The i960 processor is designed specifically for networking applications and works in tandem with its Pentium Pro and Pentium II processors. Commonly called an I/O (input/output) processor, the i960 speeds up data transfer in the server computers that run corporate networks.
A host of major Intel-based server vendors are announcing today that they will use a new i960 RISC processor that has integrated support for the I20 standard. The I20 protocol establishes a common standard for high-performance server architectures, according to Wendy Vittori, general manager of Intel's Connected PC division.
"This is the first chip to implement the I20 protocol," she said. The chip also consolidates features that were previously offered on separate chips, she said. The chip is based on a fundamental architecture called "Data Flow," according to Vittori. The Data Flow architecture essentially creates larger data "pipes" inside a server PC for data to flow through, increasing performance.
It also relieves the main processor of specialized I/O tasks. Shifting the work in this manner frees up the main processor and thereby increases performance, according an explanation posted on the I2O Special Interest Group (SIG) site.
At the Networld/Interop trade show in Atlanta today, computer makers such as Acer America, AST Computer, Compaq, Dell, Gateway 2000, Hewlett-Packard, International Business Machines, Micron Electronics, and NEC Computer Systems are expected to announce they will include the chip in new servers, for shipment during the next three months.
Jerry Sheridan, an analyst at Dataquest, said that the new I2O technology will likely be adopted across the X86 industry fairly quickly because it will free up the central processor.
"We should see a bump in performance on a number of benchmarks," he said.
The fact that some of the largest PC vendors are adopting the i960 chip indicates that Intel is finding markets for new chips other than its mainstay Pentium and Pentium II processors.
Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.
Reuters contributed to this report.