In a live demonstration, a Microsoft executive used two servers to show that a set of applications running on one server could be moved to a second active server if the primary box fails. The company is hoping administrators will use this capability to gain availability and for servicing hardware offline.
The initial version of the Wolfpack software clustering extensions for Windows NT is scheduled to become available in two node configurations early next year for a specific number of platforms. Later in the year as the company certifies systems vendors, other companies, such as Stratus Computer plan to offer the Microsoft clustering capability. By 1998, Microsoft hopes to have developed a version of Wolfpack that can handle multiple servers--up to 16 nodes--running distributed applications tied together in a single cluster.
The beta period will include 150 sites running configurations from the six companies that have been core partners to Microsoft in the development effort. Those companies are Compaq Computer, Tandem Computers, NCR, Hewlett-Packard, Digital Equipment, and the most recent addition, IBM.
IBM also has a competing set of clustering technology, known as "Phoenix," but that set of extensions will run on top of the Wolfpack software, according to Mark Wood, product manager for Wolfpack in Microsoft's business systems division.
A survey of administrators completed by Microsoft showed that 25 percent of respondents would implement Wolfpack for database applications such as Oracle Parallel Server. The second highest percentage was for custom business applications such as those used in sales or human resources.
"It makes sense: If I can put together two servers and immediately gain availability and manageability, why not?" asked Wood.
Wolfpack software will be offered as a service pack for Windows NT 4.0. When Windows NT 5.0 rolls out (beta due in the second half of 1998), the Wolfpack Cluster Administrator management interface will be integrated into "Slate," the code name for the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), a management component for the operating system.
Computer Associates has already announced its intentions to develop a version of its Unicenter TNG systems management tool that is Wolfpack-aware. Other systems and network management vendors are expected integrate management of clusters in their products as well.
A glaring omission in the latest news on Wolfpack is how Microsoft will package the technology as a product and how much it will cost. Wood refused to comment on those specifics, saying the company would divulge that information closer to the release of Wolfpack.