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Red Hat unveils Linux "clustering" software for servers

The product, designed for the alternative operating system, enables computers to share work or take over from each other if one fails.

Red Hat has released "clustering" software that enables computers to share work or take over from each other if one fails.

The Durham, N.C., seller of Linux software and services today released the Red Hat High Availability Server today for $1,995. The product ties together Red Hat's version of the Linux operating system and Red Hat's Piranha clustering software.

Clustering software is a key part of high-end operating systems, and several companies are moving to incorporate it into Linux. Enabling clustering in operating systems is difficult, though, as exhibited by the slower-than-expected arrival of clustering in Microsoft's Windows and Sun Microsystems' Solaris.

Red Hat, generally agreed to be the leading seller of Linux, isn't alone in trying to make the operating system better for high-end servers. Competitor TurboLinux has designs on clustering software. Mission Critical Linux recently snagged $20 million to advance its effort to bring clustering to Linux. And Steeleye Technology has just released a new version of its $2,995 LifeKeeper clustering software, originally developed at AT&T and NCR.

As is customary with Red Hat, the software is open source, meaning it can be downloaded and modified for free. The $1,995 version, however, offers automated setup, detailed manuals, a more hacker-proof default installation, and a year of technical support, said spokeswoman Becky Mananich.

In April, a security company identified a vulnerability with the Piranha software that under some circumstances allowed users to gain unauthorized privileges or damage files on a computer. Red Hat says it has fixed the problem.

Red Hat's software can be configured either for "failover" or "load-balancing." In the first case, the software uses two servers, each of which can take over for the other in the event of failure. In the second, a pair of servers assigns jobs such as serving up Web pages to a collection of as many other servers as desired.