is heavily investing in this. But still today you should avoid Azure Automation Update Management to patch cluster nodes. As described earlier this tool is not aware of clustering or storage jobs and will threaten your nodes as single instances, and things can miserably wrong fast.
VMM or CUA?
That leaves us with two choices. VMM and CAU both have their pro’s and con’s, but they have one thing in common.. they both save you time.
If you want to learn more about updating your Storage Spaces Direct or Azure Stack HCI cluster and the different tools that are available to use you could watch the “Automatically Update S2D Cluster” video (in Dutch for now). In about 20 minutes we talk in-depth about the different tools to update Storage Spaces Direct or Azure Stack HCI clusters and go through the pros and cons. We will demonstrate both update processes and tell you all you need to know! Access the video here!