The need for processing data continues to grow as analysis and reporting needs expand with business requirements. Accommodating these data needs—while providing rapid retrieval and the uptime desired—has been a challenge for many data centers and IT organizations. Traditionally, the use of clustered solutions with virtualization software has been implemented with some success. Depending upon the uptime and storage requirements, the solutions will vary in price and TCO.
For IT organizations with mission-critical data, as well as large retailers needing to maintain and access data quickly, the requirements for server uptime and processing are even more important. Trying to achieve five nines (99.999%) of uptime is feasible in a clustered data center environment, but often these organizations are better served through the implementation of a fault tolerant (FT) server, such as the NEC Express 5800.
Fault Tolerant Servers Provide Real Redundancy
When it comes to reliability, there is no better solution than the NEC Fault Tolerant server family. According to the Standish Group, 72% of mission critical applications servers experience nine hours of outage per year. However, the continuous availability of FT servers ensures 99.999% uptime, for an average annual down time of 5 minutes 25 seconds (Source: IDC). But that is not the only benefit.
The NEC Fault Tolerant Server provides 99.999% uptime in an industry standard Intel Xeon server platform without the added requirement of expensive and complex clustering software. The real elegance of FT servers lies in a configuration that provides real redundancy. Using the GeminiEngine™, an NEC-engineered LSI chipset for fault tolerance control, the FT server series have two identical component groups called CPU/IO modules. Other than the special LSI in the center, each CPU/IO module consists of the exact same components in typical general purpose servers. Key to the unique fault tolerant functionality is the GeminiEngine. The combination of redundant hardware and redundancy control software enables the FT series servers to provide 99.999% uptime.
If repair or replacement is required, the FT server works as a true hot swap device. Using NEC’s Customer Replaceable Unit (CRU) strategy, the module needing the repair is simply replaced. Once replaced, the GeminiEngine product automatically synchronizes the data and places the Fault Tolerant Server back to the redundant configuration with no operation intervention. Processing has never stopped on the working module, meaning the FT server does not require any downtime for maintenance.
Finally, the FT server is compatible with existing operating systems and applications with a major plus – unlike clustered environments, the FT server requires a single license, providing immediate cost savings.
The benefits of the FT server are easily understood, but how would this apply in real- world environments? Let’s explore that a bit further.
Fault Tolerant Servers in the Data Center
The NEC Fault Tolerant Server provides improved, uptime, simplicity while lowering costs compared to traditional clustering. Total cost of ownership can be reduced by taking advantage of the single Operating System and application requirement of the FT Server. System availability is increased as the solution provides 99.999% uptime utilizing hardware based fault tolerant technology. The NEC Fault Tolerant Server also simplifies the server environment by eliminating the need for clustering software.
Fault Tolerant Servers for Building Security
Another use case example for deploying an FT server is physical security at a place of business, which requires high availability. Even one minor glitch can create an unsecure situation by having impatient employees prop open a door because entry door key pads are not working. The open access allows not only multiple employees to enter, but perhaps even an unwanted intruder. Having 99.999% uptime is a significant improvement and prevents degradation in the effectiveness of building security.
Beyond the uptime, replication to ensure that there is no point that building security is compromised, even for a minute, ensures the integrity of the security and safety of the building occupants. FT servers provide high availability through Lockstep, another unique component developed by NEC that ensures the CPUs work synchronously on a clock-cycle basis. Lockstep ensures that replication is in the same state so that the FT server is truly redundant.
Fault Tolerant Servers for Continuous Availability
Data centers and IT departments are being asked to do more with less, while also being expected to better accommodate data needs and business-critical applications. NEC Express FT servers can be used to create a fault tolerant platform for mission-critical applications that’s simple to manage and can be deployed in the same amount of time it takes to configure a simple Windows, Linux, or virtual server. By implementing fault tolerance at the hardware level, and presenting the Express FT as a single logical server, NEC reduces hardware and software dependencies, complex configuration and administration, and the license requirements associated with multi-node software cluster configurations, creating a cost-effective infrastructure for mission-critical business applications.
NEC has worked with independent third parties to thoroughly test its FT servers, as evidenced in these white papers that provide additional benefits of using fault tolerant servers for business critical applications. Finding a solution that provides high uptime and real redundancy will remain a priority for data centers and IT organizations.
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