Compaq adds clustering software to Linux servers

The company has selected SteelEye Technology's software to help its high-end Linux servers catch up to those running Microsoft Windows, the company is set to announce Wednesday.

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Compaq Computer has selected SteelEye Technology's "clustering" software to help its high-end Linux servers catch up to those running Microsoft Windows, the company is set to announce Wednesday.

Clustering software lets one computer take over for another automatically if the primary machine fails. SteelEye's software extends this "failover" ability to include some higher-end Compaq storage devices as well, said Boris Geller, SteelEye's vice president of marketing.

Clustering is a key high-end software feature required before some customers entrust important tasks to Linux machines. Clustering has been available for years on Unix systems, Microsoft is gradually improving its offerings, and Linux companies such as Red Hat, Caldera Systems, Turbolinux and Mission Critical Linux are working to improve their own Linux clustering options.

Compaq, though, has its own NonStop clustering software product derived from the extensive high-end Unix, OpenVMS and Tandem computer lines. Eventually, Compaq will make this software available for Linux as well, said Judy Chavis, manager of Compaq's Linux Program Office.

The clustering deal with SteelEye certifies that software will run on Compaq's Intel-based ProLiant servers, Chavis said. In the future, Compaq will evaluate options for pre-installing the software or setting up ties with Compaq computer resellers to make the software a more standard option.

The announcement is one of a host that Compaq plans to make at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo trade show, which starts in New York on Wednesday. Compaq hasn't been as loud in pushing Linux as rival IBM has, but the company argues that its steady efforts have been successful in keeping Compaq top-ranked in Linux server market share.

IDC reported that Compaq has 27 percent market share, and Chavis said she hopes that figure will increase. Linux will help Compaq snatch away customers who otherwise would use equipment from Sun Microsystems, most of whose servers use Sparc chips and the Solaris operating system. "I hope to take some of the Solaris share, even on Sparc," Chavis said.

A total of about 300,000 Linux servers were shipped in the first three quarters of 2000, IDC said.

Compaq also plans to trumpet a Web site devoted to Linux and other open-source software, Chavis said. The software is based on VA Linux Systems' SourceForge software, itself an open-source project set up to host collaborative software projects.

The newest project on the site is a Linux addition Compaq donated that allows the use of "hot-plug PCI" devices. In other words, the software allows PCI devices such as network cards to be replaced without having to shut the server down.

The site also hosts software to let Linux computers set up secure connections to Microsoft computers using the point-to-point tunneling protocol.

SteelEye's clustering software originally was developed at computing stalwart NCR. The company sells versions for Windows NT, Linux and the Intel version of Solaris, with most current sales evenly split between Linux and Windows products, Geller said. SteelEye plans versions for Windows 2000 and Solaris on Sparc, he added.

The clustering software lets some servers take over for another within a few seconds, but heavy-duty databases take about a minute to hand over operations, he said.

Higher-level software such as Apache or Oracle must be able to take advantage of clustering before it works.

SteelEye's software costs $1,500 per computer on Linux, $2,500 per Windows computer and $5,000 per Solaris computer.