Home > Articles > Operating Systems, Server > Microsoft Servers

What is a Microsoft Cluster?

Business today is built the ability to access data, manipulate data, transfer data, and analyze data. Until recently, building a fault-tolerant, scalable, and reliable client/server system was a difficult task that included several months of planning, a room full of consulting companies, and several hundred thousand dollars. But the landscape is changing. Today, building a high-performance, reliable client/server system is easy to do — and more cost effective than ever. Let author and columnist Joseph M. Lamb guide you through the various cluster types, and how you can implement clusters that best serve the needs of your application using Microsoft's Windows 2000 Advanced Server.
Like this article? We recommend

Business today is built on data — the ability to access data, manipulate data, transfer data, and analyze data. Large financial institutions and data processing firms lose billions of dollars a year due to data loss caused by system failure. In the data processing world of the past, mainframes ruled the arena. Today, many companies are trading in the mainframe for client/server-based applications and services that are more user-friendly and easier to integrate into their e-commerce implementation plans. Until recently, building a fault-tolerant, scalable, and reliable client/server system was a difficult task that included several months of planning, a room full of consulting companies, and several hundred thousand dollars. But the landscape is changing. Today, building a high-performance, reliable client/server system is easy to do — and more cost effective than ever.

Cluster History

To cluster a group of computers is to use two or more independent computer systems to create one virtual server that provides seamless access to an application or service. The idea of clustering may be odd to someone new to the computing world, but clustering computers is not a new idea. Clustering theory dates back to as early as 1970. IBM was the first company to implement the clustering theory into its design, producing fault-tolerant mainframe computing products. At that point, however, clustering was a niche technology that, due to the reliability of the mainframe, was not in demand.

In the mid-1980s, Digital Equipment Corporation released the VAXcluster, a cluster of minicomputers that was supposed to solve the fault-tolerance dilemma of systems and services of the day by removing all single points of failure (SPOF) within a system. The VAXcluster was an attempt to duplicate every component that could fail within a system and run those components simultaneously. This cluster produced a computing environment in which two computers could provide simultaneous service to users. This was not the jewel of the system, however. The greatest value was from the failover ability. If one part of the system were to quit functioning due to a failure, the other computer would begin servicing all of the clients.

The VAXcluster was the first "proof of concept" for the idea of clustering, but had many issues that needed to be resolved through later iterations. Later revisions of the technology were developed for the Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) platform and relied solely upon the UNIX operating system. As the Intel architecture became more popular, the same methodology that was used to create the VAXcluster was applied to the Intel based client/server market.

As more and more companies began to rely on Microsoft networking products, the need for clustering and load-balancing technologies grew. Every step that Microsoft and other vendors have taken towards the development of a windows-based clustering technology has brought excitement to the industry. For years, UNIX-based networking environments have had the ability to cluster servers in a way that rivals the reliability of the mainframe, while Windows administrators were left with minimal options in the clustering arena.

In 1995, Microsoft was delighted to announce the development of "wolfpack," the code name for the Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) software package developed for the Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise server platform. This software was developed, in collaboration between Digital Equipment Corporation and Tandem Computers, to allow two Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise servers to share a hard disk, providing automatic failover in the event of a failure within one of the servers. This would have been a triumph for Microsoft, for the cluster server functionality was beginning to be in high demand. Unfortunately, the software was not as solid and reliable as enterprise customers needed it to be, and third party products that offered more advanced functionality and reliability overshadowed the MSCS software.

There were many patches and upgrades to the MSCS software, and slowly it began to take on the appearance of an enterprise-level product. In 2000, Microsoft released Windows 2000, along with a version of their server product called Windows 2000 Advanced Server. This server offered the reliability and stability of an enterprise-class operating system, as well as the tools and applications needed to build high availability cluster servers.

Along with Windows 2000 Advanced Server, Microsoft has released Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, a robust operating system positioned to displace the remaining mainframe hold on the market. Datacenter Server contains the same tools and applications as Windows 2000 Advanced Server, with the added support for higher amounts of memory, processor capacity, and greater clustering capabilities. Both Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Windows 2000 Datacenter Server offer clustering and Network Load Balancing (NLB) services that are sure to become the industry standard for clustering Windows 2000-based applications and services.

InformIT Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from InformIT and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites, develop new products and services, conduct educational research and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email information@informit.com.

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at customer-service@informit.com and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by InformIT. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive: www.informit.com/u.aspx.

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to NevadaDesignatedRequest@pearson.com.

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020