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News about the PCI Universal Serial IOC

Dell threw us a curve ball with their 11th generation PowerEdge servers: no more PCI or PCI-X I/O slots, only PCI Express slots. This was a gnarly problem for us because our PCI Universal Serial IOC that provides connectivity for legacy "928" devices is, well, a PCI card. The baseboard we use is not going to be available in a PCI Express variant for some time. While the need for 928 connectivity is not as great as it was when we first introduced the New VS, it is vitally important for some market segments, particularly groups of prospects in Europe.

We looked into making a USB variant of our card but ran into unacceptable behavioral anomalies affecting throughput in the USB libraries needed for our driver. We did not wish to undertake major rewrite of open source USB software components that should have worked correctly to begin with.

We looked at the IBM xSeries servers, where the counterparts of the latest Dell models can be equipped with PCI-X risers. Our card works in PCI-X slots. We ran into enormous problems with an IBM reseller who didn't know the products and, in the end, enormous delays just getting an evaluation system for testing, so the IBM servers were not our preferred solution.

Meanwhile it came to our attention that there is a product that uses a PCI Express card to extend the bus outside the server to an external enclosure where PCI, PCI-X and PCI Express cards may be mounted and function as if they were in normal internal I/O slots. Ahhh! This sounded like it could be a workaround for the Dell problem. So we got one in and tested it. Bingo! This is the solution. It allows us to continue to use the Dell servers we know so well.

While we were at it we enhanced our driver for the PCI card to handle multiple cards, and we're upgrading the hardware to handle the full 64 ports instead of only 32. I think we're also modifying the Cable Concentrator Cable connector arrangement to reduce the width of the card so it will no longer require two slots.

So... very soon we will support 928 on the latest Dell servers, support the full 64 ports per card, and be able to operate more than one card. Ah, if only 928 were still vitally useful for more than a handful of sites. It's a good technology, but legacy VS workstations are not very practical to use anymore, legacy VS printers are all but extinct, and the main uses for 928 that are left are to run genuine Wang PIBs and to run VS TC, such as for SNA, X.25 and LU 6.2. Still, for those who need to use any of those things, we will be supporting 928 very robustly.

For those not intimately familiar with 928, what we support is the Cable Concentrator form of external 928 device connectivity, long available in the legacy VS in the form of a Universal Serial IOC. Instead of directly supporting EAPA ports, the Universal Serial IOC connects to an external enclosure where EAPAs can be mounted. A Cable Concentrator cable connects our PCI USIOC to one of several compatible external housings for EAPAs. The basic external enclosure is a Cable Concentrator, but alternatives are a Small Cable Concentrator, a Wall Mount Housing, or a specially modified APA-24 from a VS5000/6000, which we offer for up to 24 coax ports. We can also connect a WACS-32 or WACS-16, and in the case of WACS-16 we can daisy chain a Wall Mount Housing or Cable Concentrator for additional EAPA ports. Instead of full-size Cable Concentrators we use the individual "inserts" that normally come two to a CC rack. The insert fits very nicely in a 19" rack on a shelf. The Wall Mount Housing can also be rack mounted. Limited quantities of Cable Concentrator inserts, Wall Mount Housings and APA-24s are available with support. The specially modified APA-24 has a different cable than the original and an AC adapter needed by the EAPA ports.

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