PCI-X Gang Of Three Challenges Intel With Future I/O
The PCI-X gang of three has recruited Adaptec to the fold, and announced a "Future I/O alliance" intended to build a high-performance I/O standard to replace PCI/PCI-X. In September (Earlier story) Compaq, HP and IBM peeled away from Intel to push the PCI-X. Intel gave the new standard a guarded welcome, but muttered through its teeth that PCI-X would have to be the last iteration of the old bus standard, and that a "fundamentally new architecture" would be needed for the future. By fortunate happenstance, Intel has a number of candidates for just such a new architecture in the labs.
Future I/O however makes it clear that the PC companies aren’t going to let go of this one. According to the principles the group is to be an open industry alliance with the goal of "creating a new input/output standard to maximise data transfer between high-performance systems." Significantly, they point out that "the combined server market share of Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and IBM will be a significant factor in driving the openness and broad industry support for the Future I/O standard." This means they see it applying initially to servers, and anticipate using their dominant share of the PC server market to push the standard through. But this also means they’re going to be going head-to-head with the Intel-backed NGIO standard (Bus wars loom).
With PCI-X Intel seems to have taken the view that it could assimilate the gang of three. The PC companies are all members of the PCI SIG, and have put forward PCI-X for consideration by the SIG. Life is going to be trickier with Future I/O and NGIO, however, and the overlap between the two could result in an outbreak of hot war. Future I/O is intended to work alongside PCI and PCI-X for a period, but is clearly being pitched as a replacement in the longer term. The specification will allow for "continued innovation with the standard [sic]... easier and more regular performance enhancements, better fault tolerance and fault isolation... more scalable and balanced systems,... and more cost-effective and manageable I/O overall.
It will use point-to-point links, allowing devices to operate at optimum performance, and whereas existing bus technologies are difficult to upgrade because all connected devices have to move in step, point-to-point allows improvements to be made in considerably less time. The companies stress protection of investment, and say PCI and PCI-X will run alongside Future I/O for "many years," but the new standard is intended to be universally applicable. Said Karl Walker, VP technology development for Compaq: "We designed the technology to be deployed across our entire spectrum of business solutions from the desktop to the enterprise at a cost and manageability level better than existing PCI solutions."
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