March 24, 1997 10:00 AM ET
Vendors push for server clustering standard
By James Gruener

  As PC clustering technology comes of age, the debate over the best way to connect servers together is heating up, thanks to a number of initiatives from vendors.

Intel Corp., working with Microsoft Corp., Compaq Computer Corp. and a number of vendors, is expected to launch next month an initiative, code-named Via, that will address clustering interconnect technology between servers.

The mission will be to develop a high-speed, low-latency interface specification that the companies hope will become an industry standard.

Currently, users can cluster servers together with several technologies, including Fiber Channel at 200M bps or SSA (Serial Storage Architecture) at 80M bps. The goal of Via is to provide faster data rates between clustered servers, said Intel officials in Santa Clara, Calif.

While Microsoft officials said no interconnect architecture has been specified for forthcoming Wolfpack NT clustering technology, they declined to discuss specific plans for Via.

Meanwhile, SSA and Fiber Channel vendors are working together on a new technology, Fiber Channel Enhanced-Loop, which combines both approaches to provide the fault tolerance and scalability of SSA with the speed over distances of Fiber Channel.

In addition, the combined technology supports both peripheral interfaces and communications protocols, such as SCSI and IP.

Some observers believe a stan-dard will come, but not without a lot more discussion.

"Eventually, there will be a specification that takes pieces of both technologies [SSA and Fiber Channel] and from all other camps to make a single standard to cut across the industry," said Robert Gray, research manager of storage subsystem for International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass.

In addition, the I2O Special Interest Group is working on its own clustering initiative, due this fall, to extend the I2O specification for better fault tolerance.

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