Bus wars loom as Intel and PC outfits form rival SIGs

The server big three look tough, but Intel seems to be pulling a flanker on ship dates

Bus wars seem certain to break out between two rival camps, Intel-led NGIO and Future I/O, which was announced today (PCI-X gang challenges Intel). The new model has the PCI-X triad, Compaq, IBM and HP, as ring-leaders, but will be locking horns with a heavyweight bunch of rivals, including Dell, Hitachi, NEC, Siemens and Sun. With the announcement of Future I/O it begins to seem that last week’s announcement of an NGIO Forum "to develop and implement a new open I/O architecture for optimising information flow and reliability between mission critical servers2 was a pre-emptive strike. Funnily enough the Future I/O Inititiative "will follow an open industry development and governance model similar to that of the PCI SIG... the governing body responsible for the open development process that has successfully managed the PCI standard over its [apparently shortly to be terminated] lifetime." Quite clearly Compaq, HP and IBM see Future I/O as the successor to PCI, while over in NGIO the idea seems to be more or less the same. "The NGIO Industry Forum, with broad industry participation, will ensure that the architecture is robust, broadly adopted and available for product beginning in 2000. A founding principle of the Forum is that contributions to the core specification should be licensed on a mutual royalty-free basis." But compare and contrast. Future I/O won’t get to product stage until 2002, so Intel’s indulgent support of PCI-X can be seen in that light - carry on lads, while we slide a non-competing future bus standard (PCI-X for the desktop, NGIO for servers and workstations, right) in between it and your next generation. And licensing may be a problem. Rather than being mutually royalty-free, the Future I/O Initiative will recognise "the input from multiple vendors with reasonable and non-discriminatory licensing terms that are very similar to those in many other standards." Sounds pretty shifty, doesn’t it? Round one to the Great Satan of chips. ®

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