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IBM, Microsoft Team On NT Clusters

Microsoft's TechEd '99 began today with a demonstration by IBM of eight servers running in a single Windows NT cluster, the most to date.

Code-named "Cornhusker," the IBM clustering technology is compatible with Microsoft Cluster Services, according to officials from both companies, and is scheduled to ship for Windows NT Server 4.0 Enterprise Edition this summer. It will also provide up to eight-server clustering on Windows 2000 Advanced Server--which will come with its own two-server clustering--when the operating system ships late this year.

But there's a catch. Cornhusker initially will be certified to run only on IBM's Netfinity line of NT servers, and it won't provide automatic load balancing--although administrators can designate that servers fail over to one unit running in "hot standby."

"It sounds awesome," says Tanveer Khan, VP of technology at Answer Financial Inc., an insurance company in Canoga Park, Calif., that uses clustered systems running under Enterprise Edition to support its Web site. But Answer Financial has a contract with Hewlett-Packard to supply its servers and isn't likely to switch to Netfinity servers to get the added clustering capabilities, Khan says.

That may not be the case for other companies. "Our research shows an increasing number of enterprise customers are not only embracing NT-based clustering but are being constrained by two-node limits," says Peter Kastner, research director and executive VP at the Aberdeen Group. "Early availability of a cluster extender will be warmly received by many critical application operators."

Microsoft also showed off Datacenter Server's Process Control, created by Sequent Computer Systems Inc., which lets administrators easily allocate computer resources to particular tasks. Next week, Microsoft officials will unveil the immediate availability of Microsoft Data Engine, a SQL Server 7.0-compatible data engine for use with Visual Studio 6.0 Professional or Enterprise editions. It will be available for free downloading at msdn.microsoft.com/vstudio/msde.

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