New Connections Will Pack More Into Bios

A standards-setting body is adding internal system and system/server connections to the computer BIOS protocol.

A standards-setting body is adding internal system and system/server connections to the computer BIOS protocol, which could mean new system capabilities and lower costs for users.

T13, the committee that designs interface standards for ATA (Advanced Technology Attachment) hardware, is working on the EDD (Enhanced Disk Drive Services)-3 specification, which will add support for HyperTransport, InfiniBand and PCI-X to system BIOSes.

HyperTransport is a method of sending packets among chips. InfiniBand and PCI-X are server interconnect methods. BIOS, which contains information about hardware functions, is the first software loaded when a computer turns on.

"I have a fast schedule running on this one; were planning on forwarding it in February," said Curtis Stevens, T13 secretary and director of engineering at Pacific Digital Corp., in Irvine, Calif.

American Megatrends Inc. and Phoenix Technologies Ltd., the leading BIOS makers, plan to support the standards as soon as theyre official, company representatives said.

When EDD-3 is adopted by BIOS, hardware and operating system makers, which is expected by the middle of next year, Stevens said, users will see faster boot times, earlier access to peripherals and potential cost savings due to fewer third-party software drivers needed to run peripherals.

In a future EDD version, possibly by 2005, T13 might add support for 3GB Serial ATA II and improvements to ADMA (Automatic Direct Memory Access), Stevens said. Serial ATA II is an evolution of legacy parallel ATA connections inside computers; ADMA is a host controller using chaining and polling to manage overlapping and queued hard drive commands.

"Its a pain to have to work with all the drivers," said Sam Inks, director of IS at Atlantic Research Corp., in Gainesville, Va., and an eWeek Corporate Partner. "I have some sympathy for having to have the machine boot faster, but I think it would be a risk because most of these guys write drivers that are very specific to their hardware."