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Vendors to pitch NT clustering software

Tandem, NCR, Oracle, and other vendors will make NT clustering announcements before Microsoft outlines its own strategy.

A handful of software makers are readying Windows NT clustering announcements for next week, even before Microsoft (MSFT) details its own Windows NT clustering strategy.

Tandem Computers (TDM), NCR (NCR), and Oracle (ORCL) will announce high-end clustering software and applications next week designed to make Windows NT-based systems tough enough to replace Unix hardware costing thousands of dollars more.

Tandem, a company better known for its high-end Unix servers and clusters, will next week announce Windows NT-based clustering software that extends support for clustered NT systems well beyond the four-system limit of Microsoft's Wolfpack technology.

At next week's DBExpo trade show in San Francisco, Tandem will announce a new version of its ServerWare database, transaction processing, and messaging software package designed to run on clusters of Windows NT-based servers, according to sources. The software will work with any Intel-based server, sources said.

The company will demonstrate a cluster of 64 processors running on Windows NT, along with a 2-terabyte database running on the clustered system.

The new ServerWare technology is expected to greatly exceed the capabilities of NT clustering software from other vendors.

NCR is also expected to demo high-end clustering software running on Windows NT, along with a new NT version of its Top End transaction processing software, sources familiar with the company's plans said.

In addition, Oracle will announce next week two new versions of its database software that support clustering of Windows NT-based servers.

Oracle Parallel Server for Windows NT and Oracle Fail Safe are designed to work with Microsoft's Wolfpack NT-based clustering software, set to debut on May 20.

Parallel Server will support up to four clustered NT servers in its initial release, and up to 16 systems by year's end, said David Appelbaum, senior director of technology programs at Oracle. No pricing has been announced.

Fail Safe allows an NT-based server to switch over to a second server in the case of server failure. It will be available at no charge to existing Oracle database licensees as a software patch and will be bundled with Oracle7 version 7.3.3, according to Appelbaum.

Analysts said the clustering tools make commodity Intel-based hardware running NT capable of replacing much more expensive Unix systems for the first time. "This clustering technology give users some very capable tools that lets them focus on building business applications, not assembling hardware with huge price tags," said Ed Schaider, an analyst with The Standish Group. "These systems will eventually replace the high-end symmetric multiprocessing stuff."

NT-based clusters offer huge processing power to rival the most advanced Unix-based systems at a fraction of the price. A four-node NT cluster will cost around $60,000, Schaider estimates. That compares with $100,000 to $150,000 for a single SMP system.