Intel Corp is ramping up its efforts to extablish the VI Virtual Interface Architecture clustering initiative in the marketplace, and is working with IBM Corp, Compaq Computer Corp’s Tandem division and others to get the first VI products out and on sale by the end of this year. VI – no longer VIA, after objections […]
Intel Corp is ramping up its efforts to extablish the VI Virtual Interface Architecture clustering initiative in the marketplace, and is working with IBM Corp, Compaq Computer Corp’s Tandem division and others to get the first VI products out and on sale by the end of this year. VI – no longer VIA, after objections from an unnamed company, presumably Via Systems Inc – is actually a joint effort between Intel, Compaq and Microsoft Corp proposed last April (CI No 3,141), and has won support from around 100 companies. But Intel stands to gain the most if servers using its microprocessors can be banked together into high-end configurations more efficiently. The VI Architecture specification, released at the end of last year(CI No 3,314), details a standard high-speed cluster communications interface that bypasses the operating system and communications stack overheads associated with traditional local and wide area networking interconnects. Instead a System Area Network uses switching technology to circumvent the operating system during data transfer, avoiding context switching and interrupts. Most of the action has now focused on a new example API called the Intel Implementation Guide, based on the spec, which includes Intel versions of the essential VI Provider Library and VI kernel agent and user agent components. Now hardware interconnect, parallel database vendors and operating systems developers must tweak their products to support the spec. At Intel’s developer event recently, IBM Corp announced it was working with Intel to optimize the NT enterprise extended edition of its DB2 database – currently in a beta version – for the VI Architecture, and showed its first demo using VI, operating across a six node cluster of Compaq ProLiant 6500 servers using Tandem’s ServerNet interconnect. Tandem says linear scaling was measured, with a nearly six-fold reduction in execution times between one and six node systems. ServerNet, says Tandem, already embeds much of the VI spec within its hardware, and needs only the addition of the kernel agent and user agent to make it compliant. By the end of the year, a new version, ServerNet 2, should have virtually all of the VI Architecture in the hardware, said Tandem. It claims some 60% of servers running NT are shipped by companies that also support ServerNet, such as Siemens Nixdorf, Compaq, Tandem, Unisys and Fujitsu/NEC. At the same event, Dolphin Interconnect Solutions Inc was demonstrating clusters using servers from Dell Computer Inc connected up with its SCI scalable coherent interface interconnect, while GigaNet Inc, an asynchronous transfer mode proponent (see separate story), was also in attendance. Support from other database vendors – Oracle Corp and Informix Corp have already committed – and middleware companies are expected to follow. The VI architecture is not restricted to Intel servers running Windows NT, but that’s certainly where it will be most in evidence.