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Marathon Commits to Shipping Fault-Tolerant W2K Systems in May

Fault-tolerant Windows server vendor Marathon Technologies will ship a Windows 2000 version of its product May 1, a company official said today.

Marathon has been selling Windows NT Server versions of its high availability systems for several years and has about 1,600 of the unique four-server configurations on the market.

The May 1 release will coincide with shipments of a packaged Windows 2000/Exchange 2000 solution Marathon will be announcing later this month.

Craig Jon Anderson, Marathon’s vice president for marketing, says the company will be taking its Windows 2000 kits and the Exchange 2000 solution product into beta testing in mid-February.

If Marathon meets its release schedule, it will have ported its solution to Windows 2000 a little over 14 months after Microsoft released the OS. While Marathon has enjoyed a relative monopoly in the fault-tolerant systems space in Windows NT, mainly competing only against clustered systems, the Massachusetts-based company is feeling some heat in the Windows 2000 market. Stratus Computer is also porting its fault-tolerance expertise from other platforms to Windows 2000, although development difficulties have caused Stratus to slip from its planned September 2000 entry in the Windows market.

With the Windows 2000 port, Marathon will overcome one of the major competitive knocks against it. Other criticisms include scalability, Marathon just achieved two-processor SMP capability in 2000, and cost, although Marathon’s Anderson says Marathon systems compare favorably in cost compared with the clustered systems they generally compete against.

Marketing managers at both Marathon and Stratus have identified Exchange servers as an important beachhead for their fault-tolerant computing architectures.

“That area is the largest single area where across all vertical and single industries, people are coming to the conclusion that they just don’t want to have to deal with downtime of any sort,” Marathon’s Anderson says.

Marathon’s approach to Exchange, called Marathon Exchange Servers, will encompass both Windows NT 4.0 Server/Exchange Server 5.5 and Windows 2000 Server/Exchange 2000 Server. A Windows NT/Exchange 5.5 solution will go into general release on March 1, with the Windows 2000/Exchange 2000 version becoming available May 1.

The Exchange solutions will come in workgroup versions, departmental versions, and enterprise versions. “This is going to be instant Exchange. No fail e-mail. We really want to deliver something that’s almost appliance-like in character,” Anderson says.

Marathon’s general approach is to run standard Windows NT 4.0 Server on four servers. Two of the servers function as “compute elements” that process the same commands in lockstep with one another. The compute element connect to two “I/O processor” servers that provide data from disk or from the network. The I/O processors are asynchronous to prevent rare conditions that might cause a device driver to fail from occurring in both systems.

All that redundancy means Marathon guarantees that individual transactions will get processed in its systems even if one of the four servers goes down, the definition of fault tolerance. Highly available clustered systems can’t match that. If a server running Microsoft Cluster Service goes down, all the transactions it had in progress are lost and the application is down until the other server takes over and restarts the application. – Scott Bekker

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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