Virtually Speaking: Vendors Tackle High Availability

By Amy Newman (Send Email)
Posted Apr 20, 2007


Amy Newman
Marathon Technologies and FastScale Technology take different paths to managing virtualized infrastructures.

With virtualization comes more eggs in fewer baskets, so preventing the baskets from dropping becomes increasingly important. ISVs that specialize in high availability products are keenly aware of this. Early this week, solutions from opposite corners entered the race.

On Monday, Marathon Technologies announced its v-Available initiative, which integrates the ISV's everRun software with XenEnterprise. The initiative aims to close the gaps between current high-availability offerings for virtual environments and bring mainframe-class availability to virtual environments using Marathon's fault-tolerant everRun software combined with the Xen hypervisor and XenEnterprise environment.

EverRun follows a "compute through vs. failover" philosophy, President and CEO Gary Phillips told ServerWatch. In other words, it aims to prevent a failure rather than work around it. EverRun uses embedded intelligent policy management via a turnkey and automated interface to prevent application downtime.

It treats two physical servers as one, with a heartbeat failover in between, Director of Products Michael Bilancieri told ServerWatch. The Xen hypervisor enables a server to be virtualized, while everRun takes a second server and combines it with the first to make a single logical system.

With the XenSource partnership and the addition of XenEnterprsie, Marathon believes it is "making Xen accessible to the masses," Phillips said.

Although v-Available was announced this week, products related to the initiative are not expected to be out until third quarter. DR for XenEnterprise is scheduled for release at that time, as well as a services offering, v-Availability Assessment, Design & Implementation Services. In fourth quarter, Marathon plans to release everRun for XenEnterprise, and in the first half of 2008 it will release an expanded range of everRun "dialable" availability solutions.

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Although everRun is not compatible with other hypervisors at this time, the plan is for it be platform-agnostic down the road, Bilancieri said.

Marathon's approach to incorporating virtualization management is hardly unique. Its business depends on being able to manage infrastructures. As virtualization finds its way into the infrastructures of its 1,200 current customers, the ISV must adapt its products to the market or risk losing customers. Partnering with Xen and incorporating the hypervisor is one way to go.

In contrast, FastScale Technology is taking a different approach to managing virtual infrastructures — by bypassing them. The company believes that "server sprawl and poor utilization should be addressed at the root cause, not by treating symptoms," said FastScale CEO Lynn LeBlanc.

Virtualization, FastScale Technology contends, is merely curing the symptoms. So while FastScale's strategy doesn't eschew virtualization, it proposes its own solution to make servers — virtualized and not — run more efficiently. In function, however, the end result is not all that different from the one with the "V" label.

On Monday, the year-old company released its first product, FastScale Composer Suite.

FastScale Composer addresses the root cause of server room strife, which it believes is software complexity. The product automates the process of building highly streamlined server software on the front-end, while dynamically deploying and seamlessly managing back-end environments.

It does this by shrinking the software environment to about 1 percent of the typical traditional software image.

While operating systems support hundreds of thousands of applications, any given application only uses a small subset of the operating system. The Application Blueprint feature of FastScale Composer automatically identifies the precise operating system components an application requires at execution time. FastScale Composer then builds a small, full-featured software environment that includes only the precise software.

This images, known as Dynamic Application Bundles, or DABs, are then built on-demand and reside on a server for the duration of the job in process. When the job ends, the server is available for automatic provisioning of a new software environment. Provisioning takes less than a minute.

FastScale Composer is now available and is priced starting at $30,000.

Since FastScale Composer is compatible with a virtualized infrastructure and the tools that manage it, the real question enterprises considering must address is whether they want to add another layer in the name of simplicity.

Amy Newman is the managing editor of ServerWatch. She has been following the virtualization space since 2001.

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