High-End Fault-Tolerant Applications Unlikely to Migrate to Windows

IT departments are more likely to use Windows-based continuous computing systems from Stratus Technologies Inc. and Marathon Technologies Corp. as an alternative to clustering for existing Windows-based server applications rather than migrating current high-availability applications off big iron, say users and analysts.

Legacy code is one limitation, particularly in the financial services industry. "The financial industry is still very much Cobol-based, and the [Stratus] VOS operating system is designed for that application," says Carl Cliche, vice president of support systems at Lynk Systems Inc. Cliche says that even if Lynk eventually migrated its own applications, he'd still face problems. "The industry itself has a lot of legacy interfaces. I've tried to implement some of them on NT, and they're poorly done," he says.

Scalability is the other big factor. Marathon doesn't support symmetrical multiprocessing today, and Stratus' system supports up to four processors. By contrast, Sabre Holdings Corp. is migrating part of its online reservation system to a 192-processor Himalaya system and has "business plans to scale up to several hundred more," says Chief Technology Officer Craig Murphy. The system, while proprietary, offers a Posix-compliant application programming interface that makes it more open than Sabre's mainframe system. "We can write Posix-compliant SQL code and can have great compatibility," he says.

Bob Besautelf, an analyst at Harvard Research Group, says, "Both Marathon and Stratus are limited. They need to be able to scale up and scale out in the same way that Himalaya does."

But Richard Ratliff, senior vice president of strategic architecture at Sabre, says he sees value in using fault-tolerant Windows servers for e-mail. "We are evaluating the feasibility of Microsoft Outlook and Exchange for our corporate E-mail system ... and nonstop fault tolerance would be a great benefit for this type of application," he says.

Copyright © 2001 IDG Communications, Inc.

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