Stratus Technologies will allow online operating system upgrades on its fault-tolerant servers from the end of the year.

The Intel-based ftServer range, which can run either Linux or Windows, will be capable of having the entire OS replaced while the system continues operating, CEO David Laurello told us. "We have a middleware capability that allows us to do that and existing customers will get the feature for a nominal fee."

Previously perceived as a mainframe-only capability, the update ability bolsters Stratus' high availability claims for its products, as significant amounts of server downtime are often needed to update an operating system and install patches.

Laurello saw the new system as a big competitive advantage: "In our sales cycle, we go up against clusters. This makes us superior in ease of operation and deployment, and now we've fixed the only outstanding issue. That takes it off the table and we are superior in all other areas."

While cluster vendors used distributed computing to improve availability in the face of disasters, "clusters still have fail-over and loss of data. We can supply tools via a third party that allow us to do distributed computing, and we have no loss of in-flight data," Laurello said.

Laurello added that the company was committed to providing both Red Hat Linux and Windows, but that the company, in which Intel and Compaq, among others, invested $115 million in 2001, would remain an Intel-only shop. The transaction was a "preferred stock purchase" from existing shareholders in the privately-held company. Compaq sold its shares following the merger with HP.