Craig Barrett reckons the proposed PCI-X bus standard - a potential successor to Intel's PCI standard - is not, as is widely believed, an attempt to loosen Intel's grip on the computer industry. He believes instead that Dell is the target of the PCI-X consortium, made up of industry heavyweights, Compaq, IBM and HP.
Dell, which is challenging Compaq for number one slot in the US, is being "frozen out" by the group in an attempt to gain some "competitive advantage" over it in the server arena. "They've [the PCI-X consortium] kept it under wraps for nine months, what reason?" asked Barrett in an exclusive interview with ZDNet UK News. "They've come up with this bus specification in private, left out some other players who are serious competitors of theirs."
Dell agrees with Barrett's assertion but has kept its opinion to itself thus far: "Of course this is a reasonable point to make and I think yes, the consortium may well have chosen not to talk with Dell because, particularly Compaq, is scared of the efficiency of our business model," said Michael Hjallsted, senior EMEA product manager for servers at Dell. Hjallsted confirmed Dell's interest in the PCI-X proposal which is expected to be announced by the PCI Special Interest Group (SIG) within the next two months. He also confirmed that Dell "definitely was not consulted on this project" but said: "Obviously if we feel it has benefit for our customers we will consider using it in our products."
A report last week quotes a member of the PCI-X consortium saying: "The time is ripe for a grass-roots type of backlash. We're trying to create an environment where Intel is an equal player in the technology, not the controller," but Dell's Hjallsted doesn't see things that way. "We are growing in the server market while Compaq, for example, is beginning to slip." Hjallsted quoted figures from industry analyst IDC which showed Dell's unit shipments (servers) grow 58.9 percent in Q2 1998. "Compaq on the other hand slipped from 40 percent in Q1 to 39.9 percent in Q2," he said.
Code-named Project 1, the PCIX specification offers a bus speed of 133MHz compared to PCI's 66MHz. PCI transfers data between the CPU and peripherals at 132MB per second but PCIX will boost that to around 1GB per second and is seen as a way to unblock the bottleneck that PCI has become.
Barrett assured ZDNet News that if the SIG accepts the PCI-X specification "Intel won't fight it". Instead the chip giant will continue to work on its own "next generation I/O technologies".
HP, IBM and Compaq did not return calls.