Packet Driver BOF at Interop '88


John Romkey (ROMKEY@XX.LCS.MIT.EDU)
Sat 20 Aug 88 03:25:05-EDT


I'm going to be running a Birds of a Feather session at the next TCP/IP
Interoperability Conference, in September. This BOF will take place on
Wednesday the week of the conference, at 5PM. It won't run past 6PM
because the conference reception will be then, though if there's enough
interest (or need) we can continue it later on or at another time if
we can find a place for it.

The BOF will be about "standardizing" on a programming interface through
which MS-DOS applications (yes, presumably running on IBM PC-like things)
can access a network interface and send raw packets. This interface should
allow multiple protocol stacks to run simultaneously in the machine, and
should insulate the application as much as possible from the network media
particular network interface being used.

While I was at FTP Software, I designed and implemented something called
the "Packet Driver" interface, which has been becoming rather popular on
the PC/IP mailing list recently. The packet driver has some problems, both
with ambiguities in the specification and with some important pieces of
lacking functionality. I want to redesign the interface to allow it to
be more efficient, more general and more powerful, and I want to make sure
that it will meet the needs of protocol implementors and network itnerface
manufacturers. If this is done properly, vendors of non-smart board
TCP/IP implementations will not have to keep writing new drivers every time
a new ethernet card comes out; they'll be able to point to this specification
and have hardware vendors implement a driver which conforms to it. The
hardware vendors have the advantage that as soon as they've written this
driver, their hardware will be supported by whatever conforming software
already uses it, with little effort on their part (no beating up on
software companies to support them).

I want to encourage vendors of TCP/IP and proprietary LAN protocols for the IBM
PC to come to the BOF, and for IBM PC network interface vendors to attend.

I hope to generate an RFC from this spec, and get several pieces of public
domain software written that we can give out to people who want to support it,
in order to make their task easier.

                                        - john romkey
                                          epilogue technology corp.

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