I tested this server using a variety of Windows and Linux clients. The tests involved connecting to the server using SSH, Samba and NFS. I performed large file copies (the same 7.25GB image file folder Ive used in previous server reviews), and I performed backups with the server as the target.
Everything worked as it should, and there was no indication at the client that your target was a fault-tolerant server with four Ethernet ports that could pick up the load as needed any time.
Effectively, of course, you really have one Gigabit Ethernet port, with everything else on standby either for the other server chassis if it needed to take over or on the active server if one of the Ethernet links was lost. Unplugging power cords and Ethernet cables had no effect on the servers operations, as long as something was connected.
Based on my test, its clear that operations such as credit card transactions, warehousing and emergency call dispatching can continue without interruption even with the loss of one source of power or part of the networking infrastructure.
You cannot, of course, have a fault-tolerant server in a vacuum. The ability to failover when a component dies is critical, but so is the ability to know what failed, and to know what to replace to fix it.
The Stratus ftServer provides this information in two ways. First, it sends out a constant stream of e-mails giving its status at any given moment. With its default settings, this can be a lot of e-mails, but you can configure the remote management application to send only certain alerts to certain people.
In addition, the ftServer sends messages back to the customer support staff at Stratus. I first noticed how this worked when I started getting calls from tech support when I did something like shut down and restart the server. Since the review process results in a lot of restarts, I got to know the remote support people pretty well. Eventually, they figured out that this was part of a testing process and stopped calling after making sure the server was really OK.
Tech support at Stratus seems to be extremely knowledgeable, but highly specialized. This means that if you need to ask questions about both the server hardware and the networking setup, youll end up talking to two people.
In addition, the staff doesnt seem to be focused on providing operating system support, so youll need to make sure your IT staff really knows RHEL or Windows. On the other hand, the tech support staff will be able to talk to you in detail about the health of the hardware and the proper way to set it up.
One thing thats not really addressed by Stratus, but that remains necessary for a real fault-tolerant computer system, is access to independent sources of power and independent network infrastructures. And an independent source of power means two supplies coming from outside the building. Your high-availability server wont do you much good if you lose all power in a single event.
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