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Unlimited Linux Web server cluster on tap

Pacific Hi-Tech will preview a new version of its Linux distribution that lets system operators tie together as many Linux machines as they want.

Pacific Hi-Tech will next week preview a new version of its Linux distribution that lets system operators tie together as many Linux machines as they want in order to achieve faster and more reliable Web servers.

Pacific Hi-Tech will demonstrate the Web server cluster product at the upcoming LinuxWorld Expo, and the company plans to begin selling the software at the end of May, according to chief executive Cliff Miller.

The Web server from product will join two new TurboLinux versions, Server Edition and Enterprise Server Editions. All three offerings are part of Pacific Hi-Tech's effort to convert its dominance of the Japanese Linux market into sales in North America.

When the software is installed, a dominant Web server reacts to a request from a Web surfer by alternately fulfilling the request itself, serving the page to the browser, or passing the request along to another machine, Miller said.

The system offers a relatively cheap way for companies to keep up with increasing demand for their Web pages, Miller said. More significantly, it offers fault tolerance that makes sure people can read Web pages even if a server goes down. If the dominant Web server fails, another server in the cluster will take over the lead position automatically.

In addition, servers in the cluster don't need to be physically nearby.

The Web cluster software is expected to cost less than $1,000 per machine, Miller said.

While Linux, a Unix-like operating system, can be downloaded for free, Pacific Hi-Tech and other companies such as Red Hat, Caldera Systems, and SuSe make money selling the Linux operating system bundled with other Linux software and some support.

Eyeing the lucrative business market, those Linux distributors also are offering increasingly robust Linux support, including 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week plans. However, those companies still are nowhere near being able to provide the level of worldwide support big companies will demand before they put essential software such as accounts receivable or order entry on Linux servers, Gartner Group analyst Tom Henkel noted.