SANTA CLARA, Calif. Representatives from Intel Corp. and IBM Corp. have broken off talks aimed at ending a dispute over interconnect technology for future PC servers. As a result, the Next-Generation I/O Forum, which is backed by Intel, and the Future I/O group, which is supported by IBM, Compaq Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co., are moving ahead with incompatible approaches to linking high-end systems and peripherals.
"At the moment the discussions are off," said Gary Abbott, a founding member of the NGIO Forum, from Dell Computer Corp. (Round Rock, Texas). "In the end a single standard probably does need to exist, but we may have to let the marketplace battle that out for awhile."
The NGIO group has released a draft specification for a 2.5-Gbit/second channel I/O architecture to its members. The group hopes to implement the scheme in servers that will ship late next year using Intel's Foster 32-bit processor.
For its part, the Future I/O group has said it aims to have an I/O specification available late this year that it expects to see used in servers that would ship in 2001, possibly targeting Intel's 64-bit McKinley processor, a successor to the Merced chip.
Both groups were in close discussions and had made mutual concessions as recently as last month, but hit insurmountable sticking points as the negotiations proceeded.
Both groups had established independent organizations to develop their technologies and both were based on a one-company, one-vote rule. And the NGIO Forum had indicated its willingness to let members recoup modest royalties on its architecture, a requirement for the Future I/O camp.
However, the NGIO group balked at suggestions the two camps should combine and start afresh to tackle the problem.
Future I/O representatives said "they would prefer to start from scratch and create a new spec," said Tom Macdonald, a general manager at the server group of Intel (Hillsboro, Ore.) and a leader of the negotiations for the NGIO Forum. "But their schedule is a year behind ours. And the reality is it could take two years or more to work out a fresh approach, and I don't think the market should have to wait."
For its part, the Future I/O group has expressed concern that the migration to a new I/O architecture should be a gradual one from today's PCI. Specifically, Compaq, IBM and HP collaborated to develop PCI-X, a version of PCI that can run at speeds up to 132 MHz. They plan to roll out the first servers to implement PCI-X later this year.