Do you have to use a shared disk with AlwaysOn FCI in a 2-Node FCI? If not and if you have a 2-Node FCI and each node has a local SAN Disk can failover be automatic and will the whole instance failover automatically? My concern is the single point-of-failure with a single shared disk.



2 Answers 2


There's two main forms of failover you can use with SQL post 2012,

The Windows Failover Cluster (WFC) which has been around for a while and the Always on High Availability Group(AO)

WFC uses a single database which can move between multiple machines this method requires the database to be installed on shared drives (such as a SAN) so that when the cluster moves the node the other machine has direct access to the information that makes up that database

AO uses two completely seperate instances of SQL Server, both instances run at all times, (depending on how close they are you can set them up to be synchronous or a-synchronous, (if they're on the same network synchronous is better if they're separated globally a-sync is a better choice), due to there being two databases you do not require any shared storage, the two machines work completely independently of each other, we currently have ours set up with a quorum witness which is actually on a shared drive but is not technically required (it is advisable to have a witness however)

Worth Noting about using AO, if you use the secondary node for any data access / backups (which you can as it can be accessable through readonly) you will require the extra licences to access it, if it sits there purely as a redundancy for when your primary node fails you do not require any extra licences as only one database will be accessible at any one time, with WFC since there is only actually one instance you only require one set of licences for that instance as it moves, you do have the disadvantage of only one disk failure will cause problems but using a RAID 10 on those disks will limit this from becoming a problem


  • Just wanted to chime in, since licensing may have changed since this answer was written. Currently, if you have software assurance, your secondary node CAN be used for backups, integrity checks, etc. without an additional license. As you stated however, data access (such as reporting, read-only queries, etc.) does still require a separate license for the secondary node.
    – Dogs
    Oct 27, 2021 at 9:00

Do you have to use a shared disk with AlwaysOn FCI in a 2-Node FCI?

Yes if you are going with Always ON Availability Groups with Failover Cluster Instance the shared disk (in some form) is a requirement. From BOL I will quote

An AlwaysOn Failover Cluster Instance requires symmetrical shared disk storage such as a storage area network (SAN) or SMB file share. The shared disk storage volumes must be available to all potential failover nodes in the WSFC cluster.

On the other hand if you just want to configure SQL Server failover cluster it does not necessarily require a shared disk. Please read Configure Failover cluster with SMB

You can also use UNC path for database in failover cluster. Please also read Brent's Article

When you use SAN for shared storage they are mostly robust and have mechanism for fault tolerance so you should not worry about SAN storage as being single point of failure. The RAIDS configured provide you good level of tolerance


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