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Intel working with rival server group

Although Intel is busy developing its upcoming NGIO server architecture, company executives say that the chipmaker is working with the rival group on a compromise.

PALM SPRINGS, California--Although Intel is busy developing silicon for its upcoming NGIO server architecture, company executives said that the chipmaker is working with the rival Future I/O group on a compromise.

Compromise between the NGIO and Future I/O camps could defuse a simmering controversy in the server world.

The two groups essentially are vying to establish the input-output architecture for future Intel-based servers. The Future I/O group, led by IBM, Compaq Computer and Hewlett-Packard, want to have a larger say and greater control in the standards-setting process, the companies have said. By doing so, they believe they will be able to differentiate their products more easily from companies such as Dell Computer that invest less in research.

"We continue to have lots of discussions and continue to work toward a common goal," said John Miner, general manager of the Enterprise server group at Intel. "Customers would like us to all get together and have a single specification."

Meanwhile, Intel will release the Pentium III versions of its Xeon processors on March 17, said sources. The new Pentium III Xeon processors released then will run at 500 MHz and be boosted to 550 MHz later. The chips will contain secondary caches ranging up to 2MB in size.

Several server vendors are expected to announced two- and four-processor servers in conjunction with the new chip. A preview event, similar to the preview that Intel held with the Pentium III, will occur as well.

Eight-processor Xeon systems will then follow in the second quarter, added Miner, a slight slip from the earlier road map. Intel will then follow up with "Cascades," a faster, enhanced version of the Pentium III Xeon in the second half.

Intel also today announced its Enterprise Technology Center, a laboratory located near the Intel premises that will act as a forum for server and other computer makers to exchange future technological ideas or strategies.

"We want to make it easy for that [technological exchange] to happen," Miner said. Potential problems exist because companies participating in the program will be exchanging intellectual property, but Miner said that the legal framework was being worked out.

The center will first be used to promote technological exchanges for systems being developed for the upcoming 64-bit Merced processor.

While the debate between the two server architecture camps has largely been acrimonious, common ground between the two appears to be growing, especially as customers have begun to complain, said sources.

Miner today at the Intel Developer Forum said that the two groups largely agree on the technical issues and that new standards are needed. The points of contention mostly center around how the new technology will be implemented. "We agree that a new I/O is required," he said. "There is very little disagreement on the technical issues."

Nonetheless, work on NGIO continues. "The technical specs have been completed. A prototype of NGIO in hardware pilots in mid-1999. Basic samples will come at the end of 1999 and product will ship in mid-2000," he said.