High availability hardware solutions for the enterprise have been too costly and complex for most midsize organizations. Stratus Technologies is working with Intel ESAA-based server makers, ISV and VAR providers to make a software-only HA offering available to offices that likely don't have a full-time IT staff person.
Technologies announced that the Avance software-only high availability product
gained certification on server systems offered under the Intel Enabled Server
Acceleration Alliance. In the land of usability certificates commonly inhabited
by VARs and ISVs, industrial-strength Stratus Avance software
can be stamped with a seal of approval that makes it easier to put the product
in branch offices and smaller organizations.
relationship between Stratus and Intel's ESAA (Enabled Server Acceleration
Alliance) is a fairly complex chain of endorsements that boils
down to two basic questions: "How much will this cost?" and "how is this
measured on my service contract?"
Using Avance, a high-availability link can be created between two
certified-but-otherwise-general-purpose Intel-based servers. According
to Stratus, this HA platform can
support off-the-shelf applications from Microsoft and Red Hat. The
software, along with an online monitoring service from Stratus,
monitors the two hardware systems for faults, switching processing to
surviving hardware system if one part of the pair fails. Stratus and
reseller can work together in a number of ways to service customers who
Avance to survive a failed physical computer.
In many ways this
sounds more like the world of yesterday rather than the world of tomorrow.
The Avance system running in this certified environment limits server choices
to Intel-only products. When I talked to Stratus officials, they had little to
say about using Avance in a computing environment running on servers based on AMD chips.
I would add a third question to the two I posed above: "What
happens when a physical high-availability product such as Avance meets
a virtual high-availability product such as
VMware?" VMware is an Intel ESAA member, as is Microsoft, Citrix and
The likelihood that one or more of these virtualization tools will show
the mix that would benefit a small or branch office seems very
possible. Aside from the messy technical details of what might happen
if both systems were attempting to manage where a VM (virtual machine)
would end up in the case
of a hardware failure, the fundamental question might be, "why should
Breaking the tie
between workloads and underlying physical servers even in small offices looms
on the horizon. And breaking the tie between workloads and privately owned
compute resources, especially for an office that makes extensive use of
technology but has already made the decision to outsource IT operations, looms
even more so. Thus, while I'm fascinated by the intricate signaling and
thoughtful coding that makes a single application run seamlessly on two physical
computers, I'm left with the notion that I'm one of the people who witnessed
John Henry beat the steam shovel. It can be done, but which method will prevail?