Stratus Uses VMware Partitioning on Windows-Based ftServers

By Timothy Prickett Morgan
September 19, 2002
This coverage originally appeared on ComputerWire:

Stratus Technologies, the privately held maker of proprietary and Windustry-standard fault tolerant servers, announced this week that it will begin selling and supporting VMware's GSX Server virtual partitioning middleware on its ftServer line of fault tolerant machines.

VMware, which is based in Palo Alto, California, sells virtual machine partitioning software for industry-standard servers using 32-bit Pentium processors and running either Windows and Linux instances. VMware has two products that have been recently announced. GSX Server 2.0, which is aimed at entry and midrange Intel servers, and ESX Server 1.5, which is aimed at larger Intel servers. Neither GSX Server nor ESX Server support the 64-bit Itanium family of processors, since they are not volume products yet.

Lee Caswell, executive vice president of marketing and business development at VMware, says that GSX Server 2.0 was designed with support for the Stratus fault tolerant servers in mind and that the two companies have been working behind the scenes to ensure that GSX Serve runs transparently on the Stratus machines. David Mazursky , vice president of worldwide professional services at Stratus, says that GSX Server will be particularly useful for customers who buy its new two-way ft5240 and four-way ft6500 servers, which were announced a week ago. (These ftServers employ 2.4GHz Pentium 4 Xeon processors and have a maximum of four, eight or twelve physical processors for double o triple redundancy. The redundant machines run in lockstep, using exact copies of Windows and executing the same application code at the same time.)

These machines offer fully redundant Windows 2000 Advanced Serve platforms and are aimed not only at application and database serving environments, but also as platforms for server consolidation. Quite frankly, the workload managers in Windows are not as good as those in more commercialized high-end Unix or proprietary environments, so GSX Server, which includes policy-based resource allocation tools, can function like a workload manager by isolating different applications from each other and from trying to hog all the resources on a Stratus machine. It also adds another layer of software redundancy on top of the hardware and operating system redundancy that comes in a plain vanilla ftServer box, which is important for financial, banking, public service, and healthcare companies that are increasingly using Wintel servers to support mission-critical applications, yet who are frustrated by the availability problems associated with Windows NT and Windows 2000. Stratus claims that its ftServers can offer kosher Windows 2000 Advanced Server platforms with 99.9998% availability, and backs that claim up by publishing in realtime on its web site the availability statistics gathered over the prior six months from its customer base.

GSX Server can support up to 8GB of main memory on a single server. Each virtual server on a carved up Intel box using GSX Server can have a maximum of 2GB of main memory allocated to it. GSX Server 2.0 can, depending on workloads, accommodate as many as four virtual machine partitions, which can be loaded with any number of different 32-bit Linux or Windows operating systems, per processor. On compute-intensive or resource-intensive applications, VMware often recommends allocating a whole Intel processor to a single virtual machine. In general, GSX Server is aimed at departmental machines, and is particularly useful fo organizations that want to set up partitions on their machines to design and test code before rolling it into production. It is supported on uniprocessor, dual-processor, and four-way machines running Linux 2.2, Linux 2.4, Windows NT 4.0, or Windows 2000; Windows .NET Serve operating system will be supported on GSX Server as a host or guest operating system as soon as Microsoft rolls it out later this year o early next year. GSX Server 2.0 costs $3,499 when it is downloaded ove the Web and $3,549 in a shrink-wrapped boxed version. That price includes support and maintenance for 12 months. After that, ongoing maintenance and support together run about 20% of list price.

Technically, any Stratus customer buying an ftServer can buy GSX Serve directly from VMware or one of its distribution partners and install it on their machine. However, by acquiring through Stratus (at the same price as it is available from VMware), customers get the realtime, collaborative technical support that is available for all aspects of the Stratus ftServer machines.