In Failover Clustering in Windows Server 2008 R2, Persistent Mode is intended to allow resource groups to come online on the node which an admin last moved them to. This setting is enabled by default when a virtual machine is created with Failover Cluster Manager. If you create virtual machine via System Center Virtual Manager this setting is not enabled.
By default, cluster roles have this setting disabled, except for Hyper-V virtual machine cluster roles, which have this enabled by default. This setting is useful when the cluster is shutdown and later started, in order to better distribute the resources across the nodes and allow them to come online faster, as they were likely spread across the nodes before the cluster was offlined. Otherwise, all the resources will attempt to restart on the first nodes which achieve quorum and compete for resources. This only applies to a group if it did not failover after being placed by the administrator. If a group has failed over since the last administrator placement, it is brought online on the node which the administrator last move it to.
Reference and more info regarding the Auto Start, Persistent Mode and Group Wait Delay features is available on the Clustering and High-Availability blog.
Auto Start can be enabled/disabled in bulk by marking all Cluster Resource Groups in Failover Cluster Manager and selecting “Enable auto start”/”Disable auto start”.
For Persistent Mode the only available option in Failover Cluster Manager is to right click each Cluster Resource Group and selecting/de-selecting the checkbox for “Enable persistent mode”:
Here is an example on how you can do this:
Although you can change the Auto Start setting in bulk in Failover Cluster Manager you might also want to do this in an automated fashion:
You can also change the Group Wait Delay cluster-wide property from the PowerShell Failover Clustering module, how to do this is explained in the above referenced blog-post from the Clustering and High-Availability blog.
For the next version of System Center Virtual Machine Manager I would expect that Persistent Mode is enabled by default, since Microsoft do recommend customers to enable this setting.
Update 08.12.2011: The value of the DefaultOwner property for configuring Persistent Mode is the number of the node you want to be the default owner. In example a value of 1 means the first node in the cluster.