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IBM brings clustering to medium-sized businesses

IBM releases a series of server bundles for small and medium-sized businesses that will bring mainframe-style "fail-safe" technology to these customers.

As part of its relentless push into electronic commerce, IBM released a series of server bundles for small and medium-sized businesses that will bring mainframe-style "fail-safe" technology to these customers.

The server bundles essentially consist of IBM's RS/6000 or AS/400 Unix servers running a scaled-down version of the clustering backup software from IBM's S/390 mainframe computers. Clustering allows a user to tie two or more servers together, offering customers so-called high availability, meaning that if a server suddenly quits, other servers in the cluster pick up the work.

Clustering is especially important in systems that need to be open to outsiders 24 hours a day. Clustering can also be used to distribute computing tasks for greater efficiency.

The solutions rolled out today limit customers to clustering Unix servers, but over the next year IBM will introduce technology that will allow users to tie Unix servers together with other computers running Windows NT.

"Electronic business is creating the need for high availability [computing] for companies of all sizes," said IBM's Bill Zeitler, general manager of server brand marketing. By pre-packaging the hardware and software necessary to create a high availability system, IBM has taken around "90 percent of the complexity" out of installing one of these systems for a customer.

While pitched at small and medium-sized businesses, the bundles aren't cheap. Complete solutions cost around $70,000 and come with two RS/6000 servers, IBM's HACMP clustering software, and certain support services. AS/400 servers are similarly priced.

The RS/6000 platform can support clusters of up to four servers, according to IBM. Up to eight AS/400 servers can be clustered together, the company said.

NT-Unix clustering will occur in stages. Later this year, IBM will release technology that will allow customers to manage Unix clusters and NT clusters from a central point. Approximately a year from now, IBM will move closer to showing increased application integration between Unix and NT clusters.