Microsoft finally began shipping its much-anticipated WolfPack clustering technology last week but users may have to wait months to reap the benefits. The software is an integral component of the Microsoft Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition operating system. Enterprise Edition is a new addition to the NT product family which Microsoft is touting as a way to build enterprise-class distributed applications. Along with integrating WolfPack, now known as Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS), NT Enterprise Edition is also the first version of Windows NT Server to include Microsoft Transaction Server and Microsoft Message Queue Server. According to David Bridger, product manager for the business systems group at Microsoft, any Windows NT Server and SQL Server application can support NT clustering. "All existing applications will run," he claimed. "Specific failover capabilities are supported in Microsoft's own product range." He added that other applications would need to be rewritten to take advantage of clustering. However, this may mean that users are unlikely to see the benefits of MSCS immediately. Although customers can buy clustering in the NT operating system, they will still have to wait until the applications they use have been rewritten for the technology. Welsh electricity, gas and water company Hyder, is among users waiting for clustering capabilities. Hyder is an SAP user, but cannot take advantage of NT clustering until SAP ships its R/3 Cluster software. The company has not yet announced when that will be. "WolfPack (MSCS) would be useful for resilience," commented Mark Cartwright, IT operations director at Lusis, the IT division of Hyder. "My vision is to use fibre optic to connect the HP Net Servers in our two machine rooms. But we are currently waiting for the okay from SAP." The price tag on Microsoft Windows NT Server Enterprise Edition Version is #1,500. With 25 clients, the price is #2,900. While NT 4.0 Enterprise Edition is costlier than the standard version of NT server, Microsoft justified the rise by the inclusion of MS Message Queuing Server (MQS) and MS Transaction Server 1.0. To buy the products separately would cost over #4,500. Microsoft: 0345 002000.
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