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New Sun software aims to unite servers

The software giant on Tuesday will introduce new software that will allow servers to be joined into groups, but already its competitors are declaring their own victory in the "clustering" market.

Sun Microsystems on Tuesday will introduce new software that will allow servers to be joined into groups that mean overall higher reliability and performance, but already its competitors are declaring their own victory in the "clustering" market.

As reported, chief operating officer Ed Zander and other Sun executives will unveil SunCluster 3.0 and Sun Management Center 3.0 at an event at Sun's Santa Clara, Calif., site--the company's future headquarters. The software is useful for complicated, high-end server centers when an administrator wants to manage computing tasks without worrying about the servers they run on, Sun said.

Sun successfully passed IBM and Hewlett-Packard to rise to the top of the heap of the Unix server market. However, when it comes to clustering software, HP and IBM say they have Sun on the run.

HP said in a statement that Sun has been advocating single powerful systems because its clustering software was inferior, but now that Sun has been grappling with memory problems that cause unexpected server crashes, Sun is changing its tune. And in its response, IBM said it's been offering clustering software since 1993 that can encompass many more servers.

Sun acknowledges that its previous SunCluster 2.2 software was short of the mark and that the 3.0 version was delayed by months. But the company argues that its new software, along with accompanying services, will be worth the wait for customers.

Sun also has a strong incentive to make sure the product works: The company said it expects the software to increase Sun server sales, resulting in several hundred millions of dollars of software revenue in the next three years.

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Keynote on Sun Microsystems' service launch
Ed Zander, COO, Sun Microsystems
Clustering software is a critical part of the high-end server market. From a technological point of view, it enables Unix servers and potentially even Windows servers to come closer to the reliability of mainframe computers, a key requirement for winning high-end customers.

From a financial point of view, clustering software means a company such as Sun can sell more expensive systems and support services. Finally, selling high-end systems is a foot in the door that often leads to future server sales.

Sun's new cluster software shares jobs among as many as eight nodes in a cluster. HP counters that its MC/ServiceGuard software can accommodate 16 nodes, and IBM boasts of harnessing 32.

Sun argues that its cluster software also has a component for addressing a different type of cluster--the large numbers of independent computers such as Web servers or file servers all doing the same thing in parallel. Sun's software allows administrators to control groups of similar servers, making it easier to perform tasks such as installing software updates.

In addition, Management Center 3.0 comes with new features, including better alarms, a Web interface to the software and online hardware checking.