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Agere challenges serial ATA controller market

Posted: 15 Nov 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:agere systems? hdd ic? serial ata controller? ms55x? read channel ic?

Agere Systems Inc. has announced that it has developed the disk drive IC industry's first totally integrated serial ATA controller for HDDs.

The Serial ATA is designed to reduce the clutter of ribbon cables (parallel lines) running between HDDs and motherboards, and increase the throughput of HDD data transfers between drives and hosts up to a maximum of 150MBps.

Previous serial ATA offerings were "bridges," that is, parallel ATA controllers with serdes blocks (parallel-to-serial converters) patched on, claims John Harris, storage division strategic-marketing manager at Agere. Limited to a 133MHz PCI bus clock rate and often embodying two chips instead of one, they offered nothing of the throughput and little of the cost savings of a "native" serial ATA device, Harris said.

Agere's announcement, however, follows closely on the heels of one by Marvell Semiconductor. Marvell's multiport Serial ATA controller for RAID drive cabinets is said to provide a 1.5Gbps bandwidth point to point, and an aggregate bandwidth of 12Gbps (for eight ports).

Agere's controller, implemented in 0.14?m CMOS, includes its MS55X read-channel, microprocessor, memory, and hard-disk controller on a single chip.

Harris said that servers and high-end PCs would be the first to utilize the Serial ATA hard-disk interface, but the gating factor would be Intel's implementation of the interface on its core logic chipset. That is expected to occur in 2H of 2003, when Agere's Serial ATA device will ship in volume, he said. From the there the ramp up will be steep, amounting to as many as 40 percent of all disk drives shipped by 2006.

Future implementations of the Serial ATA will increase data transfer rates to 300MBps and 600MBps. Agere will provide engineering samples of its Serial ATA SoC to customers during Q1 of 2003.

- Stephan Ohr

EE Times

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