Stratus Ships Fault Tolerant W2K Box

Stratus Technologies brought its fault-tolerant hardware to Windows 2000 on Monday, nine months behind schedule and at a slightly higher price point than originally planned.

Stratus announced its first shipments for its ftServer 5200 to customers including Merrill Lynch, Nasdaq, Pirelli and Toshiba. The company had 60 orders in hand on Friday for the systems and projects more than 360 orders by the end of August, says Stratus vice president for sales Mike Thompson.

The ftServer 5200 is a two-processor capable server outfitted with Pentium III Xeons and Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

The systems offer fault tolerance by doubling up on processors and memory. A one-processor system actually has a redundant processor-and-memory module that carries out instructions in lockstep in case the first processor-memory unit fails.

Stratus offers 99.999 percent availability with the redundant processor arrangement. Customers who want 99.9999 percent availability can opt for a more expensive triple-modular redundancy, which is three processor-memory units for each functional processor in an SMP system. Prices for the systems start at $28,296, which gives a Stratus system a lower cost than a cluster, Thompson says.

"We'll probably be a little higher hardware against hardware," Thompson says of cost comparisons with failover cluster systems from Compaq, Dell, HP and IBM. But the Stratus architecture means customers only need one licensed copy of the operating system and one licensed copy of the application, where two of each would be needed in a cluster.

"From an operations cost," Thompson says, "the work just starts when the cluster shows up." Scripting clusters and retesting every time system changes occur adds up to a lot of TCO costs that are saved in the Stratus environment, he says.

Tom Manter, an analyst with Aberdeen Group, finds Stratus' cost comparison to clusters credible. The product may also make the idea of high availability attractive to more customers than Microsoft's clusters have, he says. "The ftServer offers a simpler alternative to the complexity inherent in a clustered solution that should appeal to a broader market," Manter says.

Although Stratus says the time is right for its product, ftServer's delay in getting to market hasn't helped, according to Manter.

"Stratus' delay translated into lost opportunities that allowed competitors like Marathon Technologies to extend their market foothold without being challenged," Manter says.

Marathon provides a fault-tolerance solution through an array of four servers that process transactions in lockstep. The Marathon solution, which runs on vanilla Windows 2000 Server, is also priced to compete with clustered configurations.

Had Stratus stuck to the schedule it unveiled when it announced the ftServers back in April 2000, the company would have had several advantages over Marathon. Stratus planned to release the two-way capable ftServer 5200 in September 2000 and the four-way capable ftServer 6500 in October 2000.

At the time of the announcement, Marathon did not support Windows 2000 and could not scale beyond one-processor servers.

Stratus' slips allowed Marathon to deliver two-way SMP and port its solution to Windows 2000 ahead of Stratus. Marathon began shipping Windows 2000 products in May.

Meanwhile, Stratus' plans for 4-way SMP are now pegged to another company's roadmap. The company will release its four-way capable ftServer 6500 using Intel's 1.7 GHz Xeon processor. Intel has released a workstation version of the processor, but not a server version. The decision gives Stratus a faster front-side bus to work with and an architecture that can grow with Intel's processor line.

Stratus says it will certify its ftServer 6500 for Windows 2000 Datacenter Server.

Stratus' price point is also moving up. When the company announced the ftServer 5200, it projected the system would start at $23,300. The asking price is now $5,000 higher at $28,296. At the time, Stratus also vowed to bring down the entry level price to $12,000 in 2001 and $3,000 by 2002.

Stratus does have a lower priced alternative now that wasn't in the April 2000 roadmap. NEC Corp. is reselling Stratus technology in its own servers that start around $20,000. Stratus will resell those as the ftServer 3200.

Related Articles:
Marathon Ships High Availability Solution for W2K
Stratus ft Server 6500 to Ship in February
Stratus to Bring Fault Tolerance Down to W2K Server

About the Author

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