Stratus Introduces Fault-Tolerant 4-Way

The capacity of fault-tolerant Windows servers doubled this week as Stratus Technologies unveiled its long-awaited four-processor fault-tolerant Intel-based server. At the same time, the Massachusetts-based company has changed course on its original plans to vigorously drive down its own prices for its fault-tolerant technology.

The new four-way server is called the Stratus ftServer 6500. It is built on 1.6-GHz Intel Xeon MP processors with 1 MB of onboard cache. The server uses Stratus' modular redundancy approach, which puts two separate physical processors and memory card inside the system for every logical processor and memory card. A one-way Stratus server, therefore, carries two physical processors. A four-way Stratus server has eight physical processors.

About 95 percent of Stratus customers buy systems that have dual modular redundancy, which Stratus says offer 99.999 percent uptime. Stratus also offers triple modular redundancy, three physical processor-memory modules for each logical one for a premium and six-nines of uptime.

Stratus has sold nearly 1,000 of its one- and two-way systems since launching Windows and Intel-based systems in June 2001. Many of those sales have come in specific vertical markets with a special need for high availability, such as 911 emergency dispatch systems, enterprise telephony and manufacturing. With the four-way units, Stratus hopes to appeal to a broader set of customers for horizontal uses.

"In an Exchange environment, a 6500 can support between 5,000 and 6,000 Exchange users," says Larry Sherman, director of technical marketing for Stratus. "Other typical uses for the 6500 would be for high-end database applications and server consolidation."

The ftServer 6500 will not be inexpensive. With one logical processor, configurations start at $65,000. Expect to pay about double that for a four-way system.

"Looking at the use of the systems and the competition, I think the systems have a higher value and can command a higher price. But also, if you look at the technology of these new Xeon systems in particular, they are very robust systems adding capabilities that have not been traditionally found on Intel servers," Sherman says.

A one-way ftServer has two of the Xeons in it, at a processor cost alone of about $7,400, according to Intel's price list. A four-way ftServer would have eight of the Xeons in it, and the processors would account for about $30,000 of the cost.

According to Stratus, the four-way gives the company the ability to compete against far more expensive fault-tolerant systems such as HP's Himalaya models and other Unix vendors' offerings. At the same time as the ftServer 6500 launch, Stratus refreshed its two-way ftServer 5200 line with the ftServer 5240. Starting at $49,500, that system uses 2.4-GHz Intel Xeon DP processors with 512 KB of onboard cache.

The pricing on the ftServer 5240 has nearly doubled since last year. Last September, Stratus cut the prices of its entry-level ftServer 5200 by $4,000 to $24,500. Now the company is going to use its low-end ftServer 3200 to carry on the persistent price cuts that the company's original plans had projected would make fault-tolerant systems nearly competitive with non-fault-tolerant, industry-standard servers.

The ftServer 3200, which is two-way capable, starts at less than $20,000. "We still have entry-level systems, lower priced systems. We're continuing to push the cost down at the low end, but also the capability up at the high end," Sherman said.

About the Author

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