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Sun sheds light on new Net protocol

Sun Microsystems is preparing an Internet protocol that could deliver data much faster than FTP and HTTP.

Sun Microsystems is preparing an Internet protocol later this year that could deliver data eight to ten times faster than existing protocols such as FTP and HTTP.

The company's SunSoft division will push to make WebNFS a standard protocol for transferring files and Web pages to browsers on PCs and network appliances expected from companies such as IBM, Oracle, and Sun.

SunSoft is also negotiating with leading Web browser vendors to make WebNFS a feature in their products and is submitting the protocol to the Internet Engineering Task Force for consideration as an Internet standard, said Sanjay Sinha, marketing manager for Solaris Enterprise Server.

The company does not, however, intend to replace existing protocols and has designed WebNFS to work in conjunction with them, Sinha said.

WebNFS is based on Sun's existing Network File System (NFS), a protocol that allows Unix systems, mainframes, and PCs to share hard disks over a network. The protocol can be used to deliver static files and Web pages more efficiently, but not pages that are dynamically generated from a database. For dynamic pages, which are becoming increasingly prevalent on the Internet, the slower HTTP protocol would still be used to transfer information.

Sun, which was able to make NFS a standard on private TCP/IP networks by licensing it to other Unix and PC vendors, is hoping to repeat history on the Internet with WebNFS.

The company will this month distribute WebNFS code to its list of more than 200 NFS licensees. It will also embed WebNFS in future versions of its Solaris variant of Unix and incorporate it into the forthcoming Netra NFS server, which the company expects to release in July.

"We expect that every Web browser vendor will enhance product to support WebNFS URLs [Uniform Resource Locators]," Sinha said. "The performance advantages are so compelling."