Marathon Technologies is marking the opening of its European office to launch a new high availability server product. The software, HAServer, provides server fail-over capabilities using the company's in-house virtualisation technology, as found in the company's core product, FTvirtual Server.

FTvirtual Server provides what CEO Gary Phillips called "continuous availability software for Windows for 24/7 access". Based on virtualisation technology that Marathon started developing in 1993, the system runs on two servers linked by a high-speed interconnect - usually Fibre Channel or other link with five-millisecond latency or less. Unlike alternative arrangements such as clustering, Phillips said that the system needs no modifications to software, because a virtualisation layer sits on top of the servers' two OSes, making the two machines appear as one.

This layer then synchronises workloads and storage access between the two, transparently to users, according to Phillips. If a hardware component fails, the other server carries on regardless. You do need a third copy of Windows to run on top of the virtualisation layer, adding to costs, but this is, said Phillips, cheaper than clustering, which mandates both additional expertise and software complexity. Prices start at $14,000.

New product HAServer provides fail-over rather than continuous lock-step so that the fail-over server can be a lower cost item. "Not every application needs full availability and it's for when four-nines availability is good enough", said Phillips. "It also allows customers to have two alternatives and will be scalable to SMP servers. There's no need for identical pairs, and customers can use existing infrastructure to fail-over - but there's still no need for special applications or modifications." The product has yet to be priced.

The company's third product, SplitSite, allows you to separate the two servers - which can be single machines or groups of virtualised servers - for disaster resilience purposes. Phillips referred to one reference site in Florida where a local government uses the system to run a pair of servers in two centres 10 miles apart. It costs $10,000 for two locations

For the future, Phillips said that the company was talking to VMware about future products, such as building a hypervisor-based version of FTvirtual Server. "We are engineering product to support a hypervisor", he said, and and admitted that VMware's opening up of areas of its architecture "would prove useful". He said that Marathon is also talking to XenSource, which is co-ordinating the open source virtualisation technology, Xen.

The company is also considering whether to provide a Linux-compatible version of FTvirtual Server but, said Phillips, is more likely to prefer the hypervisor-based route because it removes dependency on any particular OS.

Expect to see a Techworld review of HAServer soon.