What is a Named Pipe?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 09 September 2019
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Named pipes are one option that is used to directly transmit data from a point of origin to a point of termination. This approach tends to avoid the necessity of going through some type of mediating protocol or process. The end result of the named pipe approach is a quick and easy movement of data from one point to another, often in a highly secure manner.

In order to understand the concept of a named pipe, it is first necessary to define what a pipe refers to in computer programming. Essentially, a pipe provides a simple one way communication process that is direct and does not require anything other than a direct send to the point of termination. The concept of the pipe is a common feature in various Unix operating systems. Within the actual structure of the pipe mechanism, the operating system receives the transmitted data from the sender and places it into a holding pattern while the reception protocols are activated on the receiver end. Once the point of termination is ready to receive the data, the operating system releases the data and the transmission is complete.


Within a named pipe environment, this basic function is expanded somewhat. The named pipe process is still considered a one way communication, but has the added advantage of being able to transmit data to pipes or points of termination that does not have the same origin as the sending process. As long as the process recognizes the name or designation that is assigned to the receiving pipe, the transmission can take place.

As a quick and easy procedure for passing information, a named pipe is a valuable tool. The computer process is quick and easy, and has the advantage of not having to navigate through all the steps associated with many forms on online and network communications. The process of the named pipe is sometimes known as FIFO, or “first in first out.” This acknowledges that the first data to enter the pipe will be the first data to be received by the appropriate process.


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