By William Fellows Another piece of Microsoft Corp’s enterprise strategy fell into place yesterday with news that Windows 2000 is to be fitted with out-of-the-box support for Intel servers clustered with interconnects which support the VIA Virtual Interface Architecture. Applications written to the Winsock 2 API in Windows 2000 [aka Windows NT 5] will be […]
By William Fellows
Another piece of Microsoft Corp’s enterprise strategy fell into place yesterday with news that Windows 2000 is to be fitted with out-of-the-box support for Intel servers clustered with interconnects which support the VIA Virtual Interface Architecture. Applications written to the Winsock 2 API in Windows 2000 [aka Windows NT 5] will be able to bypass the TCP/IP stack and run directly on clusters implementing the high-speed VIA and other so-called system area network frameworks unaltered. However to take full advantage of clustering configurations applications will need to be re-written. While Windows NT 4 OEM version supports up to 32 CPUs in SMP configurations, this development will enable NT users to scale systems horizontally by adding multiple nodes connected by high-speed, low-latency links. It means for example that large Oracle, SAP or web installations which currently require Unix or mainframe data centers to run on will in future be able to take advantage of NT clusters linked with VIA. Microsoft and Compaq Computer Corp have formed a Winsock/SAN initiative to develop a piece of software interfacing Winsock to SAN interconnects, in the first instance those which support VIA. The enhanced Winsock 2 API will be bundled in Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Datacenter Server. Hardware vendors currently build boutique NT server solutions and users have had little opportunity to assemble clustered NT hardware and software using off-the-shelf components. Although Compaq recently demonstrated a 72-node NT cluster using VIA, the company has long said it won’t be able to offer multi-node NT clusters as standard products until the software is standardized (CI No 3,536). Compaq says it will develop a beta systems – which it describes as the first business critical ProLiant servers next year. It has been showing a prototype Winsock/SAN implementation running on four ProLiants this week. Compaq’s interest is in promoting its Tandem Computer unit’s VIA-compatible ServerNet interconnect which will link these servers. Other VIA-compatible network interconnect cards include those made by GigaNet Inc. Although VIA will theoretically support other operating systems, it is currently a Microsoft-only environment. Compaq expects other systems to include VIA support over time but didn’t give any examples. Moreover, the enhanced Winsock 2 API is also being designed to support multiple SAN interconnect architectures, not just VIA. Microsoft said it’s up to hardware vendors and ISVs to develop the appropriate device drivers that will enable other interconnects to be supported. It didn’t say which if any are doing such work. Other high-speed interconnects include Dolphin Solutions’ SCI technology. Microsoft says it should enable hardware vendors such as Hewlett-Packard to extend their current 99.9% uptime guarantees for NT servers. It plans to enhance Wolfpack, the Microsoft Cluster Server, to support Winscok/SAN. In the long term, both Compaq and Microsoft expect the Winsock APIs to be extended to include support for others kinds of storage area networks or high-speed I/O architectures such as Fibre Channel.