The Info List - Banyan VINES

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BANYAN VINES was a network operating system developed by Banyan Systems for computers running AT entries in the directory always had the form item@group@organization. This applied to user accounts as well as to resources like printers and file servers .


OSI layer VINES Protocol Stack

7 File
Services Print Services Street Talk (directory service) other Services

6 Remote Procedure Calls (RPC)


4 InterProcess Communications (IPC) Datagram Sequenced Packet Protocol (SPP) Stream

3 VINES Internetwork Protocol (VIP) Address Resolution Protocol (ARP) Routing Table Protocol (RTP) Internet
Control Protocol (ICP)

2 Media Access Protocols: HDLC , X.25 , Token ring
Token ring
, Ethernet



VINES client-software ran on most PC-based operating systems, including MS-DOS and earlier versions of Microsoft
Windows . It was fairly light-weight on the client, and hence remained in use during the later half of the 1990s on many older machines that couldn't run other networking stacks then in widespread use. This occurred on the server side as well, as VINES generally offered good performance, even from mediocre hardware.


With StreetTalk's inherent low bandwidth requirements, global companies and governments that grasped the advantages of worldwide directory services seamlessly spanning multiple time zones recognized VINE's technological edge. Users included gas and oil companies, power companies, public utilities—and U.S. Government agencies including the State Department, Treasury Department, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Defense.

The U.S. State Department, for example, was an early adopter of the VINES technology. Able to take advantage of the then high-speed 56k modems for telephonic connectivity of the developed world to the limited telephone modem speeds of 300 baud over bad analog telephone systems in the Third World , VINES was able to link embassies around the world. VINES also came with built-in point-to-point and group chat capability that was useful for basic communication over secure lines.


By the late 1980s the US Marine Corps was searching for simple, off-the-shelf worldwide network connectivity with rich built-in email, file, and print features. By 1988 the Marine Corps had standardized on VINES as both its garrison (base) and forward-deployed ground-based battlefield email-centric network operating system.

Using both ground-based secure radio channels and satellite and military tactical phone switches, the Marine Corps was ready for its first big test of VINES: the 1990-1991 Gulf War. Units were able to seamlessly coordinate ground, naval, and air strikes across military boundaries by using the chat function to pass target lists and adjust naval gun fire on the fly. Ground fire support coordination agencies used VINES up and down command channels—from Battalion-to-Regiment through Division-to-Corps and Squadron-to-Group to Aircraft Wing-to-Corps, as well as in peer-to-peer unit communication.


For a decade, Banyan's OS competitors, Novell and Microsoft, dismissed the utility of directory services . Consequently, VINES dominated what came to be called the "directory services" space from 1985 to 1995. While seeming to ignore VINES, Novell and eventually Microsoft—companies with a flat server or domain-based network model—came to realize the strategic value of directory services. With little warning, Novell went from playing down the value of directory services to announcing its own: NetWare Directory Services (NDS). Eventually, Novell changed NDS to mean Novell Directory Services, and then renamed that to eDirectory.

had gone through its own round of operating system development. Initially, they partnered with IBM to develop an Intel-based disk operating system called PC DOS
, and its Microsoft twin, MS-DOS . Eventually, Microsoft
shared true network operating system development with IBM LAN
Manager and its Microsoft
twin, Microsoft
Manager . Microsoft
parted company with IBM and continued developing LAN
Manager into what became Windows NT . Essentially, its OS 4.0. NT was originally a flat server or domain-based operating system with none of the advantages of VINES or NDS.

For Windows NT 5.0 (released as Windows 2000 ) however, Microsoft included Active Directory , an LDAP directory service based on the directory from its Exchange mail server. Active Directory was as robust as and, in several key ways, superior to VINES. While VINES was limited to a three-part name, user.company.org, like Novell's NDS structure, Active Directory was not bound by such a naming convention. Active Directory had developed an additional capability that both NDS and VINES lacked, its "forest and trees" organizational model. The combination of better architecture and a marketing company the size of Microsoft
doomed StreetTalk, VINES as an OS, and finally Banyan itself.


By the late 1990s, VINES' once-touted Street Talk Services' non-flat, non-domain model with its built-in messaging, efficiency and onetime performance edge had lost ground to newer technology. Banyan was unable to market its product far beyond its initial base of multi-national and government entities.

Because Banyan could not quickly develop an OS to take advantage of newer hardware, and apparently did not understand that the StreetTalk directory services, not the shrink-wrapped OS, was the prime value added—the company lost ground in the networking market. VINES sales rapidly dried up, both because of these problems and because of the rapid rise of