PolyServe Clusters to End SQL Server Sprawl

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Once Microsoft SQL Server is deployed in an enterprise it “multiplies like rabbits,” said Brian Garrett, technical director for the Enterprise Strategy Group, a Milford, Mass.-based analyst firm. “Once they are deployed, it’s hard to make them go away.”

The result is that many companies now have dozens, hundreds or even thousands of instances of SQL Server. To address this proliferation of disparate SQL Server implementations, PolyServe, a Beaverton, Ore.-based company that offers tools designed to consolidate Windows and Linux servers and storage, today announced PolyServe Database Utility for SQL Server. The goal of the product is to consolidate up to hundreds of SQL Server databases into a single, easy-to-manage cluster.

According to PolyServe, the tool will eliminate low server-utilization rates (often five to 15 percent of CPU capacity, PolyServe says), increase availability and decrease management requirements created by what it describes as “SQL Server sprawl.”

The Database Utility for SQL Server is designed to integrate PolyServe’s shared data clustering technology to deliver consolidation for mission-critical SQL Server applications. PolyServe claims it can reduce by half the number of servers and software installs needed for SQL Server, cutting cluster configuration and management time as much as 75 percent and lowering total cost of ownership by often more than 50 percent over three years. “You gain control of the environment,” Michael Stankey, president and CEO of PolyServe, said.

Stankey said that his company offers a similar product to consolidate Oracle databases and decided to offer the new product when it saw SQL Server become more and more popular in enterprises. “Some people think they have Oracle on the run,” Stankey said.

Enterprise Strategy Group’s Garrett agreed that SQL Server is making in-roads, but added that it’s not generally used for mission critical applications. Of course, PolyServe hopes that high server and storage availability and fault tolerance will change that.

“The Intel architecture is winning the server wars. Windows has pulled even [with Unix servers],” Stankey said. “There are so many Windows servers out there.” Last month, IDC reported that Windows server shipments had drawn equal to Unix sales, each claiming 43 percent market share.

“Virtual machines and other solutions are not ready for the high-performance, 24-by-7 availability demands of mission-critical SQL Server installations. PolyServe’s utilities were specifically designed from the bottom up for enterprise data center applications,” Stankey said.

Other virtualization products, Stankey contends, “can take cheap servers and make them expensive. For example, with 10 servers consolidated to one with VMware, you have 10 software images moved to the core server. You still have to manage and upgrade them separately.”

While companies are, of course, happy to save on hardware and software licenses, the real benefit is the time a company saves in server management, Garrett said. “Enterprises just keep adding servers because it’s easier to keep doing what you have been doing. The real challenge becomes management. Maybe I loved my first SQL Server and loved my second, but by the time I get to the 100th … .”

PolyServe Database Utility for SQL Server supports 64-bit computing and Microsoft SQL Server 2005, and it offers the following features, according to the company:

  • Scalable capacity: PolyServe’s Dynamic Re-Hosting is designed to enable fast responses to changes in capacity needs.
  • Guaranteed high availability: All servers have access to all drive letters, which is designed to eliminate complicated reconfigurations to the environment in the event of failover.
  • Single-click maintenance: Through the Matrix Manager cluster management tool, you can set up and maintain failover targets, add server and storage capacity with applications online, monitor system performance and storage usage, and perform other management tasks.
  • Simplified migration: PolyServe’s SQL Server Consolidation service is designed to accelerate the process of migrating from earlier versions of SQL Server to SQL Server 2005.

PolyServe’s clustering technology is designed to run directly on Microsoft Server System and re-hosts SQL Server instances to another server upon system failure. The re-hosting feature, the company says, allows instances to be moved to other servers, regardless of size or vendor, for capacity increases or server maintenance with less than 30 seconds of user downtime.

Garrett said that ESG Labs tested PolyServe Database Utility for SQL Server and confirmed that the product’s GUI makes it easy to set up with a few mouse clicks. He said he created network failure, and the failover capabilities worked as promised. He added that it was easy to handle upgrades by installing a one SQL Server and then moving that image to the other servers.

The product supports up to 16 Microsoft SQL Server 2000 and 2005 instances per node, for a total of 240 in the cluster. Entry level pricing for the PolyServe Database Utility for SQL Server is $96,000 for a 16-CPU configuration. The software package includes Matrix Server software for shared data clustering, Matrix Manager for consolidated management, Matrix Volume Manager to enable multiple storage arrays to be treated as a single unit, and the SQL Server solution pack to provide a virtualized environment in which to assign SQL instances to any hardware footprint in the cluster.

Virtualization is making headlines these days, but it remains an area of confusion for many enterprises. “I’m not sure this is really virtualization,” Garrett said, “I see it just as tools to make SQL server easier to manage.”

Dan Muse is executive editor of internet.com’s Small Business Channel, EarthWeb’s Networking Channel and ServerWatch.

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