“Could not add cluster access…” during SQL 2012 Failover Cluster Instance setup

Today a lab setup of SQL 2012 SP1 + CU7 (I was using the /UpdateSource flag to have a patched setup + roll in the updated bits in one go) failed sometime before creating the SQL resource in cluster. The error message from the detail.txt file showed:

Could not add cluster access for SID ‘S-1-5-80-2358576813-3362504073-1364548504-537691503-200193738’. Error: There was a failure to call cluster code from a provider. Exception message: The specified path is invalid.

Preliminary Analysis

The GUID (S-1-5-80-2358576813-3362504073-1364548504-537691503-200193738) in this case happened to be the SQL Service SID. How did I know that? You can also do it, if you use the SC SHOWSID command:

C:Windowssystem32>sc showsid mssql$inst1

NAME: mssql$inst1
SERVICE SID: S-1-5-80-2358576813-3362504073-1364548504-537691503-200193738

This issue occurs when the setup routine fails to add the service account’s SID to the list of accounts allowed to access the Windows cluster itself. For example, in my test cluster (in a healthy state, of course) you can see the Service SID is added to the list of authorized accounts in the security descriptor of the Windows cluster itself:


But of course in my failed setup attempt, the SID was not added correctly. The big question is why?

(Another side question some of you may have is why should the service account have this permission on the cluster itself. Well, that’s another topic and another blog post – stay tuned for that!)

Digging deep: Cluster Log

Carrying on from the previous section, one helpful hint is to know that when such changes are made to the cluster’s ACL configuration, the changes are persisted to the cluster database, a copy of which is also persisted to the quorum disk resource (if one was configured.)

Now in my case, deeper troubleshooting was required to find out why the security descriptor could not be written. To find out, I dumped the cluster log (using the PowerShell cmdlet Get-ClusterLog) and found the following messages at the same time that the SQL setup failed:

00001004.00000fe0::2014/01/23-07:20:05.486 INFO  [RES] Physical Disk <RealWitness>: Path W:Cluster is not on the disk
00001004.00000fe0::2014/01/23-07:20:05.486 ERR   [RHS] Error 161 from ResourceControl for resource RealWitness.
00000fb8.000011fc::2014/01/23-07:20:05.486 WARN  [RCM] ResourceControl(STORAGE_IS_PATH_VALID) to RealWitness returned 161.
00000fb8.000011fc::2014/01/23-07:20:05.585 ERR   [RCM] rcm::RcmApi::SetQuorumResource: ERROR_BAD_PATHNAME(161)’ because of ‘ValidateQuorumPath( pRes, quorumPath )’

W:Cluster did not make sense initially, because this drive was supposed to be unused by this instance of SQL. I had to think of sequence of operations I had done during this setup…

Root cause found

Looking back, I remembered that I had swapped the disk quorum resource somewhere halfway in between the setup. It was earlier on the W: drive, but now on the Q: drive, which has the resource name RealWitness. So in short, the resource name for the quorum disk was correct, but the drive letter and path on that disk was incorrect. Stale information was used when the setup program tried to update the cluster configuration (which in turn would write to the quorum disk).

Important: Please note that this is the specific root cause for my specific situation. There may be other types of problems when the setup program tries to set the cluster access for the SID. One has to look at the inner exception message (which in my case was ‘specified path is invalid’) to be sure. The true root cause for other cases can typically be found by correlating to the cluster log file.


The solution, in this case was to remove the SQL bits (from the Control Panel) and nothing else but to re-run the setup program without any changes. It was a cleaner way, and the ‘moral of the story’ is never tweak cluster quorum in the middle of a SQL Setup procedure!

AlwaysOn Availability Groups Listener: connectivity details

Today in some discussions with my colleagues we were looking at the AlwaysOn Listener which allows SQL Server client applications to be abstracted from the details of the AlwaysOn Availability Group implementation. On the surface, The Listener essentially is a cluster resource pair – a Virtual IP and a Virtual Network Name. But on deeper examination, there are some details which are worth knowing. This blog post will help you discover those!

Firstly, here is an example of how the Listener looks like in the Cluster Management. You can see the network name resource (mylisten) and the virtual IP as well (


And in Management Studio, you can see the same details as well:


In many diagrams the Listener is shown as a separate entity, distinct from the SQL database engine. In some ways this is correct, as you might interpret from the above virtual IP and network name. However, we have to consider the endpoint as well. If you think deeply, the question which might come up in your mind is, fine, this is a network name and a virtual IP; the cluster service helps ‘online’ these on the active node (it actually ‘brings online’ the virtual IP by registering it against the network interface of the active node) – but where is the listener port being bound and listened on? The cluster service cannot do that for us.

So here’s how you can investigate the actual mechanism. Firstly, do a netstat –ano on the primary replica (which is where the listener is active) and find out which process is listening on the listener’s IP and port. In our case these dummy address and port values are and 1433 respectively. On checking, we see:

C:>netstat -ano

Active Connections

  Proto  Local Address          Foreign Address        State           PID

  TCP              LISTENING       1232

The PID 1232 is actually the PID of sqlservr.exe! That means the listener functions are actually also implemented in the database engine. FYI, here is how we can check which process is PID 1232:

C:>tasklist /fi “pid eq 1232”

Image Name                     PID Session Name        Session#    Mem Usage
========================= ======== ================ =========== ============
sqlservr.exe                  1232 Services                   0    227,208 K

So this means that the ‘listener’ endpoint is actually being bound to inside of SQL database engine! We can confirm this easily by looking at the SQL Server errorlog:

2012-09-12 03:40:14.820 spid17s      The availability group database “salesdb” is changing roles ….
2012-09-12 03:40:14.830 Server       Server is listening on [ <ipv4> 1433].

2012-09-12 03:40:14.830 Server       Started listening on virtual network name ‘mylisten’. No user action is required.

So this is good information – the listener actually ‘lives’ inside the sqlservr.exe of the primary replica. So any connection from the client will first reach this SQL instance and then potentially be redirected to the secondary read-only replica (if configured, which it is in my case.)

To test this, I ran a NetMon with a filter on the TCP ports for the listener (1433) and the replicas (1450). From this trace, it is obvious that there is an initial connection to the primary replica (which is actually the listener endpoint), and then the client is ‘redirected’ and reconnects to the actual secondary read-only replica:


In the above NetMon trace, is the listener IP (which is actually bound to the primary replica’s node) and you will see initially a set of login and TDS packets flowing to and from the workstation to this listener. At the end of the TDS exchange, you will see that the client on SQLWORKSTN has picked up the (which is the secondary replica instance in my test setup) and is talking to the secondary replica.

So to summarize:

  1. The listener IP is physically registered on the bublic network interface of the active node which hosts the AG listener cluster resource
  2. The cluster resource DLL for AlwaysOn (hadrres.dll) communicates with the primary replica SQL instance
  3. The primary replica in turns binds to the listener IP and port
  4. The read-write client which connects to the listener is actually directly connected, without any additional overhead
  5. Read-only clients may be redirected (depending on the configuration, which is indeed the case in my testing above)
  6. This redirection needs support from the client library, which is implemented in .NET 4.5 and SQL Client 2012 respectively (links below)

Some additional reading on this subject:

I hope this gives you a deeper insight how the AG Listener connectivity works. If you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed creating this walkthrough, please take a minute and leave a comment and rate this post!

Thank you!