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Stratus: Where High-Availability Leads to Profitability

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Sep 11, 2009


Stratus Technologies (Maynard, Mass.), is one of those companies that fills a clearly defined niche, with clear cut positioning as the "availability company." This strategy appears to be working, as a focus on high availability and fault-tolerant servers had generated growth at a steady rate.

Server Snapshot: Stratus' fault-tolerant servers are designed to fill a clearly defined niche. Its positioning as the "availability company" has set it apart from the OEM Rat Pack and resulted in steady growth.

"Through a combination of industry trends, ever-increasing reliance of businesses on computer-based operations, and by Stratus extending its technology to products and pricing accessible to much broader customer base, applications for high availability computing are expanding," said Denny Lane, director of product management and marketing at Stratus Technologies.

Stratus creates fault-tolerant servers with the expectations of nearly 100 percent uptime, and it guarantees at least five nines (i.e., 99.999 percent). Every aspect of a Stratus machine has been engineered to safeguard continuous availability.

That sets the tone for who need and who don't need (or potentially need) a Stratus box.

Some might be able to get by with 99 percent availability — more than 87 hours per year of downtime. Stratus, on the other hand, appeals to those that demand no more than five minutes of downtime in any given year.

Lane is quick to emphasize, however, that Stratus is not a boutique company. He tries to draw a similarity with Apple in terms of the creation of elegant, well-designed and simple-to-use machines.

"When enterprises understand they need fault tolerance, they understand its importance and just want it to work," said Lane. "That's Stratus."

ftServer

The big news since the last Stratus server snapshot is the release of the fifth-generation ftServer line. The ftServer 2600, 4500 and 6300 systems are based on the Intel Xeon 5500 Nehalem quad-core processors. In addition, there is no need for failover scripting, repeated test procedures or extra effort to make the applications cluster-aware.

Stratus' ftServer

The ftServer 6300 is a 2-socket 4U machine that uses the Xeon 5500 2.93 GHz quad-core processor. The internal storage has been increased by up to 8 TB (over the previous-generation ftServer 6210) of physical storage on 2.5" SAS drives and can use up to 96 GB RAM. It includes Intel hyper-threading technology and carries a starting price of $41,500.

"The 6300 can ably take on more demanding enterprise-class workloads common to database and SAP applications, as well as increasingly complex virtual infrastructures," said Lane.

The ftServer 2600 is the company's entry-level 1-socket 4U machine. It is powered by a 2 GHz Xeon quad-core E5540 processor, up to 16 GB RAM and up to 146 GB storage. The 2600 has a starting price of $11,500.

In the middle comes the 4500, powered by one or two E5504 2GHz Xeon quad-core processors. The 1-socket version can use up to 48 GB RAM, and the 2-socket up to 96 GB RAM. The 4500 has a starting price of $20,000 for the 1-socket and $21,500 for the 2-socket machine.

The 4500 and 6300 feature the Intel QuickPath Architecture, which provides high speed connections between microprocessors and external memory.

"The processors, together with the benefits provided by Intel QuickPath Architecture and multithreading account for significant improvements in memory, I/O and disk performance, in addition to nearly a two-fold improvement in overall system performance compared to the previous models," said Lane.

As well as processor upgrades, operating systems have also come in for an overhaul at Stratus. At the time of this writing, Windows is the only supported operating system supported on the fifth-generation of the ftServers. In the fourth quarter of 2009, however, Red Hat Enterprise Linux will be added. That will be followed early next year with support for VMware vSphere.

Stratus recently announced OpenVOS. OpenVOS is a unified release of VOS (Virtual Operating System) that runs on all three generations V series hardware. The V Series are ideal for applications running against performance or capacity limits.

Additional Lines

While Stratus puts most of its effort into the ftServers covered above, it continues to offer a couple of other lines. The V Series is a holdover from its discontinued Continuum server line which used the VOS. The latest development in this line is openVOS software, which works on the last three generations of V Series servers.

"The current generation of ftServer V Series systems includes the Xeon "Harpertown" based V2302 (one 2-core 2.00 GHz processor), V4304 (two 2-core 2.00 GHz) and V6308 (two 4-core 3.00 GHz)," said Lane.

All of the models feature a modular redundancy hardware architecture that has been engineered to provide 99.999 percent of uptime right out of the box. The machines are designed for high-volume applications, such as financial services.

Stratus sells on additional ftServer family called the T Series, which includes a NEBS-certified model. T Series systems combine Xeon processors, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Stratus' fault-tolerant architecture in a server designed to handle the rigors of the telecommunications network.

Stratus' Servers at a Glance

  ftServer 2600 ftServer 4500 ftServer 6300
Processor Type 2 GHz Intel quad-core Xeon E5540 processors One or two 2GHz E5504 Intel quad-core Xeon processors Two 2.93 GHz X5570 Intel quad-core Xeon processors
Operating System Windows Server 2008, Standard Ed; Red Hat Enterprise Linux (Q4'09) Windows Server 2008, Standard Ed; Red Hat Enterprise Linux (Q4'09) Windows Server 2008, Standard Ed; Red Hat Enterprise Linux (Q4'09)
Target Deployment Entry-level. Replication multi-site deployments at locations where lights-out management is desirable (branch office, retail outlets, warehouse), as well as public safety computer-aided dispatch applications and SMBs. Fault-tolerant appliance for critical services, such as VMware vCenter or Microsoft System Center management software, SharePoint. Highly configurable, midrange server for departmental processing up to midrange enterprise applications. Enough memory and processor power to support database and virtualization workloads. Enterprise-class server with high performance for critical enterprise/business operations processing. Database and virtualization workhorse.
Price Base platform US List, $11,500 Base platform US List, 1-socket $20,000, 2-socket $21,500 Base platform US List, 2-socket $41,500

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he was originally from Scotland where he received a degree in Geology/Geography from the University of Strathcyle. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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