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Storage software maker lures users with option to move to low-cost servers

A startup takes on the Unix market with software it says reduces total cost of ownership as much as 50% by allowing users to replace high-end servers with low-cost Intel-based servers without losing functionality or efficiency.

PolyServe, Inc., a San Francisco-based provider of data center system software, announced Thursday software for corporate data centers that enables multiple Intel-based servers to read and write to the same files in a storage area network (SAN) and achieve the fault tolerance of expensive proprietary systems, such as Sun's Fire 6800.

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The new software is designed to allow users to use less expensive Intel servers, such as Dell's P-III Rack Servers –all while being managed as a unified system.

According to analysts, the ability to manage a massive database application as a single file, across multiple industry standard servers running different operating systems is the holy grail CIOs have been waiting for.

"Harnessing and managing multiple servers as a single pool of computing power is a giant step towards that goal," said Arun Taneja, senior analyst, Enterprise Storage Group, Milford, Mass.

Treating multiple servers as a unified logical pool of computing power gives corporations the ability to respond quickly to changing application needs, experts say.

According to the company, new servers and applications can be added to the pool using their software, Matrix Server. The software also gives customers the flexibility of re-purposing servers. For example, servers that might be used for processing credit card transactions during the day can be re-purposed within seconds to perform analytical number crunching at night.

PolyServe's Matrix Server will compete head on with Veritas SANPoint software.

Past attempts to use industry standard servers in mission-critical environments have been limited by three factors: the inability of multiple servers to concurrently read and write the same data; the difficulty of meeting availability requirements for mission-critical applications; and the complexity of managing large groups of servers.

Matrix Server is designed to address these limitations and facilitates a more efficient computing architecture that PolyServe calls "matrix computing."

"Matrix Server provides the first highly scalable, fully symmetric cluster file system available on Intel processors –a promise made by many, but delivered by no one, until now," said Mike Stankey, president and chief executive officer of PolyServe.

PolyServe Matrix Server software binds a cluster of Intel-based servers into a highly flexible centrally managed server farm. This new file system, which is fully integrated with PolyServe's proven high availability software, PolyServe Matrix HA, enables multiple Intel-based servers to read and write to the same files in a storage area network (SAN) and achieve the fault tolerance of expensive proprietary systems –all while being cost-effectively managed as a unified whole.

The SAN-based file system ensures that the failure of a single server or application does not affect access to data formerly owned by that server. Centralized management enables customers to install and maintain application configurations and files in a single file system where they can be shared by multiple servers. Databases, business applications or infrastructure components are installed once, configured and maintained in one place, and made available to many servers by pointing servers to the files on a SAN.

Matrix Server is specifically designed to integrate well with Oracle9i Real Application Clusters, Oracle's clustered database technology. Other enterprise applications supported by Matrix Server include general database fail over and maintenance, file serving, messaging, application servers and Web servers.

PolyServe Matrix Server is now available on Linux and will be released on the Microsoft Windows platform in the first quarter of 2003.

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