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Senior Editor

Server cluster update

Apr 26, 20042 mins
Data Center

* A look at the developing trend of clustering servers

This week we look at a trend that has been developing slowly over the past couple years. Companies are looking at ways to cluster smaller, low-end servers to achieve performance and reliability that is equal to or better than expensive, high-end boxes.

Our author ( notes that clustering servers is nothing new. For years, mainframes have been strung together in what are called Parallel Sysplex Clusters to enable workloads to be shared across all available resources. Unix systems also provide clustering capabilities with vendors providing proprietary software, such as Sun’s Sun Cluster and IBM’s high availability cluster multiprocessing [HACMP] technology.

And systems vendors and software makers are pushing the trend. Last year, for example, Dell and Oracle unveiled their effort to push clusters of low-cost standards-based systems to provide customers with processing power previously only available on expensive, high-end machines. Finding applications that can run in such distributed environments is one hurdle users face, but software vendors are beginning to introduce offerings. Oracle’s 9i RAC, for example, was designed specifically to run on clustered servers. Analysts say business customers can expect more applications to follow.

An IDC study of 325 IT managers running clusters found that about 80% of Windows and Unix clusters are being deployed in high availability configurations. The move toward running workload balancing clusters, such as the one Amit deployed, is increasing, however, especially in the Linux world, where about 80% of those clusters are focused on resource sharing.

Part of the reason for the shift is that customers, forced to do more with less in recent years, have begun buying more low end servers, which at the same time have become more powerful, analysts say. While server revenue has dragged in the midrange and high end during the past few years, server sales on the low-end servers priced below $25,000 continued to grow throughout the downturn, according to IDC.

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