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Novell demos Wolf Mountain cluster

In the race to support clusters of high-end servers, Novell rolls out its Wolf Mountain clustering technologies at its BrainShare '97 conference.

SALT LAKE CITY--Another technology conference, another demonstration of clustered server systems.

In the race to support clusters of high-end servers, network operating system and server vendors have been barraging IS managers with new technologies in the past few months. Today, Novell (NOVL) rolled out its highly anticipated Wolf Mountain clustering technologies in a demonstration at the company's annual BrainShare '97 user conference.

Novell executives can claim to lead in the Intel-based clustering race with its SFT III package and third-party support from Vinca, both of which offer varying degrees of failover capability from one server to another when a primary system fails.

Microsoft (MSFT) is putting the final touches on its Wolfpack initiative, which reportedly could debut in May with the general release of APIs for phase one of the software package, which also addresses failover capabilities.

Novell's Wolf Mountain demonstration featured a distributed cluster of 12 Pentium Pro-based systems containing 4 processors each. The demonstration featured redirection of a server's resources when a Novell employee pulled the plug on a particular server and use of Oracle's Parallel Server to offer a single system image.

The technology is bold, but the delivery date is still fuzzy.

Novell executives said they debated whether to demonstrate the technology at this early date since there is still work to do before the software can be rolled into the company's IntranetWare operating system platform. "We're showing you some of the things we're doing," said Vic Langford, Novell's senior vice president of Internet strategies. "We're not talking about the schedule."

Microsoft has said it plans to deliver phase two of Wolfpack, which covers distributed clusters of up to 16 nodes, sometime next year. The software giant has faced delays in delivering Wolfpack on time, a point Novell representatives were quick to pounce on.

As previously reported by CNET, Wolf Mountain is comprised of a Clustering Interconnect Protocol (CICP) and a Unified File Object Directory (UFOD). The protocol allows for multiple interconnects, such as Ethernet, Tandem Computers' ServerNet, or ATM (asynchronous transfer mode, to be used to connect multiple servers together, potentially across a large geographic area. The UFOD allows a file system to be synchronized in a clustered environment and interoperate with clustered storage systems.

Novell trotted out partners who have aided the Wolf Mountain effort, including Justin Rattner, director of Intel's server architecture lab and Intel fellow. "Novell has the opportunity to define server clusters like the company defined volume servers with NetWare," observed Rattner.

Wolf Mountain clustering technologies will be released in 32-bit and 64-bit versions so it can take advantage of the forthcoming Merced 64-bit microprocessor from Intel due by 1999.

Digital Equipment and IBM pioneered clustering technologies in the 1980s. Others, such as Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard, are also working of various degrees of clustering.