Stratus Expands Fault-Tolerant Server Line

Four-CPU system pitched as lower-cost alternative to clusters for Windows users

Stratus Technologies Inc. last week added two models to its line of fault-tolerant servers aimed at Windows users who want near-continuous system uptime, including a box that supports up to four Intel Xeon processors.

Maynard, Mass.-based Stratus said the four-CPU ftServer 6500 was designed to deliver close to nonstop system availability for users of Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Advanced Server operating system. The machine can provide 99.999% availability - or about five minutes of hardware downtime annually - at prices that start at just over $65,000, according to Stratus officials.

That positions the ftServer 6500 as an attractive alternative to server clustering technologies for companies that want to install high-availability Windows setups, said James Johnson, an analyst at The Standish Group International Inc. in West Yarmouth, Mass.

"The biggest benefits are the reduction in complexity and the cost savings," said James M. Rinkel, vice president of systems services at Nova Information Systems Inc., an Atlanta-based provider of credit card processing services.

Unlike clustered configurations that require users to maintain separate servers and operating systems, the ftServer 6500 delivers high-availability features inside a single box, with one or sometimes two backups for every component. And it does so without any of the fail-over scripting requirements or administrative overhead issues that users of clustered systems face, Rinkel said.

Nova uses the initial two-processor servers that Stratus released 18 months ago to run applications such as e-mail and some of its point-of-sale credit processing systems. The applications were migrated earlier this year from a Compaq Computer Corp. server cluster to the Stratus boxes. Rinkel said he's looking at using the ftServer 6500 to support bigger applications, such as Nova's databases.

Stratus also rolled out a beefed-up two-processor system called the ftServer 5240. Analysts said the only other vendor offering the same kind of fault-tolerant hardware for Windows is Marathon Technologies Corp., a Boxboro, Mass.-based start-up that sells two-CPU systems.

Greg Cullen, director of technology at Marathon, said his company has no immediate plans to develop a quad-processor model. But he said Marathon's servers offer nearly the same performance as the ftServer 6500, in part because they use faster Xeon chips.

Stratus' limited marketing reach has been an obstacle, said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata Inc. in Nashua, N.H. But he added that Stratus may have more success with the ftServer 6500 because it's trying to partner with systems integrators and software vendors in key vertical industries.

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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