Motorola Claims '5 Nines' Availability for Linux

Motorola claimed an industry first yesterday, when it said it could obtain 99.999% uptime for Linux-based servers.

Motorola said its new CPX8000 servers, aimed at the telecommunications industry, will be able to obtain "5 nines" availability (5 minutes of system downtime per year), when running its own tailored version of Linux, called High Availability Linux, or HA Linux.

However, the company won't actually guarantee customers such uptime, said David Peters, director of strategic alliances at Motorola Computer Group. "To get to the full 5 nines, the (customer's) application also must be hardened," said Peters. The servers will ship in May. Pricing hasn't been announced.

Peters said Motorola will obtain these high levels of uptime thanks to a number of hardware features in the servers, such as hot-standby backup CPUs. Motorola has ported some of its high availability software, originally developed on top of IBM's Unix variant AIX, to Linux, said Peters.

Motorola has traditionally offered systems running IBM's AIX operating system to the telecommunications market. Though the company has no plans to sell CPX8000 servers with AIX, Motorola does intend to continue offering AIX on other systems. "We will let the market decide" between Linux and AIX, said Peters.

"It's fairly brave to claim 5 nines for Linux," said Tony Iams, senior analyst at D. H. Brown Associates Inc. in Port Chester, N.Y. But Iams also said "5 nines" claims in business markets have often been poorly defined and are sometimes little more than marketing ploys. "There is no industry standard metric for reliability," said Iams.

Motorola said it intends to offer its kernel modifications for hot-swap Peripheral Component Interconnect support, also part of its high availability features, to the open source community. The company said it hopes to see its modifications included in a future version of the Linux kernel. However, this could be more than a year away, Iams said.

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