Server I/O talks deadlocked, sources say

After months of haggling over a variety of technical and political issues to determine the specifications over the next-generation bus for PC servers, talks between Intel and the triumvirate of IBM, Compaq Computer, and Hewlett-Packard have stalled, according to sources close to the negotiations.

Consequently, the two camps -- Intel with its Next Generation I/O (NGIO) specification and IBM-Compaq-HP with its Future I/O specification -- are ready to move along parallel development lines with two incompatible designs, forcing corporate users to make buying decisions between the two.

Although sources close to the talks did not clearly define what the stumbling blocks were, the technical differences between the two proposed standards is not the major irritant.

"I don't think the technical details are insurmountable. They could work through them. But there was this idea of coming to the table with a preconceived starting point as opposed to a more open starting point where everyone would feel they could contribute,'' sources said. "Although the channel for dialog remains open, I don't see us merging. At least not voluntarily.'' Intel reportedly is unable to "free'' itself from a "preconceived specification and schedule that would best serve its business model,'' said one source from within the IBM-Compaq-H-P camp.

"We thought we could come to a merger of contributing the best of what we had with Future I/O and accepting the best of NGIO, but disagreements on starting points are difficult to negotiate,'' a source from the IBM-Compaq-HP triumvirate said.

Intel's proposed NGIO standard is the successor to the existing PCI X bus, to which virtually all major hardware makers ascribe.

However, most industry observers agreed that the traditional bus architecture does not have enough horsepower to adequately run the higher-powered electronic-commerce applications many corporations will want to deploy by the year 2000 and beyond.

On the positive side, the two camps reportedly made progress on other issues including the way they would jointly manage the organisation and development of the specification over time, and how intellectual property and royalty payments for those technical contributions would be handled, sources said.

So far 65 companies have signed up to support Future I/O. Sources said the consortium will add a couple more promoters, or founders, of the group which include IBM, Compaq, HP, 3Com, and Adaptec.

The group is currently planning a second technical developers conference in either May or June, similar to the one it held in Monterey, California, in February.

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