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Server Snapshots: Spotlight on Stratus

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Jun 26, 2008


Drew Robb
Since we last looked at Stratus Technologies (Maynard, Mass.) in March 2007, their big news has been the release of a software-based high-availability (HA) product known as Avance. It makes use of embedded virtualization and Ethernet-connected x86 servers to create a high-availability cluster at a cost of $2,500 per server.

The OEM may be best known for its fault-tolerant servers, but it's also putting much innovation into the software side of the business.

Avance installs in 15 minutes and offers data protection, availability uptime and business continuity. Processing on one server is simultaneously written to the mate. If the primary server goes down, the other assumes the processing duties. The company promises uptime of 99.99 percent

On the server side, however, little has changed. The company made a couple of incremental upgrades to its hardware — mostly notably a 100-fold performance increase for a similar price as the older gear. It has also expanded its range into the storage world with the addition of Stratus ftScalable storage.

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"This is an entry-level array optimized to run with the Stratus ftServer to create a broader fault-tolerant environment," said Denny Lane, director, product management and marketing at Stratus, "Expandable to 36TB, it supports both SAS and SATA, mix and match and non-battery back-up."

Stratus is positioning itself as the availability company. As well as fault-tolerant servers and software, it has a consulting arm that focuses on ensuring IT availability for the business processes of a company. According to Lane, this part of the business has taken off.

"Our positioning as the availability company resonates with customers," said Lane. "It's a real pain point — not just at the application level, but throughout an IT support infrastructure — and there are many pretenders that say they have solutions for it."

ft2510 Server

The recent product refresh to the Stratus line up means its ftServer lineup consists of the 2510, 4410 and 6210. All are equipped for 24/7 proactive remote monitoring, management and remediation over the Stratus Active Service Network. They are also all quad-core systems.

The 2510 is the entry-level box. It is a 1-socket, Intel Xeon quad-core 2.00 GHz, 2 x 6 MB cache with up to 6GB of memory. It is available in either a pedestal version or a 4U rackmount. The price ranges from $13,557 to $19,495. It replaces the ft2500.

ft4410 Server

The ftServer 4410 has been given a 2X performance boost compared to the previous version (the ft4400) in the hopes of making it more attractive to virtual environments or as an affordable workhorse for transaction-intensive applications.

"The 4410 now surpasses the performance of our previous high-end 6200 system," said Lane. This model is the sweet spot of our product line."

It is available in 1- or 2-socket configurations and has up to 32 MB of RAM (compared to 12 MB before). Pricing ranges from $24,456 to $54,262.

"The ft4410 is a big competitor against clusters from other OEMs," said Lance. "It has the advantage of higher availability, being simple to install and manage and having no downtime or data loss resulting from hardware malfunctions."

ft6210 Server

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The Stratus ft6210 is a 2-socket quad-core 3.00 GHz (vs. 2.66 GHz before) box with up to 32 GB of main memory (vs. 24 MB in the previous generation). According to Lance, the 6210 is attractive to customers moving off legacy systems, especially those looking for a new home for enterprise-class, mission-critical business operations. Pricing starts at $42,156 and tops out at $68,462.

Stratus TV

While Stratus stresses the above models these days, it also offers several other hardware lines. The T Series is aimed at the telecom world. These systems combine Intel Xeon processors and Red Hat Enterprise Linux in a fault-tolerant server architecture for 99.999 percent uptime. Since our previous Snapshot, there have been no changes to the T Series.

The Stratus V Series is targeted at the installed base of customers using the discontinued Stratus Continuum server line. These products use the VOS operating system.

"The issues for Continuum users are lack of a future road map and processing volume capacities," said Lane. "The old VOS applications work great but cannot keep pace with business growth. Our V Series servers provide what they need."

Stratus continues to provide V Series models for this niche market. Three additional models — the ftServer V Series 150, 200 and 400 — have been released in the past year, as well as a speed bump for the older ftServer V Series 250, 300 and 500. This is all about the addition of more recent processor models, and increased clock speed, front side bus, cache and memory.

More Cores

Stratus has been a relatively rapid adopter of dual-core processors and, more recently, quad core. According to Lane, its customers demand this in fault-tolerant gear.

"Multi-core processors are enormously beneficial to end users and to server vendors," he said. "They are more efficient, offer better price/performance and take up less real estate.

Lane said he believes that the trend toward more and more cores will continue into the foreseeable future. Full deployment of virtualization strategies, the growing demands of disaster recovery and SaaS are driving the demand.

As for AMD, Stratus has no plans. The company remains an Intel shop.

"We use Intel because they support processor determinism, which is necessary for lock-stepping," said Lane. "Without identically matched processors, fault tolerance cannot be achieved."

Stratus' Fault-Tolerant Servers at a Glance

Server
Processor Types
Operating Systems
Target Deployment
Cost
ftServer 2510 Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.00 GHz with 2x6MB cache Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition Entry-level — Replicated, multi-site deployments at locations where lights-out system management is desirable, such as distribution centers, warehouses, branch offices, retail and rental chains, as well as public safety computer-aided dispatch applications in small-to-medium sized municipalities. $13,557 to $19,495
ftServer 4410 Quad-Core Intel Xeon 2.00 GHz w/ 2x6 Cache Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition Expandable midrange server for departmental business processing. Workloads characterized as stable, general-purpose, or sophisticated SMB operations $24,456 to $54,262
ftServer 6210 Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor 3.0GHz with 2x6MB cache Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition Enterprise-class server with high performance and availability for critical enterprise/business/ operations processing $42,156 to $68,462; highly configurable

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