Fault-Tolerance Systems Go Virtual

Updated: Stratus and NEC are co-developing fault-tolerant systems that will use VMware's ESX Server.

SAN FRANCISCO—Stratus Technologies and NEC of America are about to bring virtualization to fault-tolerant systems.

At the 2007 VMworld Conference here, the two companies each are demonstrating fault-tolerant systems that use VMwares ESX Server as part of the platform. The new systems will allow all the virtual environments to continue to function in the same way the operating system and application continue to run in a traditional fault-tolerant server.

NEC, Tokyo, and Stratus, headquartered in Maynard, Mass., have been co-developing the fault-tolerant technology for several years. The inclusion of ESX Server in their systems grew out of a 2005 agreement to jointly engineer fault-tolerant servers.

Fault-tolerant systems offer twin components that work in lockstep, which allows for high availability within the servers. If one set of components fail, the other set can continue working with no interruption to the user.

For virtualization, the new fault-tolerant systems will use a pair of hypervisors—the software that allows for virtualization—that will run in the same lockstep as the other components, such as the CPUs and main memory.


Click here to read more about the 2007 VMworld conference.

By using VMwares ESX server, customers running the new fault-tolerant systems can also use other products, such as VMwares Vmotion, which enables all working processes to continue throughout a migration to a new host, or the Virtual Infrastructure 3 suite, said Denny Lane, director of product marketing and management for Stratus.

With the availability of multicore processors technology and the desire to consolidate more applications onto fewer physical systems, Lane said customers now have the ability to move workloads that require high availability—as well as applications that traditionally resided on standard servers—onto fault-tolerant systems with the help of virtualization.

"We are seeing more and more of our customers moving mission-critical workloads onto fault-tolerant servers," Lane said. "The sum total becomes that customers are putting all their eggs in one basket. What NEC and Stratus are proposing is making that basket stronger."

The first of these systems to use ESX Server will begin beta testing later this year, and the first servers will begin shipping to customers in the first quarter of 2008, according to both companies.

In addition to VMware, of Palo Alto, Calif., both companies have relationships with XenSource, which uses the open-source Xen hypervisor as the underlying software of its virtualization suite. Mike Mitsch, general manager with NECs Solution Platform Group, did not specify if Stratus and NEC would also jointly develop fault-tolerant systems with XenSource, also of Palo Alto, but he did leave the door open for a future announcement.

Earlier this year, NECs parent company in Japan announced an agreement to bundle its x86 line of servers with XenSource. Yoshikazu Maruyama, NECs senior vice president for IT Platforms, was also at the VMware show and said he did not expect NECs relationship with XenSource to change after Citrix Systems acquired XenSource for $500 million in August.

Editors Note: This story was updated to reflect that NEC is based in Tokyo. The companys location was incorrectly reported as Irving, Texas, in an eWEEK story Sept. 12.


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