Tentative Unification in Server I/O Architecture Battle

  • Written By: R. Krause
  • Published: September 3 1999

Tentative Unification in Server I/O Architecture Battle
R.A. Krause - September 3rd, 1999

Event Summary

The Next Generation I/O (NGIO) and Future I/O (FIO) groups announced on August 31st, 1999, that they intend to merge their specifications into one, to be used by server and peripheral vendors throughout the industry. The unified architecture will be called System I/O. (NGIO includes Intel, Dell, Sun, Hitachi, NEC and Siemens; FIO was founded by Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM.)

Market Impact

With the development of very fast and powerful CPUs, I/O has become the biggest bottleneck in system performance. Each group was trying to create the standard which would alleviate this bottleneck for the consumer (and gain control of this critical architectural area), and the uncertainty created by the conflict provided no benefit to the consumer. Assuming the unification is completed (>90% probability), this means that a standard I/O architecture will reduce the conflict and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) regarding which architecture is better. While unification often results in a watering-down of the architectures, we believe System I/O will be better than either of the non-unified architectures (80% probability).

Judging from the PCI and USB architectures, Intel will be the controlling influence, although it will end up making concessions on some of the architectural features. Assuming Intel is the key player, this helps consolidate the server market under Intel's unofficial "control". Long-term, this will most likely reduce the variation across vendors, leading to even greater control by Intel.

User Recommendations

There is no immediate impact on consumers, only on the vendors whose designers/architects may have started planning for either NGIO or FIO. However, for the longer term, the consumer for whom I/O architecture matters will have a more clearly-defined choice (as in, no choice). While this provides stability in that the consumer doesn't risk "betting on the wrong horse", those customers who want choices won't have them.

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