Intelligent Input/Ouput


Intelligent Input/Output, or I2O, is a defunct computer hardware technology that aimed to improve the speed and efficiency of data transfer between peripheral devices and a computer’s main processor. Developed in the late 90s, I2O utilized a separate, dedicated processor called the I/O processor (IOP) to offload input/output processing tasks. This allowed the main processor to focus on its primary tasks, leading to overall performance improvement in data-intensive applications.


Intelligent Input/Output in phonetic notation would be:ɪnˈtɛlədʒənt ˈɪnˌpʊt/ˈaʊtˌpʊtBreaking it down by each term:Intelligent: ɪnˈtɛlədʒəntInput: ˈɪnˌpʊtOutput: ˈaʊtˌpʊt

Key Takeaways

  1. Intelligent Input/Output (I2O) is an advanced and flexible architecture that aims to efficiently manage data transfer between peripheral devices and computing systems, improving overall performance by offloading certain tasks to dedicated I2O hardware.
  2. I2O uses a split-driver model to separate hardware-dependent functions and OS-dependent functions, allowing for greater scalability, adaptability, and compatibility across different operating systems and hardware platforms.
  3. Although I2O showed great potential in the late 90s, it didn’t achieve wide adoption due to the emergence of more efficient and cost-effective alternatives, like Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and Serial ATA (SATA). As a result, I2O was eventually discontinued as an industry standard.


Intelligent Input/Output, often abbreviated as I2O, is an important technology term as it refers to a computing architecture that enhances the communication efficiency and processing power between the input/output (I/O) subsystem and the motherboard.

By employing an intelligent I2O controller, the system can offload time-consuming I/O tasks from the central processing unit (CPU) to a dedicated processor, consequently boosting overall system performance.

In effect, I2O enables seamless and effective data exchanges between various hardware components within a computer system, ensuring optimal utilization of resources, reduced CPU workload, and increased responsiveness.

As such, the I2O architecture plays a critical role in improving productivity and system reliability, especially in demanding computing environments.


Intelligent Input/Output, often abbreviated as I2O, is a technology designed to improve the efficiency of input and output communication processes within computers, particularly between the central processing unit (CPU) and various peripheral devices. The main purpose of I2O is to reduce the workload on the CPU, thereby enhancing overall system performance.

To achieve this objective, I2O employs a dedicated I/O processor that handles data transfers and related tasks, liberating the CPU from a significant portion of its responsibilities. By delegating I/O tasks to a specialized processor, the CPU gains the ability to focus on its primary function, executing application instructions, while minimizing delays associated with transferring information to and from peripheral devices.

An ideal application of I2O technology is in servers and high-performance workstation systems, where data flow and I/O demands are usually more substantial than in typical personal computers. In complex environments such as these, the presence of multiple high-speed data buses, storage devices, and network interfaces makes efficient I/O management crucial for maintaining smooth functioning and minimizing potential bottlenecks.

Through the use of intelligent input/output, system administrators are able to optimize resource allocation and processor usage, thus improving the overall quality and responsiveness of the computer system. In essence, I2O serves as an essential catalyst for achieving enhanced performance and efficiency in increasingly sophisticated computing environments.

Examples of Intelligent Input/Ouput

Intelligent Input/Output, also known as I2O, is a technology designed for improving the communication between a computer’s components, such as input/output (I/O) devices and the central processing unit (CPU). I2O aims to standardize and optimize the system’s performance by allowing the CPU to focus on processing tasks more efficiently, while the I/O subsystems handle the I/O operations more independently. Here are three real-world examples of its applications:

Storage Management: I2O can be found in the storage management sector, often in the form of intelligent disk controllers. These controllers offload I/O tasks from the main CPU, enabling faster data management and reducing latency. They take extra processing load off the CPU by performing various storage-related tasks like data compression, error correction, and storage virtualization.

Network Interface Cards (NICs): Some advanced NICs implement I2O technology to offload network processing tasks from the CPU. This helps in increasing transmission rates, minimizing latency, and improving the overall network performance. Through I2O, NICs can manage tasks such as packet filtering, routing, and security protocols, thus relieving the CPU from carrying out these operations.

Industrial Automation: I2O technology can also be utilized in industrial automation systems, where intelligent input/output modules are connected to sensors and actuators. These modules are capable of performing complex processing tasks, such as data analysis, filtering, and condition monitoring. By handling these tasks, the intelligent I/O modules can significantly reduce the amount of data being transmitted to the main control system and, therefore, decrease the processing demands on the CPU.

Intelligent Input/Output FAQ

What is Intelligent Input/Output?

Intelligent Input/Output, also known as I2O, is a technology that enables the communication between a computer’s central processing unit (CPU) and its peripherals in a way that reduces the workload on the CPU, resulting in increased performance and efficiency.

How does Intelligent Input/Output work?

I2O achieves improved efficiency by offloading some of the computing processes from the CPU to the I/O devices. This is achieved by incorporating intelligent I/O subsystems known as IOPs (Intelligent Input/Output Processors) that can perform many of the processing tasks on behalf of the CPU.

What are the benefits of using Intelligent Input/Output technology?

Intelligent Input/Output technology offers several benefits, such as improved system performance, reduced CPU workload, better system responsiveness, and easier management of complex systems. This leads to better utilization of system resources and provides a more efficient means of managing I/O operations.

How is Intelligent Input/Output different from traditional I/O?

In traditional I/O, the CPU is responsible for managing all of the communication between the main system memory and the peripheral devices. This can often result in a bottleneck and reduced performance. In contrast, Intelligent Input/Output offloads some of this processing burden to dedicated I/O processors, thereby reducing the workload on the CPU and leading to improved system performance.

Is Intelligent Input/Output still in use today, and what are its alternatives?

Although Intelligent Input/Output had potential benefits, it was eventually discontinued due to various challenges, including limited support and complexities in implementation. Modern I/O technologies such as InfiniBand, Fibre Channel, and PCI Express have evolved to provide similar performance improvements and have largely replaced I2O in current systems.

Related Technology Terms


  • Smart Controllers
  • Data Buffering
  • I2O Architecture
  • Real-time Data Processing
  • Asynchronous Data Transfer


Sources for More Information


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