By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2004-07-12 Print this article Print

PolyServe Inc.s Matrix Server 2.3 simplifies application clustering in Windows environments and will be a good choice for companies looking to increase the availability of business tools such as Web applications, databases and file sharing.

Version 2.3, priced at $3,000 per CPU, can be deployed on Windows or Linux servers and lets IT managers aggregate as many as 16 systems in a centrally managed cluster.

The most notable new feature in Matrix Server 2.3, which is available now, is its support for Microsoft Corp.s Windows Server 2003. eWEEK Labs believes companies should upgrade to Matrix Server 2.3 only if they plan to deploy applications on the Windows Server 2003 platform.

Matrix Server has a built-in CFS (cluster file system) that uses a SAN (storage area network) to provide shared data storage for the cluster. The CFS provides quick data recovery and maintains data integrity among all the applications sharing data in the cluster.

Applications that run on Matrix Server need not be cluster-aware, as long as they are supported by Matrix Server and Windows. Supported applications include Microsofts Internet Information Server and SQL Server, Oracle Corp.s Oracle9i RAC (Real Application Cluster), and CIFS (Common Internet File System) file sharing. IT managers looking to run custom applications in Matrix Server clusters might have to perform some customization before rollout.

In tests, Matrix Server provided solid out-of-the-box application clustering and data sharing. We used the included solution packs, PolyServes set of predefined scripts and Windows registry changes, to quickly set up SQL Server or CIFS file-sharing clusters on our Windows servers. PolyServe provides solution packs for SQL Server and CIFS file sharing at no extra cost.

We used Matrix Servers Java-based mxconsole to manage test nodes and configure virtual hosts . The console has a clean interface, and configuration was straightforward, but wed prefer wizards to expedite tasks such as the initial cluster configurations.

Matrix Server automatically discovered the available LUNs (logical unit numbers) in the SAN and allowed us to map the appropriate file system to the LUNs. We recommend IT managers set up LUN masking within the SAN before installing Matrix Server. This will ensure the proper LUNs are mapped to the cluster node during setup, providing robust storage management, avoiding data conflicts and protecting data from compromise.

The mxconsole let us specify that application failover be done automatically or manually. We set up monitors for specific devices or application services in the cluster and could specify failover settings or run scripts during failure events.

However, we were disappointed in Matrix Servers lackluster logging and reporting capabilities. Matrix Server keeps an Event Log within the Windows Event Viewer, but reporting capabilities are almost nonexistent. Event alerts are shown in a window within the mxconsole, but there are no options for creating cluster performance or system health reports.

Although we liked Matrix Servers usability and effortless management capabilities, its hardware and software support are limited compared with competitors products such as Veritas Software Corp.s Cluster Server. Matrix Server supports Fibre Channel host bus adapters and Fibre Channel switches. However, iSCSI interfaces are not supported.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.

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