IBM, Microsoft Team Up on Clustering Servers

LAS VEGAS (05/11/2000) - IBM Corp. tomorrow will unveil clustering offerings called Netfinity HA Cluster Servers, which are intended to simplify clustering for companies that need a way keep servers available at all times.

"Everyone says, '[Clustering] is where we want to go, because it offers applications, availability, and helps me keep my job,'" said Alex Yost, manager of product marketing at IBM Netfinity. Clustering, Yost noted, keeps servers up and running by automatically transferring a traffic from a failing server to an active one.

IBM's Netfinity HA Cluster Servers are available in two configurations, rack and tower, and include service processors to predict failures and, in case of trouble, bring the system back up without help from IT staff. IBM also includes 90 days of start-up support and applications for mail/messaging and databases, along with the Netfinity Manager to monitor hardware and software components, Yost said.

The cluster servers are powered by Microsoft Advanced Server for Windows 2000 and also can be configured with Windows NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition with Microsoft Cluster Services as a result of IBM's work with Microsoft Corp. on the clustering solution.

According to Yost, the clustering partnership with Microsoft was a logical one because "they have a huge vested interest in high-availability" with the release of Windows 2000.

The rack cluster model, based on the Netfinity 4500R server, includes two 2-way SMP (symmetric multiprocessing) servers based on 667MHz Intel processors and storage components. Servers are connected an IBM EXP2000 Storage Expansion Unit supporting as many as 10 hot-swap hard drives. The tower configuration, which also features SMP capabilities, is based on two Netfinity 5100 servers.

Yost said these cluster-server bundles are like the high-end servers, but "we're hitting the fat part of the bat with good software and hardware." The solutions are targeted at customers who would not be using the higher-end solutions, such as companies doing single-system rollouts to remote offices or small and medium businesses.

Yost said users have three common concerns when thinking about clustering: how to get the clustering components without spending too much or throwing too much hardware at the problem; which company they hold accountable for any problems after buying all the parts needed to create a cluster from different vendors; and the sheer cost of the systems.

Available in mid-June, the Netfinity HA Cluster Server rack configuration will be priced at $23,999 and the tower configuration at $19,499.

IBM Corp., in Armonk, New York, is at

Stephanie Sanborn is an InfoWorld reporter.

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