Microsoft, Compaq and Intel have taken the wraps off a proposed standard interconnect to improve communication within clusters of workstations and servers.
According to the three companies, the main thrust of the Virtual Interface Architecture (Via) initiative is to support multivendor server clusters and to speed up cluster-to-cluster interconnects.
?Over time the intention is to try to drive the standard to allow people to have choice in terms of the hardware they use in a cluster. We want to abstract hardware from the clustering decision,? said Hugh Jenkins, enterprise group product manager at Compaq.
The companies also intend the Via specification to boost the development of system area network (SAN) technology, which offers lower latency and higher bandwidth support for large clusters and high performance applications, not offered by standard Lan and Wan technology.
Due out later this year, the spec will be media, processor and operating system independent. The software interface will support a variety of programming models to simplify development and the hardware interface will be compatible with standard networks such as ATM, Ethernet and Fiber Channel as well as specialised SAN products available from a variety of vendors.
Forty industry vendors have already given their support to the specification including Digital, Data General, Giganet, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, Informix, NEC, Novell, SAP, Samsung Electronics, Siemens-Nixdorf, Tandem Computers, Toshiba and Unisys.
George O?Connor, senior analyst at IDC, has reservations about the size of the clustering group. ?It is a great idea,? he said, ?but unfortunately with 40 vendors or so involved the whole thing is likely to grind to a halt.?
According to Jenkins, products based on the specification are unlikely to appear until next year.
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