Capellas talks clustering

Compaq Computer Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Michael Capellas used his keynote talk at Oracle OpenWorld Monday to announce a pair of new tools designed to help users create large computing networks by linking servers and storage products with Oracle Corp.'s database software.

Capellas offered Compaq's vision of how clustered computing networks will grow over the next few years. Compaq, like most hardware vendors, is pushing users to link disparate server and storage resources so that as much information as possible is available to users.

Most users, for example, still have storage units linked to servers via direct attachments, often forcing them to shut a unit down to add more data-storing capacity. However, with SAN (Storage Area Network) and similar technologies now becoming popular, users can cluster hardware resources over a switching network and add more servers or storage units on-the-fly. With the help of software companies like Oracle, Capellas said this model of "adding resources on demand" will be the main focus of IT administrators as they build out their Internet infrastructures.

"There is this new world of distributed computing coming out," Capellas said.

In keeping with his clustering mantra, Capellas announced the two tools to help users create large computing networks with Compaq hardware and Oracle software.

Compaq launched its Database Utility, which allows system administrators to make changes to clustered Oracle databases without taking any of the database resources offline, Capellas said. Administrators working with Oracle9i Real Application Clusters can change database characteristics such as disk space size or the number of hardware systems that "see" the database without temporarily shutting down the software to end users. This means customers can both add more hardware and alter database software with few disruptions.

The Compaq Database Utility was designed to run on the company's AlphaServer systems. The Database Utility will be available worldwide in January. Pricing information was not available.

The tool is the first product to come out of a three-year engineering relationship between Compaq and Oracle announced in the first quarter of this year. As part of the deal, Oracle embedded parts of Compaq's TruCluster Server software into the Oracle9i Real Application Clusters, Capellas said.

Compaq competitors will not be able to offer similar database management tools until mid-2002, Compaq said in a statement.

Capellas also announced the company's first certified configuration for linking Oracle9i Real Application Clusters with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 operating system. This means users can now choose pretested combinations of Compaq ProLiant servers running both Oracle's software and the Windows 2000 OS.

While the current economic downturn has caused a sharp pullback in IT spending, companies will need to purchase clustering technology to keep their infrastructures up-to-date, Capellas said to the OpenWorld crowd.

"This clustering of nodes that grew up in the world of supercomputing is now coming to commercial applications," Capellas said.

Several users commented after the talk that Capellas' vision of a clustered computing future is the right approach, but added that the concept really isn't all that new.

"I have been working with clusters for 15 years," said Floyd Manzara, database architect at Burntsand Inc. in Toronto. "(The vendors) have been saying this for awhile, but it really is beneficial stuff."

Other users said that they are implementing clusters within their companies to make it easier to manage hardware and software and to keep data up for users at all times.

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