In my environment, we’ve been using SolarWinds products to monitor our critical infrastructure from networking equipment to a single Windows service. I’ve also worked with the Neverfail product to protect legacy applications such as Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) 5.0 and Good For Enterprise (GFE) from a single point of failure. So when SolarWinds took the same product and re-branded it as Failover Engine (FoE), it felt right at home as the interface looked exactly the same as the regular Neverfail product.
Unfortunately, the setup and on-going support were so complicated that SolarWinds stopped supporting it in late 2017. It did, however, replace FoE with a much better product called High Availability. And with version 2.0, it’s so much easier to set up and manage failover between multiple SolarWinds servers within the same site on the same subnet, or across different sites on different subnets.
The main differences between FoE and HA are:
- With FoE, only one server is visible online at any given time. Thus, the passive server will always be behind when it comes to Windows updates. HA, on the other hand, allows both servers to be online at the same time with support for different hostnames.
- To initiate failover within FoE, an admin must log onto the active SolarWinds server and launch the FoE application. In HA, this task can be easily executed within the same SolarWinds web console.
If you already had FoE set up like mine, transitioning to HA is relatively simple. Essentially, it’s no different from setting HA from scratch as well. For this post, I will share the steps to transition in a multi-subnets environment (common for an organization with different sites and subnets.)
For this post, I’ve reviewed the URLs below. They are simple to read and follow.
- Orion Platform High Availability
- High Availability in SolarWinds products
- Failover Engine (FoE) Documentation
- Migrate Failover Engine LAN Configuration to SolarWinds Orion High Availability
- Migrate Failover Engine WAN Configuration to SolarWinds Orion High Availability
- High Availability deployment walk-through
Before we get started, here’s a list of prerequisites:
- A primary server with required versions of SolarWinds modules
- A secondary server (physical or virtual) without no prior SolarWinds modules installed
- A shared hostname for the HA pool
- A service account with permission to create/update DNS record
Here is a summary of steps if you are to transition from FoE to HA. If you are setting up HA for the first time, skip step number 2.
- Upgrade SolarWinds modules to the newer versions
- Uninstall FoE from the primary server, if applicable
- Wipe clean the secondary server, or prepare a new secondary server
- Activate HA pool licenses
- Download, save and execute the HA installer on the secondary server
- Create a High Availability Pool
First, head to SolarWinds.com and log into the customer portal. Then, download the necessary software and upgrade your existing SolarWinds modules to the required versions for HA setup.
While you may consider using the Product Upgrade Advisor, you may instead have a case (or two) open with support to confirm the upgrade path instead. I was fortunate enough to come across an experienced tech who advised against what’s recommended through the software based on his previous experience.
Next, uninstall FoE from the primary server (there should be an icon or program that will take care of the uninstall for you.) Reboot when prompted.
If you can, install .NET Framework version 4.6.2 while you are on the primary server as it’s required for HA setup. This will save you sometime later.
While you are at the SolarWinds customer portal, go ahead and activate the HA pool licenses.
For your secondary server, uninstalling existing FoE and SolarWinds modules are NOT sufficient. It’s best to wipe the server clean and install a base OS from scratch. Unlike FoE, the secondary server can have its own hostname and even join to the domain. This is super useful as the secondary server can have Windows patches installed at any time without having to fail over SolarWinds to it first (which make it visible on the network and in turn enables Internet connection for downloading Windows patches.)
Once the steps above are completed, head to your SolarWinds web console and go to SETTINGS -> All Settings -> PRODUCT SPECIFIC SETTINGS -> High Availability Deployment Summary.
Then, follow the screenshots below to download the installer.
Unlike FoE, I like how the steps are clearly displayed so no advanced knowledge is required to set up HA.
Next, save and execute the installer on the secondary server.
Just like installing or upgrading any SolarWinds module, you will need to go through the configuration wizard.
Once all the SolarWinds modules are installed on the secondary server, return to the SolarWinds web console and continue with HA setup.
On the next screen, fill out the shared hostname and optionally select a server to be the preferred active server.
Ah oh. Somehow wasn’t right on the next screen. I investigated further by referencing this link.
I know the service account is a member of the DNSAdmin group. Reviewing the link further gave me an idea of trying a different format for the username by appending the domain in front of it.
Once the pool is created, go ahead and review the High Availability Settings and Email Settings.
Here’s a look at the SolarWinds services on the secondary server. Those marked as Disabled will turn into Manual once it becomes the active server.
There are several scenarios to ensure HA is working as expected. Review the link below for further details.
Suppose you want to initiate a manual failover, here are the steps to take right from the SolarWinds web console.
After clicking OK, you will see the below on the upper right-hand corner.
If you have email alerts configured, you should receive several emails during the failover process.
Last but not least, you will need to refresh your browser to access the web console once failover completes.
Overall, I’m very pleased with the HA setup over FoE and would highly recommend having this setup for anyone using SolarWinds to monitor their infrastructure.