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Stratus to Bring Fault Tolerance Down to Windows 2000 Servers

Stratus Computer Systems is wedging its fault tolerant computing technology, which serves as a pillar of high-end financial transaction systems, into commodity Wintel servers.

Stratus (www.stratus.com) announced a new line of fault-tolerant servers today at Windows World in Chicago. The company is promising to deliver the servers, which had gone by the code name of Melody, this fall. The boxes are designed to run Windows 2000 Server, Advanced Server, and Datacenter Server.

The unveiling earned the blessing of Microsoft Corp. (www.microsoft.com) and Intel Corp. (www.intel.com) in the form of press release quotes, and enjoyed praise from several major analyst firms.

Stratus calls the new servers the Stratus ftServer 5200 and the Stratus ftServer 6500. Both servers will reach fault tolerance by doubling up on Intel processors and memory and running the processors in lockstep. If one processor-memory module fails during a transaction, the other is already working on the same transaction and carries it out. According to Stratus, the approach -- called dual modular redundancy or DMR -- will bring five nines of availability, or roughly 5 minutes of downtime per year.

Customers with higher availability needs, such as securities exchanges or telecommunications companies, will be able to opt for triple modular redundancy (TMR), which keeps three modules running. When one fails, two more are available to run in DMR mode until the first is replaced. This more expensive approach offers 99.9999 percent availability -- six nines -- or less than a minute of downtime per year.

Technically, a customer buying a single-processor server from Stratus will get two chips in the DMR version and three chips in the TMR version. A quad-processor SMP server from Stratus has eight processors under DMR and 12 chips under TMR.

Stratus is counting on price to help it break out of the exclusive high-availability market. The two-way capable ftServer 5200 will start at $23,300, with one 550-MHz Pentium III Xeon and its DMR twin in September. The four-processor capable ftServer 6500 will start at $30,500, with one 700-plus-MHz Xeon and a twin in October.

Stratus’ initial goal is to price its server to be competitive with a pair of clustered Windows 2000 servers, says Mike Thompson, the company’s senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing. In addition to the failover processor-memory units, the Stratus systems also include dual power supplies, fans, and clocks. – Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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