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PMC samples 6Gbit SAS 2.0 controllers

Posted: 18 Jun 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:6Gbit SAS controller? PMC SAS controllers? Tachyon SPC 8x6G? SAS 2.0 controllers?

PMC-Sierra Inc. will get a jump on the transition to the 6Gbps serial attached SCSI (SAS) hard-disk interface by announcing that it is sampling a controller for the SAS 2.0 standard. By doubling the interconnect's data rate, SAS proponents expect to bolster reliability and performance in storage subsystems and networks.

Tachyon SPC 8x6G, PMC-Sierra's first SAS controller, broadens the company's line of storage-networking chips. It is based on the Tachyon line of Fibre Channel controllers that PMC-Sierra acquired from Agilent Technologies Inc. a year ago.

The Tachyon chips represent nearly $100 million in annual revenue for PMC-Sierra, the greater part of sales for its corporate IT division. That group was created to help the company diversify beyond the telecom sector. Ironically, the telecom group's expertise in 6Gbps PHY chips helped PMC-Sierra get an early lead in the SAS 2.0 market.

Whether it can make hay from its time-to-market advantage remains to be seen. The full ecosystem of SAS 2.0 controllers, HDDs and associated silicon is not expected to be ready until sometime in 2008, said Harry Mason, director of industry marketing for LSI Logic Corp. and president of the SCSI Trade Association, which oversees the SAS standard.

The SAS 2.0 spec will go through final review by midyear. As many as six chipmakers are expected to bring prototype chips to the first plugfest for SAS 2.0 later this year. "Everyone feels comfortable with implementation" of the spec as it stands, Mason said.

The plugfest will give developers a chance to test out novel aspects of the spec. They include a spread-spectrum clocking technique aimed at easing EMI verification and a decision-feedback equalization scheme used to recover data. If all goes well, parts will be production ready in early 2008. The SCSI Trade Association expects that systems including drives, cards and arrays using SAS 2.0 will ship in early 2009, Mason said.

PMC samples SAS Tachyon controller that offers 6Gbps interconnects.

PMC hopes system makers will adopt its 6Gbit controllers early on as a way of simplifying the storage electronics inside hard-disk arrays and server blades. Many arrays and servers use 3Gbps SAS drives, and PMC believes those systems can consolidate their electronics using fewer SAS 2.0 controllers, given the 2:1 multiplexing capability in the spec.

Moreover, new zoning and management features in SAS 2.0 may encourage server blade makers to adopt the technology before the arrival of the SAS 2.0 drives, said Nigel Alvares, a product-marketing manager for PMC-Sierra.

The Tachyon SPC 8x6G is an eight-port controller capable of linking up to 128 drives and delivering up to 250,000 I/O operations per second, according to PMC-Sierra. It supports AES encryption as well as an end-to-end parity feature from existing Fibre Channel controllers.

The controllers will sell for $110 each in 10,000-unit quantities, about on par with PMC's existing 4Gbit Fibre Channel controllers. The chips are sampling now and ride an 8x PCIe 2.0 systems interconnect.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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