Cassatt to offer clustering software for complex apps

Cassatt to offer clustering software for complex apps

Cassatt Corp. will introduce software this spring that will let agencies pool the processing power of their servers to run complex applications, according to a recent company announcement.

'We're working on IT operations automation,' said Mark Forman, executive vice president of the San Jose, Calif.-based company. By pooling processing power and other server-based resources, agencies can reduce personnel costs, use their equipment better and make their systems more agile, he said.

'As you look across [an agency], you see dozens of applications, each running on its own box,' Forman said. 'You couldn't take advantage of the lower utilization by making that capacity available. So you have excess capacity, excess operating costs and support people.'

Cassatt's software, called Collage, controls a collection of servers by using a small number of dedicated servers to act as administrative nodes. The administrative nodes start a program and then hand it off to one or more of the servers, following usage policy rules established by the agency.

'Each computer doesn't have its own version of the software. It boots off a single version,' Forman said.

Version 2 of Collage, now available, offers the ability to manage thousands of identical servers. The next version of the software, due to be released in early 2005, will be able to host applications that require more than one program to operate.

The technology borrows some ideas from Beowulf clustering software first developed by NASA, said Steve Levine, vice president of corporate marketing for Cassatt. A low-cost alternative to supercomputers and symmetric multiprocessing machines, Beowulf clusters network commodity servers together to tackle big jobs.

The downside of to using basic Beowulf clusters is that they require a lot of configuration to run or modify, Levine said. Cassatt's software automates many of the provisioning and management tasks. Other cluster approaches, such as OpenMosix and OpenSSI, require that the programs they run be recompiled so they work in a distributed memory architecture.

Collage automatically recognizes when new servers are added to the network, according to the company. The applications do not need to be modified to run in this environment, nor do the servers' operating systems. The software can also confine a number of applications running to one server, to save resources.

One early Cassatt customer is the Defense Department. DoD's Virginia Modeling Analysis and Simulation Center, located at Old Dominion University, in Norfolk, Va., uses the software for modeling efforts.

Version 3 of Collage will require servers that have at least 650-MHz processors (one to four processors per node), 256M of RAM, two Gigabit Ethernet ports (three ports for the control nodes) as well as remote power controllers. The network must run Gigabit Ethernet switches in a virtual LAN topology.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.


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