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HP joins the Wolfpack

HP chimes in with its initial servers for Microsoft's server software, becoming the third major vendor to announce a configuration in the past two weeks.

Hewlett-Packard chimed in today with its initial servers for Microsoft's server software, becoming the third major vendor to announce a configuration in the past two weeks.

HP will sell complete clustered solutions based around its NetServer LH Pro and LX Pro systems as well as a software-only solution that customers can incorporate onto currently installed LH Pro or LX Pro systems, said Christophe Jacquet, product manager for clustering in HP's server division.

The software component is based on Microsoft Cluster Server technology, previously referred to as Wolfpack.

Under the complete solution, customers receive two LH or LX Pro servers, a license for Cluster Server, and various tools devised by HP to better manage the systems.

These products will begin to become available on December 1. Hardware components for the complete solutions will start at $31,970.

Clustering refers to a technique in which two or more servers can be strung together for increased fault tolerance. That is, clustering allows one server to take over for another if the second one fails. Under this first version of Cluster Server, only two servers can be tied together in a cluster.

The goal of most NT server vendors is develop clusters like those seen the Unix segment of the market, where eight or more servers can be banded together. Rather than merely form a safety net, Unix clusters also allow users to balance computing loads between servers. Steps toward these goals are expected in later editions of Cluster Server.

HP's approach to NT clusters is characterized by the emphasis the company is placing on customer support. More than Dell and Compaq, HP is discussing customer service needs as a crucial component in rolling these systems out. Unlike both of these companies, HP also has an extensive consulting division.

"We are going to leverage our support infrastructure from our Unix side," Jacquet said. "We want to be the vendor that provides support."

As part of this effort, HP has released a series of tools and services to promote ease of installation. HP Order Assistant, for instance, is a cataloging device to ensure that a clustering solution is complete.

In addition, HP has released HP ClusterView, a management tool that allows an IT manager to centrally control NT/Cluster Server clusters and HP-UX Unix clusters from the same console.

Like Compaq, HP is also in the process of certifying resellers in cluster technology. Approximately 100 resellers in Europe have been certified on HP's cluster solution while training is currently underway in the U.S.

Multinode clustering, which will allow for more than two-server clusters, will come out in of 1998, Jacquet added, while better distribution of computing functions should occur early next year.

Cluster server announcements have been occurring at a fairly rapid clip. Dell released the first Cluster Server solution certified by Microsoft at the end of October.

Compaq unveiled its first Cluster Server solution this morning, but primarily emphasized future innovations such as better load balancing between clustered servers and multinode clustering with fibre technology. Compaq's solution, Jacquet noted, will not be out until next year. Compaq's solution has not been certified by Microsoft