Microsoft, Novell debate clustering functionality

Microsoft, Novell debate clustering functionality

By Michael Cheek

GCN Staff

By building greater clustering capability into two of the four future Windows 2000 operating system versions, Microsoft Corp. wants to make its failover technology more approachable. But Novell Inc. officials say Win 2000 won't approach the clustering functionality available in NetWare 5.x.

Microsoft Application Center can manage server clusters and bring new servers online on the fly. The product, to be released this year, will streamline setup of server clusters, said Tod Nielsen, vice president for developer marketing.

Using a series of wizards, administrators can set up clustering farms under a scale-out rather than a scale-up approach. Instead of replacing servers, Nielsen said, they can shift part of the load over to newer servers that can handle more capacity.

At some point, all the endless hardware is going to need more office space, said Brian Faustyn, director of competitive strategy for Novell. The answer is not to add more machines, he said, because that just increases the administrative nightmare.

Windows 2000 Advanced Server natively supports two-node clustering. If one server fails, the other will take over the workload, said Craig Beilinson, lead product manager for Win 2000.

When Windows 2000 Datacenter Server arrives this summer, it will support four-node clustering by distributing processes among four servers in a cluster, Beilinson said. For example, one server could handle e-mail, another database management, another applications and the fourth one the Web. If the database server failed, the other three could pick up its workload.

NetWare already supports clusters of up to eight nodes, Faustyn said. NetWare allows consolidation to do more on fewer servers, he said, whereas Microsoft's philosophy isn't going to scale.

Microsoft representatives, however, demonstrated on-the-fly scaling in action, adding a fifth server to a cluster of four without going offline. AppCenter identified the server when it was plugged into the switch and uploaded the appropriate software.

AppCenter moved the entire application image to the new machine, not just files but components, database connections, registry settings and security certificates.

The fifth server started and reduced the load on the other servers. Under Win 2000, capacity can grow with the addition of industry-standard hardware, Faustyn said.

Both Win 2000 high-end server versions will do network load balancing, but Datacenter Server also has a Process Control Manager that lets the administrator specify how much processor time to dedicate to specific tasks, Beilinson said.

AppCenter's release date is not set, but Nielsen said he expects all the BackOffice server products, including Internet Information Server, SQL Server and Exchange Server, to support clustering and AppCenter.

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