FAQ: Pacemaker high-availability clustering basics

Expert Sander van Vugt discusses the advantages and disadvantages of using Pacemaker high-availability clustering and how it differs from Heartbeat clustering in this Project FAQ.

Figuring out how to best manage clients' high-availability clustering projects can be a challenging task for solution providers. In this Project FAQ podcast, expert Sander van Vugt discusses Pacemaker high-availability clustering basics. Learn which services can be managed by Pacemaker, the advantages and disadvantages of using the software and more.

Read Sander van Vugt's answers to other frequently asked questions about Pacemaker high-availability technology in this Project FAQ.

Listen to the podcast here.
 

FAQ: Pacemaker high-availability clustering basics with Sander van Vugt

Right-click on the podcast link to download the file as an MP3!

Read a transcribed version of the podcast or get more resources.
 

What requirements are there for services to be managed by Pacemaker? 
What are the key advantages and disadvantages of using Pacemaker? 
Is Pacemaker the same as Heartbeat? 
Does Pacemaker work on other operating systems than Linux? 
Is Pacemaker free? 
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About the expert

What requirements are there for services to be managed by Pacemaker?

There are none! You can offer any service in a high-availability cluster if it has a normal startup script that allows the service to be automatically started when your server boots. For some services, a special Oracle Cluster Framework (OCF) script is available. If you can choose between an OCF script and a normal startup script to configure the service in the cluster, it is always better to use the OCF script because it allows the cluster to better interact with the service in question. For instance, if you're using an OCF script, you can do resource monitoring, which allows you to see if the service is still available. Without resource monitoring, the cluster will just check the availability of the server that is hosting the service, and it won't see it if the service stops while the server is still up and running.

What are the key advantages and disadvantages of using Pacemaker?

The only disadvantage is that it is new technology, so you need to learn how to work with it. There are many advantages, but the most important one is that you can use Pacemaker in an existing network environment and, in most cases, it only requires a minimal extra investment in hardware resources. That means that you get good protection with little expense. Another major advantage is that Pacemaker helps you to offer better service to your clients. With it, resources will be highly available. In case a resource fails, Pacemaker will automatically start it up without any intervention by the systems administrator.

Is Pacemaker the same as Heartbeat?

You can consider Pacemaker as the next generation of Heartbeat clustering. In 2008, the core of the Heartbeat clustering solution was completely rewritten and renamed Pacemaker. Also, the Heartbeat management tools had a major revision. But there are definite similarities. For instance, the procedure of adding resources to the cluster is still exactly the same, and all Heartbeat management tools have been ported to Pacemaker. Also, with regard to the way resources are monitored on the network, there have been no changes.

Does Pacemaker work on other operating systems than Linux?

It works on some Unix versions, but it is definitely software that comes from the Linux world. I recommend using it on Linux only.

Is Pacemaker free?

Yes, you can use OpenSUSE and download Pacemaker for free. If you need enterprise-level support, you have to buy a subscription. I recommend purchasing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 with the High Availability Extension pack, which contains the Pacemaker software.

More on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server

About the expert

Sander van Vugt is an independent trainer and consultant living in the Netherlands. Van Vugt is an expert in Linux high availability, virtualization and performance and has completed several projects that implement all three. He is also the writer of various Linux-related books, such as Beginning the Linux Command Line, Beginning Ubuntu Server Administration and Pro Ubuntu Server Administration.

This was last published in June 2009

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