Vinca Adds Application Failover Support
With development of Microsoft Corp.’s Cluster Server product stalled until the release of Windows 2000, third-party vendors continue to extend Windows NT 4.0 clustering tools. Vinca Corp. (www.vinca.com) recently rolled out an upgrade to its Co-StandbyServer product, a Windows NT 4.0 clustering solution. The new release includes performance enhancements and new application failover support.
With the 4.1 release of Co-StandbyServer, Vinca is trying to transition its product from a general-purpose replication technology to a system that can offer system availability, as well as keep core applications in operation. Key to this initiative is the release of Advanced Application Modules, which manage the failover transition at an application level, from one server to another. Initially, Vinca is offering Advanced Application Modules for Exchange Server and for SQL Server. The product includes Service Monitor, a new tool that provides application monitoring and restarting. Vinca acquired Service Monitor from Graphic Technologies Pty. Ltd. (www.gt.com.au) early this year.
The Application Modules, which are included standard with the clustering product, manage the process that enables an application to be restored on a secondary machine. Co-StandbyServer takes care of replicating registry keys, DLLs, transfer agents, system agents, log files and other facilities needed to ensure the restored application takes ownership of the failed application’s processes.
While Vinca offers preconfigured Application Modules for Exchange and SQL Server, the technology will be extended to other applications. "We [can] fail over any application," says Jeff Adcock, Vinca’s product line manager for Microsoft products. "It’s just a matter of configuration time in getting those applications to fail over."
The new release offers other enhancements, including a performance boost to the code that performs object replication. According to Vinca, its object replication now performs scanning of clustered objects 450 percent faster.
The number of objects that can be replicated also was extended to over 1,000, well above the previous version’s practical limitation of about 400 objects. "The focus was not on these really high-end solutions," Adcock says. "We [found] ways to lean down the code and make it faster."
Chubb Insurance Corp. (www.chubb.com) is deploying version 4.1 of Co-StandbyServer into 65 field offices. Each office has two Windows NT Servers configured with independent workloads. Each machine serves as the failover system to the other. "If one of the servers dies, everything comes up on the other," explains Jeff Peterson, manager of client/server support at Chubb. "Since we got the new version [of Co-StandbyServer installed], we’ve already had two failures that have failed over and worked."
Peterson says Chubb found performance to be a limitation with earlier releases. "[The new release] is much, much faster, more stable and able to handle more objects," Peterson says. "This version seems to do everything we need it to do."
John Enck, research director at GartnerGroup (www.gartner.com), says the Application Modules are an important differentiation for Vinca. "We think it is an important step in the maturation of clustering. Having that kind of technology provides for a much better fail-over solution." But Enck says that advantage won’t last for long. "Vinca has a head start, but other players won’t be too far behind." Enck expects Microsoft Cluster Server to regain a competitive position with products like Co-StandbyServer, and may limit third party upward growth. "We see Microsoft as a long-term solution."