Sun Microsystems' Scott McNealy claims "The network is the computer", but he?s got it wrong according to Tandem chief executive Roel Pieper. "The cluster is the computer," he declared this week, promising to phone McNealy and put him right.
Pieper delivered his correction on Tuesday at the DB Expo trade show in San Francisco where Tandem launched its Nonstop Software strategy to bring enterprise-scale clustering capabilities to NT. Elsewhere at the show, Oracle adopted an uncharacteristically low key approach to set out its own strategy in this field, making NT clustering the dominant theme of the show.
Boston-based research firm Aberdeen Group is unsurprised by this increased focus on clustering technology. The group sees the 24x7 dynamics of new mission critical business applications as ensuring a greater reliance on high availability technology. This will not mean costly hardware or Unix-everywhere strategies coming into play, but will actually lead to the creation of high-performance, Intel-based NT clusters.
Most attention in the field of NT clustering has to date been focused on Microsoft?s forthcoming Wolfpack offering - developed with Tandem - but Aberdeen Group thinks this will be inadequate for the needs of enterprise customers who can only afford occasional downtimes of a few seconds at a time. Wolfpack recoveries, the Group has warned clients, run into tens of minutes, not seconds.
"Wolfpack will not be able to allay the NT apprehensions of IS departments," it argues in a new briefing document. "Short on enterprise class manageability software and unable to guarantee anything close to an around-the-clock uptime, Wolpack alone will merely better NT Server?s position in the workgroup and departmental applications. For the foreseeable future, Wolfpack alone is no panacea."
The research firm is happier with the enterprise capabilities of Tandem?s Nonstop Software offering, which is based around three main technologies: a services layer, an implementation of BEA?s Tuxedo API and a SQL/MX relational database.
Tandem is already able to cluster together NT Servers using its Servernet interconnect product, but the new strategy enables 16-node scalability, a single file system view to SQL/MX and Tuxedo on NT and, most importantly, continuous availability.
To demonstrate what it claims it can do, the company showcased a 2Tbytes database running on a cluster of 64 Pentium Pro processors. The database handled a 30 billion row table based on a data warehouse run by US retail giant Dayton-Hudson.
Pieper walked a narrow tightrope at the launch, careful not to denigrate Wolfpack or Microsoft, while simultaneously promoting his own company?s technology as the superior offering. The Tandem solution builds on Wolfpack, he said, but takes the technology further on.
For Microsoft, the Nonstop strategy offers a chance to reinforce its claims for NT as an enterprise-robust operating system. Microsoft senior vice president Jim Allchin claimed: "Supporting a database with more than 30 billion rows shatters all previous records and proves that Windows NT Server delivers the performance and scalability required for the most demanding needs of enterprise customers."
The database managing those 30 billion rows in the demo was NonStopSQL/MX, which Aberdeen Group believes offer broader enterprise-class scalability than offerings from other suppliers, such as Oracle. Appropriately enough Oracle set up camp a few streets away from the Tandem launch to push its own version of the NT clustering story.
The Oracle strategy revolves around two products: an NT failover utility for Oracle 7.3 based on Wolfpack and Oracle Parallel Server (OPS) 7.3 for NT. The former - known as Failsafe - is a basic failover facility for two servers, enabling one node to take over from the other in the event of downtime. This will ship 30 days after Wolfpack this summer and will be bundled free with the core Oracle server.
Oracle Parallel Server 7.3 for NT will ship next month and comes complete with the facility to share query processing across NT servers as well as providing failover support. The company listed a number of hardware partners supporting the NT version of OPS, including Siemens Pyramid, Fujitsu, NCR, Unisys, Compaq, Data General, NEC and Digital.
But with NT?s status as an enterprise capable platform still open to question, where is the customer base for such products? David Appelbaum, senior director of pre-sales and programmes in Oracle?s NT Solutions Sales division, emphasised that Failsafe comes without charge for Oracle 7.3. "If it?s free, it becomes a why not for the customer," he said. As for the high end parallel server, he said this should be of interest to customers migrating existing applications to NT, but admitted: "It fits a very specialised need."
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