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Stratus and NEC to make strong servers together

Tolerant to a fault

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Super-strong server maker Stratus has decided it needs some help turning standard x86 boxes into mainframe-like machines. It has signed a long-term deal with NEC to jointly develop servers and share engineering costs.

Under the terms of the 10-year deal, NEC will take on most of fault-tolerant hardware design work. Stratus, meanwhile, will specialize in making high-availability software for the shared machines. The companies then intend to add their own custom bits and pieces around this basic hardware/software pairing and sell two separate lines of fault-tolerant systems.

The first jointly designed box should arrive in late 2006.

Stratus has managed to grab a decent chunk of the niche fault-tolerant x86 server market. These systems boast high levels of uptime and are used by organizations such as banks and emergency call centers that need their hardware running at all times. Unlike most sever makers that sell mainframe or Unix systems for this market, Stratus has focused on strengthening Windows and Linux boxes to handle the high-end tasks.

Clearly, however, the limited prospects of the fault-tolerant game have caused Stratus to make some tough decisions, including turning over its hardware aspirations to NEC.

"Our agreements with NEC enable us to increase our focus on high-value, high-availability solutions services for the enterprise, increase investments in fault-tolerant software development, and continue providing industry-leading, fault-tolerant servers to customers and partners," said David Laurello, the CEO at Stratus. "The same core technology we bring to the product-development alliance is also the foundation of our consulting and managed services to help clients ensure uninterrupted availability of their most important business processes and operations. Stratus Continuous Processing technology is the linchpin in both our solutions services strategy and our agreement with NEC."

NEC has also agreed to invest $9m more in Stratus, giving it a 3 per cent stake in the company.

The companies have been working off a similar deal over the past few years with Stratus supplying NEC with high-end, fault tolerant boxes. Now, however, it seems Stratus will simply turn over all the hardware work to NEC and give the software-mostly business a go. ®

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