Marathon Releases Virtual HA, Fault Tolerance

Claims zero downtime if alternative system fails

March 24, 2008

3 Min Read
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Imagine your banking application running in a "tandem" setup -- on virtual machines instead of hardware monoliths. That's what Marathon Technologies, a longtime vendor of Windows-based high availability software, envisions with EverRun VM, a package that supports not only high-availability in XenSource virtual environments, but instantaneous fault tolerance.

This official unveiling follows months of white papers, talks, and mini-announcements about EverRun VM by Marathon. The company says EverRun VM is now in beta with a series of customers that includes Louisiana Public Broadcasting/PBS. And a roster of Citrix platinum solution providers are lined up to take orders, including MTM Technologies, Choice Solutions, IQ Sys, and ADN.

There is nothing new about virtual HA. VMware offers it in VMware High Availability (HA), and Symantec in Veritas Cluster Server for VMware. But at least one analyst says Marathon's approach is "unusual" because it guarantees no downtime if there is a failure.

Instead of pointing to another virtual machine on an adjacent or remote host if underlying physical resources fail, Marathon treats multiple virtual machines as one. All actions are synchronized between a local VM and one running on a remote site (distances up to 100 miles can separate VMs). When and if there is a failure of underlying hardware, there is no pause for failover to the remote VM, because activity has been replicated all along.

"We virtualize the complete environment to look like one environment," says Gary Phillips, Marathon CEO. "There is one log-in, one point of management... It is fully synchronous data protection."Marathon says it supports all Windows applications. The vendor also claims to offer selectable levels of data protection per virtual machine.

This signals a current drawback: While EverRun VM supports zero downtime for I/O activity between VMs, it does not mirror the entire application. For that, customers will have to wait for Lockstep, another new product due out during the fourth quarter. EverRun VM plus Lockstep will ensure "system-level" fault tolerance of application and memory activity as well as "component-level" I/O protection, Marathon says.

For now, EverRun VM is set to ship next month with XenServer Enterprise Edition for $2,000. No price has been set for Lockstep. The vendor is boasting that its reliability will make it suitable for production applications that require zero downtime -- something that to date has been lacking in VM environments.

At least one analyst thinks Marathon has a compelling story with EverRun VM. "I'm not saying it's unique, but I haven't seen anything like it," says Laura DiDio of the Yankee Group. There is a difference between high availability and fault tolerance, she says, and by supporting fault tolerance in a virtualized setup, Marathon claims the "five nines" style of availability required by enterprise applications that can't be down for even a second or two.

Marathon is a 15-year-old company with about 80 employees and a claimed customer base of 1,800. Its last round of funding, $26 million, was closed in March 2007 and included Sierra Ventures, Atlas Venture, and Longworth Venture Partners.While Marathon hasn't committed to offering EverRun VM for virtual environments other than XenSource ones, plans are underway to include a Microsoft Hyper-V version in early 2009.

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  • Atlas Venture

  • Citrix Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CTXS)

  • Longworth Venture Partners

  • Marathon Technologies Corp.

  • Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)

  • Sierra Ventures

  • Symantec Corp. (Nasdaq: SYMC)

  • VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW)

  • Yankee Group Research Inc.

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