Apple Brings IP Over FireWire To FireWire Macs; What Does That Mean?

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The gearhead community has been asking for IP over FireWire from Apple, the company that invented FireWire, and today Apple delivered it. The company released a preview release of IP over FireWire that works on FireWire enabled Macs. This is similar to FireNet from UniBrain, a commercial product that effectively does the same thing. Microsoft also offers IP services over FireWire in some versions of Windows XP.

IP over FireWire effectively allows users to use FireWire for any sort of activities that use TCP/IP. TCP/IP is the set of protocols that computers use to locate and communicate with each other, and is the protocol that drives the Internet as we know it. In other words, IP over FireWire would allow you to use FireWire like you would use Ethernet or AirPort.

With a speed of up to 400 Mbps (Mega bits per second) compared to 10 Mbps with 10BaseT Ethernet, FireWire offers some obvious speed advantages. It should be noted, however, that FireWire has a limited cable length/range, 4.5 meters, past which FireWire repeaters must be used. While Ethernet is also limited, its range is substantially longer, at 100 meters for 10baseT, making it more convenient for large networks.

UniBrainis FireNet, according to the company, offers performance over a standard FireWire network that it says is comparable to the real-world performance of Gigabit Ethernet, which has a theoretical limit of 1000Mbps. While Appleis technology is in preview release and canit be compared to UniBrainis shipping commercial product, this does offer a glimpse at the possibilities from IP over FireWire.

Such speeds offers new possibilities to Mac users with networking need. "IP over FireWire is an inexpensive alternative to Gigabit Ethernet," Daniel Jackson, CTO of FirewireDirect, told TMO. "If I required a quick network bus for a small workgroup or cluster of servers, FireWire would make a great option." Once the next generation of FireWire, known by its IEEE designation of 1394b, reaches the market, Mr. Jackson tells us that IP over FireWire might give us performance closer to Fibre Channel.

From Apple:

All Apple computers sold today include one or more FireWire ports. Because FireWire can transfer data at up to 400 megabits/second, it is suitable for networking and clustering solutions, as well as temporary connections to the internet using Internet Sharing.

Now the IP over FireWire Preview Release adds support for using the Internet Protocol - commonly known as TCP/IP - over FireWire. With this software installed, Macintosh computers and other devices can use existing IP protocols and services over FireWire, including AFP, HTTP, FTP, SSH, etc. In all cases, Rendezvous can be used if desired for configuration, name resolution, and discovery.

The preview release adds a new Kernel Extension that hooks into the existing network services architecture. Using the existing Network Preferences Pane, users can add FireWire as their IP network node to connect and communicate between two machines.

Now developers interested in using the Internet Protocol (IP) over FireWire may download the IP over FireWire Preview Release.

You can download the preview release of IP over FireWire directly from Appleis Web site. We would like to remind you, however, that this is a preview release aimed at developers, and not a final version.

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