PALM SPRINGS, Calif. Two dueling camps attempting to define an input/output architecture for future server generations reached a compromise Tuesday and decided to merge. The Future I/O organization and the Next-Generation Input/Output (NGIO) team will join to form System I/O. Initial systems based on the architecture will be available by 2001.
"We are uniting to combine the best ideas from NGIO and Future I/O into a single specification," said John Miner, vice president and general manager of Intel Corp.'s communications product group. "The industry realizes this is the right approach, and with this combined effort, both the industry and the end users will benefit."
Although the System I/O group has not yet been officially created, the two parties have reached a definitive agreement to work together. Not all the technical details have been resolved, but Tom Bradicich, director of architecture and design IBM Corp.'s Intel-based server group, said they will be able to issue a unified specification by the end of December. "We're not going to be able to do it by then because it's easy," he said. "We're going to do it because it's the right thing to do."
Martin Whittaker, R&D manager for Hewlett-Packard Co.'s enterprise systems and software group, said the format will allow one, four or 12 wires, with a total aggregate bandwidth of up to 500 Mbytes-per-second. "We don't anticipate increasing this in the near future, because we think this much bandwidth will be more than enough for the next generations of servers."
Intel and its allies, including Dell Computer and Sun Microsystems, have been promoting NGIO for several years. The group's latest volley came in mid-July when it released version 1.0 of its specficiation to members. NGIO emerged to oppose the Future I/O party, spearheaded by Compaq Computer, IBM and HP. At issue is the power to define how servers will link their internal sub-systems.
"We realized about three years ago that the existing bus designs wouldn't meet the needs of future servers," said Miner. "But this new spec has the legs to keep pace with Moore's law."
The merger plans were welcomed by related organizations, whose work has hinged on an I/O spec shakeout. Ray Alderman, executive director of the VMEbus International Trade Association (VITA; Scottsdale, Ariz.), said the group now expects to finish its High-Speed Serial Architecture spec by year's end.
"Now we know what the electricals are and can go forward," Alderman said.