Cluster Aware Updating for Windows Server 2012 R2 (Part 2)

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Cluster Aware Updating for Windows Server 2012 R2.


In the previous article in this series, I explained what Cluster Aware Updating is and how it works. In this article, I want to wrap up the discussion by showing you how to set up and use Cluster Aware Updating.

As I explained in the previous article, there are two different ways in which you can set up cluster aware updating. You can perform self updating or remote updating. Self updating works by running the Cluster Aware Update Tool directly on a cluster node. In contrast, remote updating allows you to coordinate the update process from outside of the cluster by running the Cluster Aware Update Tool on a computer that is not a cluster node. You can perform remote updates from computers running Windows Server 2012 or higher, or Windows 8 or higher.

The Cluster Aware Update Tool

As I previously alluded to, the cluster aware updating process is coordinated through a special tool called the Cluster Aware Update Tool. This tool is a part of the Failover Clustering Service. That being the case, you won’t have to worry about installing this tool onto your cluster nodes. The tool should already exist. However, if you are going to be performing remote updating then you will need to install the tool to the computer from which you plan to coordinate the update process.

The exact method that you will use to install the Cluster Aware Update Tool varies considerably depending on the operating system that is running on your computer. In the case of a system that is running Windows Server 2012 R2, you can deploy the Cluster Aware Update Tool through Server Manager.

Begin the process by opening Server Manager and choosing the Add Roles and Features command from the Manage menu. Upon doing so, Windows will launch the Add Roles and Features Wizard. Click Next to bypass the wizard’s Welcome screen.

When you arrive at the Installation Type screen, choose the Role Based or Feature Based Installation option, and click Next. At this point, you will be asked to choose the server on which you wish to perform the installation. Pick your local machine from the list and then click Next.

You will now be taken to the Server Roles selection screen. We aren’t installing any roles, so go ahead and click Next. You should now be looking at the list of features that can be installed. Select the Failover Clustering check box, even though this computer will not become a cluster node.

When you select the Failover Clustering feature, you may be prompted to install some additional features. If this happens, click Add Feature to go ahead and install any required components. Click Next, followed by Install to complete the installation process.

Performing a Cluster Aware Update

The exact method that you will use to perform a cluster aware update will vary slightly depending on whether you are performing a self update or a remote update. For the purposes of this article, I am going to be performing a self update.

With that said, open the Failover Cluster Manager on one of the cluster nodes. The Failover Cluster Manager can be launched from the Server Manager’s Tools menu. When the Failover Cluster Manager opens, select your cluster, and then click on the Cluster Aware Updating link, found in the Configure section. You can see what this link looks like in Figure A.

Figure A: Click on the Cluster Aware Updating link.

At this point, you will be taken to the Cluster Aware Updating dialog box, which you can see in Figure B.

Figure B: You will use this dialog box to configure Cluster Aware Updating.

As you can see in the figure above, the Cluster Aware Updating dialog box has already established a connection to the cluster. The name of the cluster is listed in the Connect to a Failover Cluster field and the cluster nodes are listed beneath the cluster name in the Cluster Nodes section. Had we been performing a remote update, we would have had to manually establish a connection to the cluster.

As you look at the dialog box above, you will notice that there are a number of different actions available within the Cluster Actions section. I recommend that you start out by clicking on the Preview Updates for this Cluster option. Doing so will cause the Preview Updates dialog box to be displayed. Click the dialog box’s Generate Update Preview List button and you can see which updates need to be installed on the various cluster nodes, as shown in Figure C.

Figure C: You can generate a preview of the updates that need to be applied to the cluster nodes.

The next thing that I recommend doing is to close the preview list and then click on the Configure Cluster Self Updating Options link. Clicking this link launches the Configure Self Updating Options Wizard, which will allow you to schedule the updates to occur during a period outside of peak activity.

When the wizard opens, click Next to bypass the Welcome screen. When you reach the next screen, you should see a warning message telling you that the cluster has not been configured with the Cluster Aware Updating Role. What this means is that the Cluster Aware Updating function is treated as a clustered role, much like a virtual machine might be configured as a clustered role. At this point, you should select the Add the CAU Clustered Role with Self Updating Mode Enabled to this Cluster check box, as shown in Figure D.

Figure D: Select the Add the CAU Clustered Role with Self Updating Mode Enabled to this Cluster check box.

Click Next and you will be asked to configure a self updating schedule. Again, it is a good idea to configure your updates to occur outside of peak business hours.

Click Next and you will be taken to the Advanced Options screen. This screen allows you to configure a number of parameters related to the update process. For example, you can specify the node update order or specify a reboot timeout. You also have the option of running a script just before or just after the update process. You can see some of the advanced updates that are available in Figure E.

Figure E: There are a number of advanced options that can be configured.

Click Next and the wizard will ask you if you want to receive recommended updates in the same way that you receive important updates.

Click Next once more and you will be taken to a summary screen. Make sure that the options on the summary screen appear to be correct and then click Apply. When you do, Cluster Aware Updating will be enabled. Click Close to complete the process.

The update process won’t run until the scheduled time, but if you want to force an immediate update, you can do so by clicking on the Apply Updates to this Cluster link.


As you can see, it is relatively easy to set up and configure cluster aware updating. Some people recommend manually updating all of your cluster nodes prior to enabling cluster aware updating so that you can make sure that no bugs exist that might cause cluster aware updating to fail. Even so, I do not know of any patches that cause problems with the update process.

If you would like to read the first part in this article series please go to Cluster Aware Updating for Windows Server 2012 R2.

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