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April 17, 1997updated 05 Sep 2016 1:08pm


By CBR Staff Writer

As expected (CI No 3,141) Compaq Computer Corp, Intel Corp and Microsoft Corp unveiled their Virtual Interface Architecture initiative yesterday, fielding heavyweight support from the industry in the shape of forty or more hardware, system software and networking vendors. The VIA specification aims to define a common set of high-speed communication interfaces for clusters of servers and workstations, and sets out a method of high bandwidth, low latency message passing that bypasses what Intel Corp is now calling legacy protocol stacks in favor of direct communication between application and network interface layer, not involving the operating system. The scheme should significantly speed up clusters, lower costs, and improve reliability, though nobody is saying by how much at this stage. The specification focuses purely on server-to-server send and receive communications over short distances, and is not intended to replace current local and wide area networking. Individual clustering services, such as Microsoft’s Wolfpack, or existing system area networking products such as Tandem Computers Inc’s ServerNet will work with the specification. Intel believes that the first VIA-compliant products could be out early next year. The specification is currently under review by the industry, and will be made public early in the third quarter of this year. Despite being championed by Intel and its two biggest allies, VIA is said to be processor independent as well as media and operating system independent. Sun Microsystems Inc was the one notable absentee among the supporters. (For full details, see News Analysis section.)

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