Compaq Clusters Take Flight with Toucan

Compaq Computer Corp. added to its high-availability cluster family last month with the announcement of the Toucan, a prepackaged cluster-in-a-box.

Compaq Computer Corp. added to its high-availability cluster family last month with the announcement of the Toucan, a prepackaged cluster-in-a-box. The Toucan, targeted for release in the fourth quarter of this year, features two Pentium III server nodes and shared storage in a small cabinet unit.

Vince Gayman, high availability marketing manager for Compaq's industry-standard server division, says the Toucan meets the needs of those who want a server-storage solution in one unit and those who like to rack everything. It comes in a tower configuration with wheels or in a rack configuration that can slide into a standard rack.

The unit is designed to feature redundancy and hot-swapability throughout. There are two hot-swappable RAID controllers, two hot-swappable drives, redundant power sources and redundant fans.

Compaq calls this configuration a packaged cluster: Data General Corp. ( calls it an NT cluster-in-a-box, and is something DG has been supplying for over two years on its Aviion line of servers. DG was the first to market with this type of solution, long before many considered Windows NT enterprise-ready. Compaq is the first vendor to jump into the market with them.

Joe Barkan, analyst with the GartnerGroup (, says Tandem was working on a solution that featured rack mounted servers that were essentially two in the same chassis when Compaq bought them out in 1997.

Barkan says the benefit of packaged clusters is ease of implementation. "The biggest hurdle or headache or problem that users have had in NT clustering is getting it implemented," he explains. "Any type of packaging would help this."

The clustering solution supports Windows NT and Novell NetWare. Toucan also offers integrated installation and diagnostic and management tools for Web-based cluster administration. Compaq is positioning the Toucan as a clustering solution for branch offices and remote locations, where it's been too costly and complex to implement clusters in the past.

For a corporate headquarters, however, Compaq released improvements to its Infrastructure, Data Center and Parallel Database Cluster solutions. While maintaining support for Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS) and Novell High Availability Server (NHAS), the newest infrastructure cluster will feature support for dual Fibre Channel storage loops, multimedia documentation and cluster administration. The cluster also will support Compaq's upcoming eight-way and 6400R servers.

The Data Center Cluster aims at the high end for large databases, ERP and packaged applications, storage and server consolidation, large messaging implementations and back end Internet solutions. New to the Data Center Cluster is support for eight-way, 6400R and 1850R servers; Fibre Channel switch fabric for up to 5 TB of storage; up to four clusters sharing storage; and peer-to-peer storage mirroring for disaster tolerant configurations. The Data Center Cluster also has a flat panel monitor the slides along the rack so there's no bulky monitor to take up rack space.

Enhancements to the Parallel Database Cluster line include support for Oracle Parallel Server 8i, eight-way ProLiant Servers and the 6400R, enhanced configurations for better performance, and new storage support for the StorageWorks RA8000 and ESA 12000.