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Intel, Stratus woo financial customers

The companies sign a deal geared toward convincing financial-services companies to drop their Unix servers in favor of Stratus servers that use Intel chips and Microsoft Windows.

Intel and Stratus Technologies have signed a deal geared toward convincing financial-services companies to drop their Unix servers in favor of Stratus servers that use Intel chips and Microsoft Windows.

Stratus builds crash-resistant servers using carefully tested software and "redundant components"--pairs of components that allow one to be used as a backup should the other fail. The servers are designed for customers that can't afford to have systems go down, such as 911 emergency call centers or banks.

Stratus has traditionally used Hewlett-Packard's PA-RISC chips, but the company is banking on a new line of servers that uses Intel chips and Windows. It argues that the less-expensive Intel and Microsoft technologies are now good enough to be used in such crash-resistant servers, making them more affordable and letting Stratus sell to a larger base of customers.

Financial-services companies engaged in activities such as stock trades and foreign currency exchange have a high demand for servers, and Sun Microsystems has done booming business selling them its Unix machines. With their relatively low-priced setups, Intel and Stratus want to steal away as many of those customers as possible.

Intel and Stratus said Monday that they will try to get financial-software companies to develop their programs for the Stratus systems, and they'll also promote the servers at trade shows and seminars and work on other joint marketing efforts.

Initially, a dedicated staff of 14, augmented by numerous others from Intel's staff of hundreds, will work on the program, said David Flawn, vice president of industry marketing and business development at Stratus. Depending on its success, the program may be extended at the end of next June, he said.

The partnership is tackling two specific processes that financial-services companies deal with. Often, each process relies on a hodgepodge of different servers. Stratus believes a simpler collection of its own machines would be more effective.

The first procedure is "straight-through processing," which ties together the various servers used in financial trading tasks such as placing orders, routing them, and clearing them or correcting them. The second is "multichannel delivery" of financial services to several computing devices, such as ATMs, personal computers or smart phones, Flawn said.

Compaq Computer invested in Stratus in January. Stratus has embarked on a plan to let other companies, such as NEC, use its technology in their own servers.