Exchange Tools vs. Cluster Tools

There is some confusion and misperceptions about the correct tools to use to manage a clustered mailbox server (CMS) in a single copy cluster (SCC) or cluster continuous replication (CCR) environment. Specifically, folks are asking the following questions: Do I use the Windows Server failover cluster management tools (namely, Cluster Administrator and Cluster.exe) to manage […]

There is some confusion and misperceptions about the correct tools to use to manage a clustered mailbox server (CMS) in a single copy cluster (SCC) or cluster continuous replication (CCR) environment. Specifically, folks are asking the following questions:

  1. Do I use the Windows Server failover cluster management tools (namely, Cluster Administrator and Cluster.exe) to manage a CMS, or do you use the Exchange tools (namely, the Exchange Management Console and the Exchange Management Shell)?
  2. Will anything bad happen if I use the wrong tool to perform a task on my CMS?

To clear up this confusion, I thought a blog post might be helpful.

The answer to the second question is generally, no, because the answer to the first question is generally, there is no wrong tool. Instead, use of the tools really falls into two categories:

  1. You have to use tool X because there's no choice. This category refers to the tasks that must be performed with the cluster tools.
  2. You should use tool X instead of tool Y because it's better. This category refers to tasks performed by Exchange tools that do extra things that are good for you that the cluster tools don't do.

Let's look at what we say in the documentation which speaks to the second category, where we recommend using Exchange tools instead of Cluster tools, and the reasons why we recommend them.

In the content related to CCR, we say the following:

Cluster Administrator and Cluster.exe should not be used because:

  • These methods do not validate the health or state of the passive copy. Thus, their use can result in an extended outage while the node performs the operations necessary to make the database mountable.
  • These methods may also leave a database offline indefinitely because the replication is in a broken condition.

In the content related to SCC, we say the following:

Cluster Administrator and Cluster.exe provide mechanisms for moving resource groups between nodes in a cluster. When performing a handoff of a clustered mailbox server in a single copy cluster, we recommend that you use the Move-ClusteredMailboxServer cmdlet or the new Manage Clustered Mailbox Server Wizard in Exchange 2007 Service Pack 1 instead of the cluster management tools, because it enables the administrator to specify a reason for the handoff.

To be super clear, Microsoft fully supports the use of Cluster Administrator and Cluster.exe to manage clustered mailbox servers in Exchange 2007 RTM and SP1. But there are certain tasks for which we strongly recommend using the Exchange tools instead of the Cluster tools.

But then there's the first category. There are other scenarios in which the Exchange tools are not available, or cannot be used because continuous replication is not healthy, or because Exchange has not yet been installed on all nodes in the cluster. In those cases, because the Exchange tools cannot be used, you have no choice but to use the Cluster tools.

Going back to the documentation once again, there are several places where we provide instructions that include the use of Cluster Administrator or Cluster.exe because you have to use those tools, such as:

These are just some examples; there are others.

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Microsoft, Exchange Server 2007, Cluster, Tools, Administration, Clustering, Exchange 2007, Knowledgebase, Article