IBM, Amdahl Beef up Clustering Packages

The high availability and enhanced computing power of clustering is all the rage with high-end server manufacturers, and IBM Corp. nd Amdahl Corp. today are introducing new packages of hardware and software for suites of clustered servers combined with shared storage.

IBM's venerable RS/6000 division, already known for its clustering expertise, is announcing a new variation of the RS/6000 S70 -- the Advanced model -- which increases reliability of system I/O and doubles memory capacity to a maximum of 32GB; the RS/6000 HA-S70 Advanced Cluster Server (ACS), an off-the-shelf solution including two S70 Advanced servers coupled with IBM's High Availability Cluster Multi-Processor (HACMP) software; and the RS/6000 SP System Attachment Adapter, a hardware switch attachment that connects S70 servers to the SP (the RS/6000 supercomputer model).

The range of new functionality on IBM's already-mature RS/6000 clustering technology was of note, one analyst said.

"IBM has really extended a lot of clustering capabilities," said Harvey Hindin, senior research analyst at D.H. Brown Associates, in Port Chester, N.Y. "I have to say this will help them maintain the RS/6000 and SP position in the high end."

S70 Advanced servers, sold as stand-alone products, are priced from $150,000 for models including two 262-MHz Power PC RS64-II processors, the unit's new I/O drawer with redundant, hot-swappable power and cooling, and as many as four I/O drawers per server. Storage and main memory are additional. The units are now available.

The ACS cluster includes two RS/6000 S70 servers, powered by four 262-MHz PowerPC RS64-II RISC processors (the units scale to 12 processors), and contain 2GB of memory and 72.8GB of hard disk storage. High Availability Cluster Multi-Processing for AIX -- IBM's Unix variant, optimized for clusters -- controls the cluster. Database and enterprise resource planning software from Baan, Oracle, SAP, and IBM are the most commonly exploited uses of clusters such as IBM's.

The RS/6000 HA-S70 ACS is scheduled to be available by the end of this month, priced from $445,072.

IBM's new SP System Attachment Adapter allows for the inclusion of S70 servers within RS/6000 SP clusters. As many as eight S70s may be attached to clusters of as many as 32 nodes. The switch is now available for $10,000 but requires the use of Parallel System Support Programs for AIX, a parallel-systems enabling software scheduled to be available in late November from IBM for $15,000.

Amdahl, a subsidiary of Fujitsu, has joined Fujitsu teamserver servers (two to six processors, with eight-way machines planned by year's end), Amdahl LVS storage systems and services, and LifeKeeper for Windows NT high-availability software into a package providing application fail-over over Fibre Channel connections.

"Availability is a key issue in the NT market, especially in comparison with Unix," said Ali Jenab, vice president of systems marketing at Amdahl.

A basic Amdahl cluster package includes two Fujitsu teamservers and one Amdahl LVS 4000 Storage unit attached via Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FCAL). The LifeKeeper for Windows NT software allows cascading fail-over across as many as 16 nodes. Amdahl says it will also make available cluster packages using Microsoft Cluster Server supporting two-node and simple, one-to-one fail-over.

This straight-ahead approach, occasionally scoffed at by node-hungry vendors, is actually a strong strategy, Hindin said, because his research indicates that at least 80 percent of clusters being employed are of the two-node variety.

"This is where Microsoft is so smart," Hindin said. "As usual, they are in the sweet spot."

Pricing for Amdahl's cluster packages was not available but would range widely, according to a company representative.

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