The Future I/O Alliance, whose founding members include Compaq Computer Corp, Hewlett-Packard Co and IBM Corp confirmed yesterday that more than 60 companies who attended the group’s developers’ forum in Monterey, have gone on to endorse their proposed I/O server specification. In an official statement issued by Compaq, the alliance announced that Amdahl Associates, Digi International, Dolphin Interconnect, DPT, EMC, GigaNet, LSI Logic, Molex, Mylex, Novell, Poseidon, Q Logic, SCO, SGI and SysKonnect, among others, have all lent their support to the architecture, including, interestingly, Intel (which has developed an alternative I/O spec) rival AMD. Adaptec Inc and 3Com Corp have already joined the alliance as official sponsors of the spec. Compaq and its partners said they would continue to work over the remainder of 1999 to develop the technical specification, which will then be made available to all alliance members by the end of the year. Ratification of the standard is expected early in 2000, with prototypes demonstrated shortly after, and products based on the standard are expected to ship in early 2001. After continued wranglings with Intel Corp, whose working on a rival spec, NGIO (Next Generation Input/Output), last week, the alliance took the opportunity to clearly reiterate its goal, namely to provide, for an annual license fee, a single interconnect bus that can be used for both inter-processor communication in parallel application clusters as well as for high bandwidth technologies such as SCSI, Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet in servers. Whether Future I/O actually carries data faster than Intel’s NGIO is difficult to say for certain, both sides deny the other one’s claims of speed superiority (CI No 3,598). But what yesterday’s announcement does seem to make patently clear is that the two rival groups have all but ditched any plans to converge their architectures into one, standard specification. Although both sides claim to be in active discussions with the other, the almost weekly press releases detailing management groups and steering committees tell a different story and appear, on the face of it at least, to be driving the two camps further apart.
The alliance said it plans to use a governance model similar to the existing PCI special interest group (PCI SIG) to develop the technical specification and to market and promote the technology. An independent governing body composed of industry leaders from many diverse segments will control the specification, and the alliance is working to create a steering committee and management board the statement said. As with the PCI SIG, special workgroups will be established as the need arises to evaluate specialized or complex issues. Meanwhile, officials at Intel said it is preparing for its developers forum, which is due to take place next week in Palm Springs. Prior to that, on Monday night, the NGIO forum steering committee (comprising Dell, Hitachi, Intel, NEC, Siemens and Sun) will be hosting an open industry NGIO reception to officially kickoff its industry initiative membership drive and update interested parties on the specification, working groups and other developments. The developer forum starts Tuesday and NGIO will form the highlight of discussions Wednesday, the company said.