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TCP Chimney Dispute Cleaned Up

Microsoft settled a legal dispute with Alacritech of San Jose, Calif., over technology to offload network protocol processing, the companies announced on Wednesday. The settlement included an undisclosed payment to Alacritech from Microsoft.

Alacritech sued Microsoft in August 2004, arguing that Microsoft’s technology for offloading network protocol processing, code-named “TCP Chimney,” illegally infringed on Alacritech’s patents. A judge in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco granted an injunction against Microsoft in the case in April, blocking Microsoft from using the technology in the Longhorn version of Windows.

The legal issues also derailed Microsoft’s plans to introduce TCP offloading in Windows Server 2003 via the Scalable Networking Pack for Windows Server 2003, originally slated for delivery in 2004, and threw the development of TCP/IP offloading technology in Longhorn into turmoil.

“TCP Chimney will be available in early 2006 as an out of band a release called Scalable Networking Pack for Windows Server 2003,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an e-mailed statement to reporters Wednesday. “ TCP Chimney will increase the performance of I/O intensive applications such as backup/restore, networked storage, high performance computing, multi-processor web servers, Exchange Servers and others.”

According to Microsoft, TCP Chimney will improve application, server and network performance in Windows Server 2003.

Alacritech names its own intellectual property “SLIC Technology,” and calls it a Dynamic TCP Offload architecture. It is designed to offload network protocol processing, including TCP/IP, RDMA and iSCSI, from host software to silicon. The company says its offload technology is a key enabler for scalable networking to 10 GB and beyond. Alacritech’s products include Gigabit Ethernet TNIC products, ISCSI controller products and IPP ASICs.

Part of the settlement is a three-way, cross-licensing deal among Microsoft, Alacritech and Irvine, Calif.-based networking semiconductor company Broadcom Corp.

“Today’s agreement will help facilitate the widespread adoption of systems technology that is a key enabler of efficient data delivery,” said Larry Boucher, president and CEO of Alacritech.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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