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Intel gets backing for connection push

Dell Computer and Sun Microsystems are among the companies that will help the chip giant develop a new technology to connect processors and components.

Dell Computer and Sun Microsystems are among the companies that will help Intel develop a new technology to connect computer processors and components, Intel announced today.

Intel has been leading the effort to develop a server architecture, called Next-Generation Input/Output (NGIO), and has been working to convince other companies to support the NGIO system.

Along with Dell and Sun, the other companies that will lead NGIO development are Hitachi, NEC, and Siemens.

Those five companies, along with Intel, will make up the steering committee for the NGIO Industry Forum, a group open to anyone, Intel said.

Conspicuously missing from the list of companies are IBM, Compaq Computer, and Hewlett-Packard, all major server companies that sell machines using Intel chips. Those three companies are leading a competing effort, called Future I/O, that uses a "switched fabric" technology similar to NGIO.

Intel will provide more details on NGIO at its developer's conference in Palm Springs, which takes place from February 23 to 25. The Future I/O crowd, meanwhile, is feverishly trying to organize a developer's conference to take place before then.

Dell manufactures computers tightly wedded to the Intel architecture. Sun, however, makes machines that don't use Intel chips, although it sells a version of its Solaris operating system for Intel chips. In addition, Sun's current Sparc chips support the Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) system that NGIO could replace.

"NGIO has the potential to go significantly beyond PCI in Solaris-based Sparc and Intel systems to meet the reliability and performance demands of future applications," Sun said in a statement.

Intel and others say switched fabric designs such as NGIO will allow data to be transferred faster between a computer's processor and components such as network cards or hard disk systems. Perhaps more significantly, switched fabric designs offer greater reliability, because they shield the processor from problems in the components.

Intel says NGIO technology will be licensed royalty-free.

NGIO will appear in systems in 2000, but is expected to "coexist" with PCI for the foreseeable future, Intel said.