Irish start-up picks up where Sun left off

Antefacto's S1000 could bring high-availability Web sites to the masses, filling the space left when Sun Microsystems abandoned StaqWare

Irish start-up Antefacto has picked up a part of the lucrative appliance server market vacated by Sun Microsystems last year.

After Sun bought appliance server maker Cobalt Networks in the autumn of 2000, the computing giant quietly dropped the StaqWare software that let ISPs and businesses build high-availability clusters of Cobalt Raq server appliances. The reason Sun gave to its Cobalt subsidiary at the time was that it did not want to be in the software application business, and StaqWare was a software application.

Irish firm Antefacto has taken up where Sun left off, with the launch of the S1000 high-availability appliance. With the S1000, Antefacto reckons that firms with mission-critical Web sites will be able to ensure less than five minutes downtime a year -- that equates to what is known as five-nines availability, or 99.999 percent availability.

Cobalt quoted four-nines availability for StaqWare, equivalent to about one hour of downtime a year. Both levels were until recently only available in very high cost systems that only large organisations could afford.

The S1000 works by pairing two Cobalt Raq servers; if one fails, the other immediately takes over.

"The important thing is to make sure the content is the same on each server," said Antefacto chief executive Fergal Murray, "so that if one fails nothing is lost in the switchover."

The common method for doing this is to store the database on a third server, separate from the two Web servers. But Cobalt Raqs have PostgreSQL and MySQL databases installed as standard, so most Web sites that run on Raqs will store the database on the Web server. Antefacto's solution was to create small applications that sit on each Raq, so that the S1000 can keep the databases synchronised; if one Raq fails, no content is lost.

Pricing is expected to be about £4,000 for one S1000 with a licence for up to five pairs of Raqs. A version able to run up to 20 pairs of Raqs will cost about £2,000. Murray said a regular installation would involve two S1000s to provide fault tolerance if one fails, but noted that Internet Service Providers will be able to spread the cost across as many as 20 sites, offering fault tolerance as an extra service to customers.

Matt Loney reported from ISPCON Europe 2002 in London.


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