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Marathon Rolling Out New Fault-Tolerant Setup

Marathon Technologies is back -- out of bankruptcy and up to speed with support for Windows Server 2003 in its fault-tolerant software systems that use industry-standard hardware.

Marathon has advocated fault-tolerance using industry-standard hardware and vanilla versions of Windows since 1997. In the old days, the kit was fairly complex, requiring four low-end, Intel-based server boxes and four licensed copies of Windows NT 4.0 Server in addition to the Marathon fault-tolerance software.

At the end of this month, Marathon will be shipping Marathon FTvirtual Server Version 6.0, which is substantially simpler. The Marathon fault-tolerant package now requires just two hyper-threaded, uni-processor servers and three licensed copies of Windows.

Marathon emerged from bankruptcy protection at the beginning of this year, about the same time that the company rolled out a Windows 2000-based version of the new architecture.

"We had two main focuses for this release," says Linda Mentzer, Marathon's vice president of marketing. "Getting the price point down and supporting Windows Server 2003."

Because of engineering done within Windows Server 2003 on a feature called memory mirroring, support for the newer version of the operating system means memory resynchronization is quicker. In the worst case, under Windows 2000, resynchronization could take up to 20 seconds. Now worst case resynchronization is 2 seconds, according to Mentzer. The difference is substantial for a product category that defines success as 99.999 percent or better availability.

On the pricing side, Marathon is enabling much lower entry-level prices. With the version that rolled out to the channel in December, Marathon was suggesting a retail price slightly above $20,000. In March, IBM resellers in Japan began offering the full package (Marathon software, two servers and three Windows licenses) for $15,000.

The FTvirtual Server 6.0, however, will start even lower at less than $10,000 for a complete system, Mentzer says. Marathon executives hope the Windows Server 2003 support and an entry-level price that is comparable to or even lower than base Wolfpack cluster configurations, which are not fault-tolerant, will spur demand. Already, the Windows 2000 version that's been shipping for half a year is doing well for the Massachusetts-based firm. Mentzer says Marathon has sold more than 200 licenses in six months. By comparison, the company sold about 2,000 licenses in its first six years in business.

Marathon's next step for the product line is disaster tolerance functionality to be added in the fourth quarter. A 6.1 release is slated to include functionality allowing the two physical servers to be separated by up to 100 miles over a routable network. The company previously relied on a partnership with NSI to separate its servers, but Marathon is developing the new technology on its own.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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