Vendors Hail Microsoft Datacenter

Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Computer Corp., IBM Corp. and Compaq Computer Corp. are among the vendors that have rolled out programs to support Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 Datacenter Server with an eye toward giving customers the ability to cluster more powerful servers and pack lots of storage into configurations aimed at supporting mission-critical corporate applications.

The high-powered servers and storage configurations, introduced last week at Microsoft's Enterprise 2000 event, are intended to consolidate server farms, or support high-end Web and e-commerce infrastructure needs. Observers say vendors offering programs for Win 2000 Datacenter will be competing with each other for users, as well as battling traditional Unix server stalwarts such as Sun.

Datacenter is Microsoft's attempt to compete with well-entrenched, midrange Unix and minicomputer systems that run mission-critical enterprise applications. The Datacenter operating system is aimed at high-end databases, server consolidations and hosting environments. It features support for up to 32 processors, 64G bytes of memory and four-node failover clustering.

Jean Bozman, an analyst with International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass., says the new Win 2000 Datacenter Servers will finally offer network managers the ability to grow Windows servers beyond eight processors and consolidate some of the servers they have been supporting because of the limitations of Windows NT. The ability to consolidate servers will mean less hardware and software to support - easing the headaches and costs associated with large server farms.

In the HP camp, the firm's configuration for Win 2000 Datacenter Server features four HP NetServer LXr 8500DC systems in a four-node cluster connected via Fibre Channel to HP's SureStore E Disk Array XP256 for shared storage. The NetServer design can scale up to eight Intel Pentium III Xeon processors and 32G bytes of memory. It features 64-bit PCI buses and management tools for system configuration and diagnostics. The servers also feature an optional 10/100Base-TX network interface card with support for optional redundant cards, failover and load balancing. A 32-way NetServer system running Win 2000 Datacenter will debut early next year.

Dell meanwhile is basing its systems for Win 2000 Datacenter Server on its PowerEdge 8450s and PowerVault storage systems. Charlie Neet, product manager in Dell's Enterprise Systems Group, says the company's Datacenter program will offer corporate users dedicated sales, service and support staffs. Users will get a single point of contact to help resolve any issues and can get a 99.9% uptime guarantee for certified systems through the program, which will be generally available in the fourth quarter of this year.

Dell's PowerEdge 8450s feature up to eight Intel Pentium III Xeon 700-MHz processors, 256M to 32G bytes of memory, 10 hot-plug PCI slots and a variety of network adapter options, including Intel Pro/100S Server Adapter (with IP Security encryption) and an Intel Pro/ 1000 Gigabit Server Adapter.

Neet says entry-level 8450s can be purchased for less than $30,000 but can range up to hundreds of thousands of dollars when users add storage, multiple processors, and service, support and consulting agreements.

Coincidentally, Dell cut the price of its PowerEdge servers some 50% last week. For example, the four-processor PowerEdge 6450 now costs $18,000, down from $31,400.

IBM is also offering a 99.9% uptime guarantee as part of its Datacenter program. IBM will base its program on its Netfinity 8500 server.

IBM will support users through its IBM Global Services division. IBM says it also plans to release 32-way Numa-Q 2000 servers running Win 2000 Datacenter Server in the future.

Compaq will team with Microsoft on the pair's joint Integration2000 initiative to promote an XML-centric, BizTalk Server 2000-based set of integration services and applications.

Compaq will also use its ProLiant eGeneration data center technology to support Microsoft's TerraServer as the database mutates into a programmable Web service. TerraServer uses a Microsoft SQL Server database to store aerial and satellite images of Earth and provide the information publicly on the 'Net.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said it will use this technology for natural resource and land management.

The IDG News Service contributed to this story.

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