A specification designed to promote the development of platform-independent clustering networks has been completed and was made public today by Compaq, Intel and Microsoft.
More than 100 companies contributed to the Virtual Interface (VI) Architecture specification, which has been under development since April and is expected to accelerate the development of networks optimised for clustering -- known as system area networks (SANs), says Mitch Shults, Intel's director of server platform marketing.
Clustering involves linking together separate Web servers or applications servers in such a way that the machines can share a workload, making the network more efficient and less prone to failure. For example, if a Web server becomes overloaded with hits from Internet surfers and crashes, the workload is automatically shifted to another server.
Clustering systems available today are limited to high-end, proprietary systems, and the companies that design platforms for them, such as IBM, dictate the form and function of products that developers can build for them, Shults says.
The VI Architecture unveiled today is platform-independent, which means developers can make interface cards, high-speed switches, databases and other cluster-optimized products without having to worry if they will be compatible with particular systems, Shults says.
Intel has been working behind the scenes with PeopleSoft, Baan and Oracle, who are developing versions of their databases and client/server applications for release in the second half of 1998 that will comply with the VAI announced today, Shults says.
Other products based on the VI Architecture, such as switches and interface cards, are expected to appear in the first quarter of 1998, Shults said.
The VI Architecture version 1.0 is publicly available at http://www.viarch.org/. The site also lists the companies that have contributed to the architecture's creation.