Stratus Offers One-Box Resilience

ftServer 3300 builds on strengths of predecessor.

Stratus Technologies Inc.s entry-level ftServer 3300 gives IT managers a resilient server for mission-critical applications.

ftServer 3300

Stratus ftServer 3300 is basically a cluster in a rack-mount box. Boasting hardware redundancy in all components from CPUs to hard drives, the ftServer 3300 is a good choice for relatively small mission-critical applications. Pricewise, the ftServer is a relative bargain—its really two servers in one and companies dont need to double their software license spending to implement it.
















PRO: Easy to deploy; sites need only buy one operating system license and one application license.

CON: Can be single point of failure; supports only Windows 2000.

• Necs Express5800/320lb

Compared with its predecessor, the ftServer 3200, the ftServer 3300 has improved hardware and a new rack-mount form factor that should be more manageable than the pedestal chassis used by the previous model.

However, eWEEK Labs tests showed that the core benefits of the ftServer 3300, which ships this month, have not changed compared with its predecessor. The ftServer 3300 is still basically a two-node failover cluster in a single box, albeit one thats a lot more powerful than its older sibling.

As one would expect, everything from memory to processors and storage are doubled up in the ftServer 3300, which allows the server to keep functioning at optimum levels even when key components break down.

This is the only server we know of in the Windows space where losing a processor or memory module does not lead to downtime. The only other way to get this kind of protection is to buy two servers and run high-availability software.

The ftServer 3300s processing components are run in lock step (meaning transactions run concurrently on both halves of the server), so that when a failure does occur there is no downtime or transaction loss. This differs substantially from clustering solutions that depend on a traditional heartbeat link between cluster nodes to initiate the failover process. In this scenario, a secondary server is passive until the primary one fails; it then assumes the responsibilities of the failed server, a process that can take a couple of minutes to finish.

Beyond its reasonable price, ease of use is the biggest benefit of the ftServer 3300 because applications need to be installed and configured only once for the cluster to work. With "conventional" server systems, in contrast, IT managers usually have to configure a primary and secondary server to create a cluster pair, both of which must have their own software licenses to function.

However, because the ftServer 3300 has only four processors (logically performing as two processors), companies looking for more horsepower should evaluate the ftServer 5500, which has eight processors (logically performing as four).

For $28,080, the ftServer 3300 comes configured with four Intel Corp. 2.4GHz Xeon CPUs, 2GB of double-data RAM, four 36GB hard drives, two 18GB hard drives and Microsoft Corp.s Windows Advanced Server operating system.

The ftServer 3300 has a built-in service component (called ActiveService architecture) that monitors the server and automatically contacts Stratus if hardware faults are detected; the company then sends replacement parts.

IT managers who dont want this service component should look into NEC Corp.s comparably priced Express5800/320Lb server, which is nearly identical to the ftServer 3300.

Like the Express5800/320Lb, the ftServer 3300 clusters single enclosure means IT staffers cant put the server nodes in different locations. This could be a problem if the data center were to catch fire or sustain other catastrophic damage.

In addition, because only a single version of the operating system and application is run, a corruption in either could compromise uptime of the ftServer 3300. To combat this, Stratus does extensive testing and qualification of the operating system and applications to minimize risk.

Senior Analyst Henry Baltazar can be reached at