Cluster Shared Volumes password policy

Problem

Failover Cluster validation genereates a warning in the Storage section under “Validate CSV Settings”. The error message states:

Failure while setting up to run Cluster Shared Volumes support testing on node [FQDN]: The password does not meet the password policy requirements. Check the minimum password length, password complexity and password history requirements.

No failure audits in the security log, and no significant error messages detected elsewhere.

Analysis

This error was logged shortly after a change in the password policy for the Windows AD domain the cluster is a member of. The current minimum password length was set to 14 (max) and complexity requirements were enabled:

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This is a fairly standard setup, as written security policies usually mandate a password length far exceeding 14 characters for IT staff. Thus, I already knew that the problem was not related to the user initiating the validation, as the length of his/her password already exceeded 14 characters before the enforcement policy change.

Lab tests verified that the problem was related to the Default domain password policy. Setting the policy as above makes the cluster validation fail. The question is why. Further lab tests revealed that the limit is 12 characters. That is, if you set the Minimum length to 12 characters the test will pass with flying colors as long as there are no other problems related to CSV. I still wondered why though. The problem is with the relation between the local and domain security policies of a domain joined computer. To understand this, it helps to be aware of the fact that Failover Cluster Validation creates a local user called CliTest2 on all nodes during the CSV test:

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The local user store on a domain joined computer is subject to the same password policies as are defined in the Default Domain GPO. Thus, when the domain policy is changed this will also affect any local accounts on all domain joined computers. As far as I can tell, the Failover Cluster validation process creates the CliTest2 user with a 12 character password. This has few security ramifications, as the user is deleted as soon as the validation process ends.

Solution

The solution is relatively simple to describe. You have to create a separate Password Policy for you failover cluster nodes where Minimum Password Length is set to 12 or less. This requires that you keep your cluster nodes in a separate Organizational Unit from your user and service accounts. That is a good thing to do anyway, but be aware that moving servers from one OU to another may have adverse effects.

You then create and link a GPO to the cluster node OU and set the Minimum Password Length to 12 in the new GPO. That is the only setting that should be defined in this GPO. Then check the Link order for the OU and make sure that your new GPO has a link order 1, or at least a lower link order than the Default Domain policy. Then you just have to run GPUPDATE /Force on all cluster nodes and try the cluster validation again.

If the above description sounds like a foreign language, please ask for help before you try implementing it. Group Policies may be a fickle fiend, and small changes may lead to huge unforeseen consequences.

Author: DizzyBadger

SQL DBA Principal Analyst

2 thoughts on “Cluster Shared Volumes password policy”

  1. I’ve already built my cluster without an issue, but recently have been losing some CSV communication every couple of days. I can’t see anything network or disk related anywhere. The tip was to run the validation again – which now gives this password warning and fails. I would imagine since the account is only for the testing that the error really doesn’t mean anything?

    1. It is very unlikely that the password policy is causing your error, but it may be masking the true cause. Thus, I recommend solving the password policy problem and then running validation again.

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