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640MBps bandwidth to hold back 1394, Fibre Channel

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The SCSI Trade Association mounted a defensive campaign against Universal Serial Bus and IEE1394/FireWire at WinHEC 99 yesterday as it unveiled its roadmap for the ageing peripheral connection technology. The roadmap projected the development of SCSI over the next four years to the introduction of Ultra 5 SCSI, with its anticipated data transfer rate of 640MBps, in 2003. However, while the Association is working to overcome SCSI's 12m cable length limit, even Ultra 5 will still be restricted to a chain of 16 devices. That contrasts considerably with more recent technologies, specifically FireWire and USB. At WinHEC, Intel was promoting USB 2.0., which it claimed would replace SCSI on the desktop by the second half of next year. Most analysts appear rather less bullish, given FireWire's appeal to the consumer electronics market, but certainly for the majority of peripherals, current USB (let alone version 2.0) will be sufficient, particularly as more computer vendors follow Apple's example and ditch older connection ports, including serial and parallel, as well as SCSI, in favour of a USB and FireWire. That leaves SCSI clinging to the high-end hard drive array market, pushed down by Fibre Channel and shovelled up by FireWire. The Association is betting SCSI's proven stability (clearly these guys have never had to get multi-unit SCSI chains to work...), large installed base and continued speed lead (160MBps for Ultra3 SCSI vs. FireWire's 51MBps) will see it through while necessary technological improvements are developed. Still, with the faster IEEE1394B in development and Fibre Channel hitting 200MBps, the SCSI Trade Association's members will have to work fast to get ahead. ®

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