Toolkit to Boost Fault Tolerance of Windows NT

BOSTON (05/31/2000) - Marathon Technologies Corp. next week will introduce an enhanced version of its high-availability kit for Windows NT servers featuring new technology for tying dual-processor Intel Corp. servers into near fault-tolerant configurations.

Marathon's new Multiprocessor Endurance 6200 hardware and software technology, which will be priced at less than $50,000 per kit, will also allow Windows NT users to increase the geographical distance between their servers for better disaster tolerance.

Marathon is a Boxboro, Massachusetts-based vendor that's been trying to carve a niche for itself selling a patented technology called ComputeThru that it claims delivers 99.999% uptime - or less than 5 minutes downtime annually - on NT server hardware.

Hewlett-Packard Co., which has an OEM agreement with Marathon, will also announce models of its Netserver systems next week featuring Marathon's new technology.

At a basic level, Marathon's approach involves tying four Intel servers together into one large logical server array. The array is split into two halves, with each half running the same application identically and in absolute lockstep with the other half. If one half of the array fails, the application keeps running on the other side, according to Craig Jon Anderson, a director at Marathon.

The approach ensures that there is no single point of hardware failure, Anderson said.

It also ensures that there is no service disruption at all in case of a hardware failure, said Denis Nothern, information technology director at Mothernature.com, a Concord. Massachusetts-based online retailer.

"The fact that the (array) can continuously run and be fixed without taking the whole platform down is remarkable" when compared to other approaches such as Microsoft's Windows NT clustering technology, Nothern claimed.

It's the same reason First Options of Chicago Inc. - a provider of clearance and execution services to traders on major U.S. exchanges - is using Marathon's technology to run an important trading application, said Brian Slattery, manager of server support.

Unlike other high-availability techniques such as clustering, Marathon's approach doesn't allow for even a temporary service disruption if a server goes down, Slattery claimed.

"That's critical for us. ... A fail-over of even a minute or two could cause big problems" when dealing with trading applications, he said.

"Marathon is the only vendor offering five nines of system availability in the NT industry at this time," said Joe Clabby, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. in Boston, referring to 99.999% uptime.

With next week's announcement, Marathon's technology can be used to tie more scalable and powerful dual-processor Intel servers into similar configurations.

The enhancements will also allow the two halves of the array to be housed up to 500 meters apart from each other for better disaster tolerance. Currently, the limit is around 50 feet. Other enhancements include Fibre Channel support and better system management and remote administration capabilities, according to Anderson.

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