NEC and Stratus launch quad-core fault tolerance

Companies' partnership yields a breakthrough with their first fault-tolerant quad-core systems

Stratus is labelling its latest server, the ftServer 6200, as "the most powerful Intel processor-based, fault-tolerant server for Windows or Linux" enterprise systems.

And if you're interested in the server but don't want to buy it from Stratus, you can get almost exactly the same server from NEC. The server is the latest fruit of the alliance between NEC and Stratus, which was first signed in 2005. The two companies are pooling their respective technologies, with NEC supplying its manufacturing muscle and Stratus providing the expertise in fault-tolerant systems.

This partnership allowed Stratus to announce its first dual-core fault-tolerant Intel server last year, and just two weeks ago the companies announced Intel-based servers optimised for fault-tolerant operation.

The new servers, the NEC Express5800/320Fc and the Stratus ftServer 6200, are almost identical, stemming from the same Intel chipset and the same basic fault-tolerant technology. The systems are two socket machines with twin quad-core processors.

Stratus says it offers a threefold performance improvement over "previous top-of-the-line systems".  But Andy Bailey, availability consultant for Stratus, admits that, as with most systems of its type, actual performance increases are difficult to state, because "it will vary depending on the application". As well as the improvements on the base system performance, "with the new drives that are coming onto the market, we can see up to double the performance there", he told ZDNet UK.

However, according to Bailey, that is not necessarily where the main benefits lie. He points to migration as a key advantage with the quad-core machines. "If you look at extreme bases, we have a user who had 30 servers," he said. "They replaced 30 with three." Bailey believes that the quad-core systems are so powerful, "a ratio of 12 servers to one will not be so unusual".

The ftServer 6200 supports Windows Server 2003 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, with up to 24GB of logical memory, up to 48GB of physical memory and internal hot-pluggable and SAS or SATA drives. The system includes RAID storage and supports EMC Symmetrix/Clariion systems and HP EVA 500 and EVA 4000/6000/800.

The NEC system is, according to the company, "the first in the industry to deliver lockstep support for the quad-core Intel Xeon processor" and it delivers "more than a 200 percent performance gain over current dual-core models". CPU I/O is up to 66 percent faster, NEC claims, with a 50 percent increase in memory capacity.

The NEC system starts at $12,000 (£6,200) and goes up to $140,000 (£71,200). Stratus said that prices were not yet fixed.