Intel Corp this week will take the wraps off a new version of an i960 input-output processor optimized for use as an I20 bus controller, hears Client Server News. The move could give the company an insurmountable lead in producing silicon for the nascent high-performance input-output scheme (CI No 3,065). Intel has cast the new i960RD chip, which it’s been quietly sampling for the past few weeks, as a Pentium Pro coprocessor that can sit right on the motherboard. It’s hoping that by this time next year, just about every Pentium Pro-based server shipped will include the i960RD as standard. Until now I20, the high- performance standard input-output bus that Microsoft Corp is counting on to give NT the same kind of performance as midrange and even mainframe computers, was expected to be the province of add-in boards. By tailoring the i960RD to hook directly to a Pentium Pro, Intel in one fell swoop has outmaneuvered both would-be I20 bridge silicon makers and processor competitors. In effect, Intel has taken I20 and converted it into a Pentium Pro sales channel. The payback for Intel comes at the platform level, said Intel Enterprise Computing input-output division marketing manager Jim Kearns, who confirmed the strategy. We’re going to sell more Pentium Pros. Kearns said that the i960RD on a motherboard can be hooked to additional i960-based add-in boards for more power.
Flood of announcements
The i960 is about to spark a flood of announcements by server OEM customers and motherboard vendors. The first out of the gate looks to be Micronics Computers Inc, which is set to unveil the M6DPd, a dual-Pentium Pro design using Intel Corp’s 440FX PCIset and the i960RD. On the system side, Dell Computer Corp last week was already touting an I20-ready server. Hewlett-Packard Co hasn’t said anything yet, but sources say it’s doing i960RD benchmarks for Intel, so an HP I20-ready server can’t be far off. A string of similar announcements based on the i960RD will lead up to the I20 special interest group’s second compliance workshop on February 20-21 in Redmond, Washington, where the Intel technology is expected to be performing live and in person. Microsoft, which is promising an I20 device driver development kit before the end of the quarter, will support I20 in NT 5.0, is hosting the thing. Novell, which has already released its driver kit and is promising an I20 NetWare Loadable Module by June, hosted the first workshop in December. The Santa Cruz Operation Inc has also promised I20 support in its forthcoming 64-bit Gemini Unix implementation, due out around mid-year.