Cluster Options Aim High With Low Prices

PolyServe, IBM offer large computing power through do-it-yourself clusters or a clustered server service.

PolyServe Inc. and IBM have introduced offerings that promise to provide enterprises with a lot of computer processing power at a relatively low cost.

A major upgrade of PolyServes Matrix Server cluster management software features a symmetric cluster file system that enables scalability with a near linear increase in performance as more servers are added to the cluster, said company officials, in Beaverton, Ore. A distributed lock manager ensures data integrity across the cluster.

PolyServe claims that the upgrade, which was unveiled on Monday and doesnt carry a version number, is the first Linux-supported symmetric cluster file system with multiple-path IO, which ensures that the cluster has no single point of failure. This provides greater availability to data.

The fact that the software supports all the major Linux distributions makes it cheaper than Unix-based clusters, said Steve Norall, general manager of Linux solutions at PolyServe.

"The problem typically is you couldnt get the workload of Unix boxes" on less expensive servers with Intel Corp. chips, Norall said. "A two-way Intel server costs $5,000 today…We let you connect lots of those boxes together."

Matrix Server increased scalability by upping the number of nodes supported to 16. The release, available now, offers greater support for switches and broader support for Fiber Channel typologies, Norall said.

Matrix Server will add support for the iSCSI protocol at the end of the year, Norall said. That will enable enterprises to connect their server clusters and SANs (storage area networks) via Ethernet, rather than Fiber Channel. This will let customers standardize on the Internet Protocol standard in Ethernet, thus reducing the number of technologies that IT departments have to manage, Norall said.

PolyServe also announced that it has begun selling its software through the reseller channel, rather than directly to customers.

Separately, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., last week at the ClusterWorld show in San Jose, Calif., officially made available its Deep Computing on demand offering—a service that lets enterprises connect to a store of clustered servers at an IBM facility via VPN. The cluster, made up of Intel-based xSeries servers running Linux and pSeries AIX Unix servers, provides customers with super-computer-like processing power without the expense of setting up and maintaining a super computer cluster, said Dave Turek, IBM vice president of Deep Computing.

"IT budgets are under as much scrutiny as ever," Turek said. "People are finding [with our service that] they can get a fixed amount of compute power for a fixed amount of time—rather than buying something and underutilizing it for awhile."

Buying processing power via Deep Computing on demand also relieves enterprises of the need to maintain systems and upgrade them when new hardware becomes available, Turek added.

The first customer of Deep Computing on demand that IBM announced was GX Technology Corp., which was using it to create high-resolution subsurface images for petroleum exploration.