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iSCSI silicon taken to new price point

Posted: 16 Jul 2003 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:iscsi storage networking? encryption? hba? gigabit ethernet? ip?

Higher chip integration often creates a new price point that can spur growth in a burgeoning market. And iReady Corp. hopes to do just that with an iSCSI storage-networking device it has developed with National Semiconductor Corp.

Engineers from the two companies have integrated hardware iSCSI acceleration, a full TCP/IP offload engine, GbE MAC and PHY functions, and an Internet Protocol Secure (IPsec) encryption/decryption block onto the iReady EthernetMAX iSCSI controller, which will be manufactured in an 0.18m process. The part is sampling now, and will move into full production next quarter at $75.

The partners also will offer a series of host bus adapters based on the chip that will start at $199. Analysts said that is roughly half the cost of what several competitors offer now. "The $75 price point is the No. 1 change that this brings to the market. It could serve as a kick-starter for the iSCSI market, " said Arun Taneja, a storage analyst who heads The Taneja Group.

Taneja said several other storage IC vendors have recently come to market with iSCSI silicon but at higher prices, and usually requiring external GbE PHY silicon as well. "It will be another year or so before competitors come out with new silicon. That could give iReady a six-month to one-year advantage before others reach this level of integration, " Taneja said.

Randy Kerns, who evaluates storage products for The Evaluator Group, said competitive ICs often do not include the Ethernet PHY or the IPsec security macro. "What's really phenomenal about this is the price, " Kerns said, arguing that the lower tag will allow IT managers to combine GbE networks with iSCSI storage without additional expense.

The iSCSI standard allows blocks of IP packets to be sent over GbE networks, permitting more complete usage of network capacity at the departmental or small-company level. Kerns said Fibre Channel will continue to dominate at the enterprise server level, but iSCSI has advantages for links between departments and remote servers.

Another boost for the iSCSI market came with Microsoft Corp. announcement of support for iSCSI in its server operating system products. "Microsoft's Exchange e-mail host software doesn't work with network-attached storage, which is what would be optimal for the small-business environment, " Kerns said.

If iSCSI networks can be layered on top of GbE, small businesses can use clustered servers to support e-mail and other IP-based functions, he said.

Ryo Koyama, CEO of privately held iReady, said his seven-year-old company has shipped some quarter-million TCP/IP offload engines using an IP model. The iSCSI host adapter is the company's first silicon product. "We believe iSCSI is a very elastic market, " Koyama said. Other companies have been using older cost models, stunting volumes and some startups have been forced to cancel their integrated products for lack of funds, he said.

- David Lammers

EE Times

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