CATEGORY: Storage/Hardware

REVIEWER: Cary Hsia, director of software engineering for Aeris.net.

BACKGROUND: Aeris.net, based in San Jose, California, develops and implements wireless technologies that connect and control remote intelligent devices. Aeris.net leverages the power of existing cellular networks, the Internet and the cellular handset industry to provide cost-effective, wireless data links to fixed and mobile telemetry applications. Current Aeris deployment contracts cover 97 percent of cellular service areas in the United States and 100 percent of Canada and Mexico. Initial applications include vehicle position and condition reporting, security and equipment monitoring, and utility meter reading.

PLATFORMS: Resilience Ultra 4000 rack mount system with 1GB memory, triple-redundant 400 MHz UltraSparc, two 18GB 10,000 RPM fast/wide SCSI disk drives, 19" rack mount, running Solaris 2.6.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Because quick response ­ whether determining the location of a delivery vehicle or responding to an alarm ­ is a crucial element of our customers' success, we needed a system that absolutely could not go down or lose any data whatsoever. Our reputation depends on this. We also needed a solution that was easy to maintain, yet cost-effective. Resilience quickly proved itself to be the logical choice.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: We cannot afford to lose a single transaction, and we required an absolutely fault- tolerant platform. We had already selected a Solaris operating environment as the most reliable operating system on the market. Therefore, we needed high- reliability hardware that ran Solaris. When configured according to manufacturer specifications, our Resilience servers have functioned flawlessly. Constant uptime has been delivered as promised.

STRENGTHS: The key strength of the Resilience Ultra server is that it is a true hardware fault- tolerant solution that is more cost-effective than high-availability (HA) alternatives. We extensively researched HA software-based solutions and found they were too complicated, too expensive and required too many resources. Resilience is a "no-fuss" product. It's easy to deploy, requires no ongoing administration and is Solaris based. In addition, all the components are hot- swappable. If any components fail, we can replace them in minutes while the system keeps running, uninterrupted.

WEAKNESSES: In the event of a hardware failure, even though the system will not go down and no data or transactions are ever lost, the system may pause for between 3 to 15 seconds before resuming operation. This means data transmission can be delayed for those few seconds.

SELECTION CRITERIA: We chose Resilience because it offers true hardware fault tolerance, is easy to deploy and manage, runs standard Solaris applications and is a low-cost platform. Clustered failover solutions do not maintain memory state in the event of failure, which is unacceptable to us. Resilience also costs far less than HA clustered failover solutions. The bottom line was that we have mission-critical applications that absolutely cannot be allowed to fail. After considering all of the options, we determined that Resilience was the best choice.

DELIVERABLES: Throughout our cellular phone network, data comes in from cell devices over packets into the telecom switch. The data is extracted and forwarded to a Resilience application server that repackets the data and forwards it to the Internet. It is then sent to the appropriate service provider. The service provider can take action based on the information they receive (for example, responding quickly to an emergency alarm). The data is also logged into an Oracle database running on a second Resilience server which tracks all the billing data associated with these transactions. This is obviously critical to our profitability.

VENDOR SUPPORT: Part of the reason we chose Resilience was that the Resilience Ultra has the characteristics of a standard server and could be implemented as such. We haven't required any special support either pre- or post-implementation. The few times we have had service needs or questions, Resilience has been extremely responsive.

DOCUMENTATION: The Resilience Ultra comes with complete documentation, but we have not really needed to consult it. Since the Ultra looks and acts like a Sun server, all you really need to know is basic Solaris administration. Setup and installation are extremely straightforward (it takes less than 30 minutes to get the system up and running out of the box) and maintenance is very simple as well. If a hardware failure did occur, we would just pull out the hot-swappable module where the failure occurred and put in a new one.

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