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Time to RAID PVRs, says Silicon Image

Not so dumb consumer PVRs

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Silicon Image is looking to make dumb consumer storage devices a little smarter with the introduction of a new processor that adds sophisticated technology for protecting data to systems like Tivo.

The company is using the fabled system-on-a-chip concept for its new SteelVine design. This basically lets a chip handle storage functions such as RAID, disk striping and making many disks look like one. Consumer device makers could plug the chip into their storage systems - media appliances or PVRs (Personal Video Recorders) - and give customers a bit more data protection.

"Once you put a disk drive in those devices, the reliability of the device goes down significantly," said Steve Tirado, president of the storage division at Silicon Image. "That's means consumers could face some of the things they don't like about PCs. So we're providing a way to add storage in a reliable manner."

Silicon Image's strongest pitch for the technology is that consumers may soon be hurt by their uptake of media storage systems. Cutting-edge users are dumping all of their family photos onto a box and then assuming the pictures will be there forever. The same can be said for movies or any other content someone spends a long time assembling and storing.

So far, however, the collapse of a Tivo does not seem to be a massive concern. If media appliances become more popular, Silicon Image would appear to have a better case. All of your music, movies, photos and other content would be safely mirrored without you even knowing what is happening. Its technology adds a minor cost to consumer devices, so you're basically getting extra protection at no charge.

"We took all of the software and management stuff that is quite complicated and crunched it down onto a chip," Tirado said. "To a Windows or Linux box, we look like a disk drive."

OEMs can use the SteelVine chip to configure whatever data protection services they want. DirectTV, for example, could create a disk back-up system so that consumers' TVs don't go blank when the DirectTV box's disk crashes.

Silicon Image is also hoping small- and medium-sized business might find its storage technology attractive.

With that in mind, the company is rolling out a storage appliance called the SV2000. This system will be sold through VARs in a five-drive configuration, starting at around $3,000. This again should give small companies enterprise-like storage functions for a fairly low cost. ®

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