Clustering software for FreeBSD targets Web apps –

Amid a burst of new clustering announcements comes word of new failover safeguard software with entry-level pricing that is easy on IT's wallets. That news is welcome to the growing band of managers that must ensure 24 x 7 operation of their web sites.

Notable among announcements is word that Berkeley, California-based PolyServe has forged an agreement with FreeBSD, Inc. to ship its UnderStudy distributed server clustering software with all new versions of FreeBSD 4.0, the open-sourced, BSD UNIX operating system for PC-compatible computers.

The two firms will ship an evaluation copy of the software with every copy of FreeBSD. "We've found the best way for people to understand our product is to actually try it," says company President Vince Schiavo. PolyServe already offers versions of its software for most popular versions of Linux, as well as Windows NT and Solaris.

Vendors of various sizes are now racing to support a spike in demand for failover services driven by e-commerce applications. Recent announcements have included new clustering capabilities for Santa Cruz Operation's (SCO) UnixWare, Novell's Netware and Microsoft's Windows NT. The fact is that once-arcane multiprocessor solutions are becoming far more commonplace.

Originally designed for web server failover applications, PolyServe's UnderStudy performs IP service monitoring, failure detection and failure to an alternate host. The software is designed as a lower cost alternative to hardware-based clustering packages that add extensive load balancing and policy-setting capabilities UnderStudy doesn't offer, but that can cost significantly more.

"Typical users are smaller companies which have web sites that are very important to them, but don't have the kind of bucks needed to go out and buy two S5 boxes for $40,000," notes Schiavo. In contrast, the FreeBSD version of Understudy will sell for $499. Linux versions sell for the same price, while the NT version costs $899 and the Solaris version sells for $1199.

Applications are not limited to the Web, however. "HTTP is what most people use it for, admits Schiavo, "but you can also monitor FTP, SMTP or put it in any TCP port you want to monitor." As an example, Pacific Bell recently bought multiple copies to put in offices with DNS servers to support high availability and failover to an alternate host. Other users include NTT Communications in Tokyo, which recently signed a large deal with PolyServe to use UnderStudy with its own ProGuard middleware.

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