Stratus Delivers Fail-Safe Servers

Fault-tolerant systems have 99.999 percent uptime guarantee.

For many companies and government agencies, server crashes can have costly, tragic consequences. For data centers where failure is not an option, no-fault servers are the solution of choice.

This week, a leading manufacturer of such high-availability servers, Stratus Technologies Inc., will introduce two systems guaranteed to offer 99.999 percent uptime, including the ft6500, the industrys first four-way, symmetric multiprocessing, fault-tolerant server for enterprise-class Microsoft Corp. Windows Advanced Server environments.

Stratus servers combine two systems in one, with every component backed up by at least one similar component running in lock step to assure that if one part fails, a backup will instantly take over. For example, the four-processor ft6500 can be ordered with triple redundancy, meaning the system would house 12 processors running in parallel so that even if eight chips failed, the system would continue to meet its expected workload demands.

Such fail-safe designs are of critical importance to a company such as Nova Information Systems Inc., which processes more than $100 billion worth of credit card transactions a year, said James Rinkel, the Atlanta-based companys senior vice president for systems servers.

"There is at least two of everything, all the way down to the power cords," Rinkel said. "If our Stratus systems failed, we wouldnt be able to process retailers credit card transactions, which can average up to 150 transactions per second. But weve been running Stratus systems for years and have never had any outages."

The ft6500 and the release of a two-way ft5240 further extend Stratus offers of Intel Corp.-based fault-tolerant servers, first introduced last year, which have quickly become the companys most popular-selling products. Prior to the launch of the Intel-based ft series, Stratus sold only more costly Unix-based systems powered by 64-bit PA-RISC processors from Hewlett-Packard Co.

"Weve already sold more than 1,000 of the ft servers, making them our most successful product introduction to date," said David Laurello, president and chief operating officer for Stratus, in Maynard, Mass. "With the PA-RISC chips, the architecture was such that we couldnt get the price points down below the $150,000 price. With the ft servers starting at below $20,000, we can attract customers for whom fault-tolerant systems were previously not an option."

The ft6500, which starts at $65,000, is powered by Intel 1.6GHz Xeons with 1MB of Level 2 cache. The ft5240, starting at $49,500, features 2.4GHz Xeons with 512KB of L2 cache. Both systems are available now.

Stratus also has a licensing deal with NEC Corp., of Tokyo, which sells co-developed ft-series servers under the label NEC Express.