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Stratus ships VMware Foundation in ftServers for free

Stratus Technologies' ftServers now ship with VMware Foundation Edition for free. These fault-tolerant systems offer virtualization users high availability without VMware HA.

Most vendors embed the free VMware ESXi hypervisor in their servers, but Stratus Technologies now ships the pricier VMware Infrastructure 3 Foundation Edition with its ftServers -- and it's eating the cost.

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VMware Infrastructure (VI3) Foundation Edition includes the ESX 3i hypervisor, Virtual Machine File System, Virtual SMP, VMware Consolidated Backup, Update Manager and VC agent, and it typically costs $995 per two-socket systems. Stratus ftServer purchasers can now get Foundation Edition shipped with their new systems for free, although they have to buy support packages. Those cost $545 for Gold support and $645 for Platinum.

Stratus said its ftServers are made with redundant CPUs and memory units, so if one component fails or goes offline, the system continues to operate normally. The company's 99.999% uptime guarantee is compelling to server virtualization users who essentially put all their eggs in one basket, because if a physical server host supporting 25 virtual machines (VMs) fails, all the guest VMs on it go down as well.

The FAA takes on virtualization
VMware has yet to release its fault-tolerance software, although it's due out sometime this year. That makes redundant hardware a good option for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which is about to try virtualization for the first time using VMware on ftServers.

The FAA has used fault-tolerant servers (W Series 6600 systems) from Maynard, Mass.-based Stratus for several years because they guarantee constant uptime. The FAA invested in four 6210 ftServers; two for its operation facilities in Atlanta and Salt Lake City and two for its testing and development environments, FAA computer specialist Jim McNeill said.

The FAA plans to deploy VMware ESX on two of the 6210 ftServers using scalable SAN. One will virtualize data flow to the non-NAS Aeronautical Fixed Telecommunication Network (AFTN), which is a worldwide system to exchange messages and data. The second server will support software the FAA deploys nationally, McNeill said.

The FAA will virtualize to increase server resources and ease software management tasks, McNeill said.

"Our Stratus servers are very robust, but we weren't utilizing them enough," he said. "Virtualization will allow us to put six to seven VMs on a single hardware platform. It is better for economies of scale, plus the software upgrades are easier with snapshots, and it will give us disaster recovery features for our operations environment."

Today, the FAA ships new software to be deployed out to the designated field offices. With VMware, "we will be able to build it here and export the VM to the field with just three or four mouse clicks," McNeill said. "We are prototyping all of this stuff now, checking out all the features and playing with things to find the most efficiencies."

McNeill also considered using Microsoft's Hyper-V, but he said VMware has a better offering, and he didn't want to have to use the Windows operating system. The FAA's existing network management utilities also support VMware will allow the administration to use Linux, he said.

Why not ESXi?
Stratus chose to ship with Foundation Edition instead of with the free ESXi version shipped by other server vendors because it is a more robust offering and because it does not include High Availability (HA), which isn't necessary with ftServers -- and is even "a step backwards," said Denny Lane, Stratus' director of product management and marketing.

Today, users who deploy VMware Infrastructure on standard x86 servers and want HA need to buy VI Standard Edition for $2,995 per two-socket server. For the highest level of features, these users buy VI Enterprise Edition, which includes HA and Distributed Resource Scheduler, for $5,750 per two-socket server. VMware has not yet announced the cost of its upcoming fault-tolerance software.

The cost of one of Stratus' fully redundant ftServers is similar to that of an entire x86 server cluster, which is priced at $10,000-plus.

That said, one ftServer offers the redundancy of a small cluster without the extra management and licensing costs. For example, with the Stratus ftServer running VMware Foundation, there is no need for a vCenter Server license. (VMware includes a Web-based GUI and a single-server management console at no charge.) And since redundant servers are not required, neither are the redundant applications, OSes or VMware ESX licenses.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer. And check out our Server Virtualization blog.

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