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SAS expander switching ICs offer secure zoning in blade servers

Posted: 30 Aug 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:pmc-sierra? pm8399? sxp 24x3gsec? sxp 36x3gsec? serial-attached-scsi?

PMC-Sierra Inc.'s PM8399 SXP 24x3GSec and SXP 36x3GSec ICs are next-generation serial-attached-SCSI (SAS) expanders that provide the switching function that resides between the SAS initiator and SAS or SATA hard drives in a server or storage system, such as JBOD or RAID.

Designed for the blade server market, the PM8399 SXP 24x3GSec and SXP 36x3GSec switching chips feature secure zoning, which enables designers to create different zones in a SAS topology, according to Peter Wong, Director of Product Marketing, Enterprise Storage Division, PMC-Sierra.

"Zoning basically provides the flexibility to create 'virtual expanders.' It is used for security and SAS switching in blade servers where you don't want an initiator in one zone having visibility to other zones," he said. "This is similar/analogous to VLANs in the Ethernet world."

PMC-Sierra and Hewlett Packard Corp. defined and presented a zoning specification at the T10 standards committee last May, he said. The switching chips are the first to implement the ANSI INCITS T10 SAS-2 Zoning proposal jointly developed by the companies.

The technology features access control partitioning that segments shared network resources into groups. It also calls for security policies to restrict access between groups; single point of configuration and policy management at the expander switch; and backward compatibility and transparent operation with existing SAS controllers, host bus adapters and disk drive arrays.

Using the zoning technique, a unique Group ID is assigned to the expander physical layer IC (PHY) attached to the end device. The zoning fabric supports up to 128 groups. A zone permission table defines the access control policy between the different groups, and whether access is allowed between the groups.

"The growth and use of SATA hard disk drives for tiered-storage applications are driving the need for sas expanders," Wong said. "Blade servers require SAS switching in next generation systems. Security and virtual partitioning of servers are driving the need for SAS expanders with zoning."

The PM8399 SXP 24x3GSec and SXP 36x3GSec ICs are said to reduce costs in blade server applications. To interconnect a server blade to a storage system, SAS storage blades using expanders are much more cost-effective compared with a Fiber Channel switch, according to Wong.

Server blades often have a multi-port SCSI host controller on it already, so the additional cost to connect to a SAS storage blade is minimal. In addition, storage management is simplified when using the SXP 24x3GSEC to route server blades through a common consolidated SAS storage blade, according to Wong.

Blade servers are being rapidly deployed in enterprise data centers. When compared with conventional pedestal and rack-mount solutions, blade servers significantly reduce rack space, reduce power consumption, and lower IT management costs.

SAS technology, which allows servers to share resources, is rapidly being adopted for direct attached storage. It is also gaining momentum for blade server clustering, according to the company.

Storage systems continue to be vulnerable; consequently; there's a need to segregate traffic and resources. PMC-Sierra's SXP 24x3GSec and SXP 36x3GSec ICs, which join the company's maxSAS storage family, are designed to protect users against data theft and corruption.

"It provides secure disk access permission to allow partitioning of a storage network," Wong said.

The PM8399 SXP 24x3GSec and SXP 36x3GSec ICs are housed in 27-by-27mm chip-scale ball-grid array (CSBGA) packaging using 0.13-micron technology. They are pin- and software-compatible to the PM8388 SXP 24x3G and PM8387 SXP 36x3G devices.

The SXP 24x3GSec is available now for $59 each in 10,000-unit quantities. The SXP 36x3GSec will be available in Q4 of 2005 and priced at $89 in 10,000-unit quantities.

A reference system with switch management software for blade server equipment makers is also available for $3,995. The PM2402_KIT SXP 24/36x3GSec reference system features complete configuration and management of access control zones across the entire SAS topology.

It also displays via a graphical user interface (GUI) the SAS topology in a hierarchical fashion, to facilitate the task of assigning the correct zoning attributes to expanders and end devices.

- Ismini Scouras


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