Sybase cluster product a “boon” to mid-sized IT shops

Complex IT projects needn’t seem so formidable any more to mid-sized companies.

Sybase says its new cluster software product – dubbed Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) Cluster Edition – takes the pain out of server cluster management.

Server cluster software is designed to allow many servers to work together as a single unit, providing failover and increased application availability.

Dublin, Calif.-based Sybase Inc. recently announced that its new product is available for purchase.

The database management software maker said ASE Cluster Edition would help IT departments strapped by exponential data growth and increased service demand.

Many IT shops – especially in mid-sized companies – have maxed out their computing power, notes Amit Satoor, senior group product manager, ASE group at Sybase.

Some of them with limited IT resources “also have to service worldwide operations.”

Such mid-range companies would be most interested in Sybase’s new offering, says William Terrill, senior research analyst at London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

This product will appeal to those who have reached the limit with one or two servers and don’t have the expertise to run one or two clusters,” he says.

Clustering – running applications across multiple servers simultaneously – is not a new concept. But doing so required an IT staff to hook up load-balancing hardware and manage databases through operating system tie-ins.

ASE Cluster Edition makes cluster management simple, Terrill says. “It’s no longer a pain in the neck.”  

In a Web cast product demo, a monitoring window diplayed ASE instances with graphical boxes, each displaying online status and number of connections.

Workloads were shifted around using mouse clicks and drags.

When one server fails, another one picks up the workload within seconds and there is little performance drop.

The system works, as demonstrated, when dealing with read-only requests that don’t require confirmation, Satoor explains.

“In the demo, most applications were automatic,” he says.

Batch commands that require write operations and dedicated server attention could see more lag compared to others, he adds. “Those are not really frequent.”

ASE Cluster Edition runs on Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 4 and 6. It’s also compatible with SuSE Linus version 9 and 10 and 64-bit Solaris Sparc version 8, 9 and 10.

One cluster can support up to 32 ASE server instances. A shared disc using resources from all instances is presented as a single server to applications that connect to it, according to the Web cast.

Database administrators, it said, could create the clusters from two or more computers on the network. Then they can assign workloads or applications to different clusters – virtualizing workload across multiple computers.

Using a shared disc space allows for continued service from a network even if there’s a server crash, Sybase’s Satoor explains.

“While [technicians] are figuring the problem out, at least the service is up and running,” he says.

Administrators use the application’s Virtual Resource Manager to assign physical resources to different clusters. They’re also able to use that function to plan for server maintenance, according to the Web cast.

Users define a time window for maintenance, and the cluster will move all the data off the server before its deadline. When it comes back up, the data will migrate back.

Companies that are already using clusters set up with a load-balancing system probably won’t need to switch to Sybase’s new product, Info-Tech’s Terrill says. It can is also more focused on database clustering.

“This may not be the best way to go, especially if you’re clustering lots of different applications at the same time,” he says. “It makes sure you get the best performance out of a database management system.”

And Sybase doesn’t face much competition in wooing customers who want to start clustering, Terrill adds.

They are beating Microsoft to the punch – the cluster management feature in Microsoft Server 2008 – won’t be available until later this year.

ASE Cluster edition had 12 companies participate in a product preview – including six financial companies and four communications companies.

The product licenses for US $60,000 per box for the full database system, Satoor says. ASE customers who have certain versions of build 12 and 15 can upgrade for a lesser cost.

Sybase is celebrating their new product with a launch party March 12 at the Harvard Club in New York City. 

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Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

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