Sun Lights Up New Cluster Software

The network computer maker releases version 3.1 -- a High Availability aspect of its SunPlex environment -- on the path to N1, Orion and Solaris 10.

Sun Microsystems Tuesday said began shipping CDs of the latest version of its Clustering Software as a prelude to the launch of the company's biggest projects this year.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based network computer maker said it has reached the crucial version 3.1 of its software framework. A key component of the company's SunPlex environment, Sun Group Marketing Manager Jim Sangster says the new software is designed to deliver high-availability application services to the data center or enterprise.

"Our previous versions before Sun Cluster 3.0 were based on it being a software addition. What we have now is a solution integrated in the kernel itself," Sangster told "We've had various clustering items for quite sometime now. Previously, we have had a focus in the availability and the High Performance Technical Computing aspects of clustering such as our Grid software. This version is specifically designed for commercial-grade platforms like Oracle 9i or IBM DB2. With 3.1, we're moving specifically down the path of high performance."

Most notable is the addition of five new agents - HA IBM WebSphere MQ; HA IBM WebSphere MQ Integrator; HA SAMBA; HA DHCP; and third-party agent IBM DB2-HA. All of these agents support security hardening.

The software versioning framework also taps into the Solaris 9 Resource Manager (S9RM) platform for consolidation, resource control, IO assigned to users or groups of users, and to control off-site nodes and lets customers upgrade from Sun Cluster 3.1 to later releases without having to shut down the entire ring.

"For example, we can run one to eight nodes of Web server load balancing," Sangster said. "In the case of a fail over, you can fail the one, but the others keep running. In an old-world model, you have one server with a workload and a second one waiting for the first to fail. Now, you can have the workloads optimized on all nodes and at fail over they move to S9RM without having excess resources waiting around."

The Cluster Software is the latest piece of Sun's arsenal that it is getting a makeover as the company migrates to a quarterly software release model. But more significant for Sun is the place it holds in the major product releases due out this year: N1 and Orion.

"Provisioning is certainly a large part of version 3.1," Sangster said. "You're going to see more HA [high availability] aspects coming from Sun in the future. You'll see it the form of the databases that have started with it. You also see it in the newer application servers and some of the more traditional app servers."

The Cluster Software's pricing, while novel has also been tweaked for Sun's billing framework: Project Orion.

Instead of metering or bundling, the software takes very traditional approach of charging per physical server box ranging from $1,000 for one to as much as $100,000. Multiple domains are not counted. In most cases, Sangster expects licensees to commonly use it on big box servers with multiple processors.

That way, he says, the software can be provisioned to one server, big banks of blades or to a cluster without worrying about tracking down how much time was spent on each node.

Sangster said the improvements in Sun Cluster Software version 3.1 is also one of the first steps toward migrating a system to Sun's upcoming Solaris 10 release, which is due in the fourth quarter of next year. The first versions of the release are expected to let you build a volume to a petabyte and using partitioning run a file system on each of those volumes up

A handful of customers already have had the beta update in their hands and now that testing is finished are announcing support this month, such as French-owned video-on-demand firm Canal + and Japanese-owned CTC. Sangster said a major yet-to-be-named partner is also preparing a nod towards the new cluster software.

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