Sun Sparks Flame Under Clustering Software

Sun Microsystems Inc. rode a wave of clustering announcements Tuesday, unveiling a number of upgrades to its server management software. During an event at its Santa Clara, California, campus, Sun claimed the new products will provide a higher level of reliability in back-end systems. which should allow companies to focus more on providing services and less on keeping their network up and running.

"We asked how do we make it simpler for people to use a clustered environment," said Dale Ouimette, director of outbound marketing for Sun's Solaris operating system, in an interview. "In other words, we worked to make sure that a mortal, instead of a rocket scientist, can run the system," he said.

Many industry observers argue that Sun sometimes suffers from pushing customers toward Sun-only technology. With the Palo Alto, California-based vendor making chips, hardware, applications and its own operating systems, such statements often seem justified. At Tuesday's event, however, Sun officials championed their ability to closely watch over their own Solaris operating system as a key advantage to making their back-end software and hardware stronger.

Backing up this claim, Sun released Sun Cluster 3.0 -- designed as an extension to it Solaris 8 operating systems and an upgrade to its Sun Cluster 2.2 software.

Sun highlighted the application's ability to provide file services in a clustered environment for standard Unix platforms as well as an improved level of access to data and the network. Sun said the new software stands as a significant upgrade to the 2.2 version and lets network managers take advantage of a greater number of automated applications that work across clustered machines.

"We want our clients to focus on their customers," Ouimette said. "With the new Sun Cluster you are managing the service and not the server."

With its latest fail-over features, Sun claims the Sun Cluster 3.0 software can cluster up to eight nodes and scale up to 512 processors. Sun Cluster 3.0 is available immediately and costs US$2,000 per server.

Sun complemented its the Sun Cluster announcement with the release of the Sun Management Center 3.0 developer environment. This software includes support for UltraSPARC III-based systems and gives users a central point for system management. Sun touts an advanced alarm system for quicker error response time, a hardware diagnostic suite and a browser interface as new features. The Sun Management Center 3.0 software will be available in January of next year.

To support these new products Sun also launched a series of services to help IT professionals use the clustering technology. Sun began its SunReady Availability Assessment services, Sun Cluster Application Readiness services, Sun Cluster Installation services and Sun Cluster Upgrade services. These aids provided by Sun are designed to help customers identify weak points in data centers, make sure systems run smoothly and to keep customers up to date on Sun's latest software.

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