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Emulex touts a storage threesome

Fibre Channel, SAS and SATA, all in one chip

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Storage consolidation and tiering could get a boost with Emulex's development of a chip that supports all three of the current disk drive favourites - SATA, SAS and Fibre Channel, plus RAID 5 or 6.

The company claimed that its IOP 502M chip should bring cheaper storage arrays, and allow today's SANs, most of which are Fibre Channel-based, to make greater use of new SAS and SATA technology.

"People want to re-use the millions they've invested in Fibre Channel," said Brian Reed, Emulex's business development veep.

He said that while there is technology to natively attach SATA drives to Fibre Channel - such as the bridging chips that Emulex is purchasing Sierra Logic for - adopting SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) as well requires new arrays and other infrastructure.

SAS is attractive because it's backwards-compatible with SATA, so you can buy one array and then mix and match the drives in it for tiered storage. That's where the IOP 502M should score, as the first triple-spec chip, Reed claimed.

He said it means storage builders would only need one major chip to build a RAID system, with two 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel connections to the outside, and four 3Gbit/s SAS/SATA buses on the inside, each capable of supporting dozens of drives.

"That would take between three and five chips today," he added. "For storage builders, it should mean lower cost, better products and faster time to market."

Most of the cost savings would come not from savings on component costs - which might only total $100 or so, on a $50,000 box - but from simplifying the development process, he suggested.

The IOP 502M is part of a family of chips which Emulex co-developed with Intel. They all include two Intel XScale processor cores, but provide a variety of storage interfaces. Reed said that Intel will sell the SAS and SATA-only chips, while Emulex will sell those models which include Fibre Channel.

He added that while one XScale core handles the SAS/SATA and Fibre Channel protocols, the other is available to run RAID software. ®

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