Redefining Computing Through Reliability
In an era when downtime could spell disaster for businesses, Tandem Computers Inc. introduced a groundbreaking solution: the NonStop system. Designed for unparalleled reliability, these systems ensured continuous operation, setting a new standard in computing.
Tandem’s NonStop Systems
Founded in 1974, Tandem Computers shipped its first system, the Tandem/16, to Citibank in 1976, marking the beginning of fault-tolerant computing. The NonStop systems were built on a unique architecture that allowed them to operate continuously, even in the event of component failures. This was achieved through a sophisticated setup of up to 16 CPUs in a fault-tolerant cluster, each with its own memory, I/O processor, and I/O bus, ensuring data availability through mirrored disks and redundant paths.
Tandem’s pricing strategy made fault tolerance accessible, offering systems at just over twice the cost of competing single-processor mainframes. This strategy, combined with its innovative technology, allowed Tandem to compete effectively, even as high-reliability computing became more crowded with entries from companies like Stratus, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Digital Equipment Corporation.
Expansion and Adaptation
Facing competition and economic challenges, Tandem expanded its technological offerings and made strategic moves towards compatibility with Unix. This shift aimed at broadening the market reach of its systems beyond its traditional banking and financial services customers.
The NonStop systems integrated hardware and software in a way that significantly lowered system management requirements. They supported disaster recovery strategies effectively, with most deployments featuring a single production server and a backup server for fast takeover and minimal data loss in disaster scenarios.
Tandem’s Enduring Influence
Tandem Computers Inc.’s introduction of NonStop systems revolutionized the computing world, offering a blueprint for reliability that influences today’s technology. From cloud computing to data centers, the principles of fault tolerance, redundancy, and continuous operation underpin the modern digital infrastructure. Tandem’s vision for a world where computing systems never stop running has indeed become a reality, shaping the future of technology with its legacy of innovation and resilience.
Tandem’s journey from pioneering fault-tolerant systems to becoming a part of today’s technological backbone highlights the enduring importance of reliability and availability in computing. As we continue to build upon Tandem’s foundation, the principles of fault tolerance and continuous operation remain more relevant than ever, ensuring that critical systems can withstand the unexpected and maintain operation, no matter what.