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Oxford controllers reduce cost for storage devices

Posted: 24 Jul 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:controllers? STB? disk drives? USB?

Oxford Semiconductor rolls out four new controllers for consumer storage systems in its effort to expand into a growing field beyond its core competency in more mature 1394 and USB silicon. The latest controllers aim to raise performance while keeping costs low for digital home storage devices.

Disk drives makers such as Western Digital, which Oxford had its first big design win, and Seagate pioneered the market for consumer network-attached storage (NAS) systems. However, now consumer electronics and networking companies are jumping into the fray. On the horizon is the possibility the NAS function will be built into future home gateways, routers and STBs.

"Several European service providers including BT, Deutsche Telekom and Orange Communications AG have requests for proposals out for home access systems paired with NAS boxes," said Ali Simnad, director of product marketing and business development, Oxford.

Those are likely to be filled by vendors making logical connections between separate NAS systems, gateways, routers and set-top boxes. Service providers aim to use the boxes to download and cache content such as pay-per-view movies.

"Over the next two years, I think these systems will move to being physically integrated at least for the service provider market," said Simnad.

Today, the market for consumer and small business storage systems is valued at about $120 million a year; most of it focused on systems that directly attach to a computer, according to Oxford. "By 2011, it could more than double to about $300 million, most of it based on NAS systems," the company estimated.

The company is attacking the NAS market with its new OXE810 controllers which come in two flavors, one for single-disk systems and one for dual-disk systems. Both chips are now in production.

More powerful chipset
The 810 is a more powerful and integrated update of the company's 800 chip released last year, delivering throughput of up to 24MBps, about three times the capabilities of Oxford's previous chip. "You can saturate any pipe you have in the home802.11n, Multimedia over Coax Alliance, or any other wired or wireless link and a NAS box built on this chip will still not be the bottleneck," said Simnad.

The 810 sports a 370MHz ARM9 core, up from 200MHz, as well as offload engines for networking jobs such as TCP segmentation. The company claims the offload support helps it achieve similar or better performance than the competing 5182 part from Marvell, which uses a 500MHz ARM9.

The new chip also integrates a Gbit Ethernet MAC, up from support for an external 10/100Mbit/s Ethernet MAC in the previous chip. Oxford also added support for DDR2 x16 memories.

"The integration helps support a total BOM for a home NAS device of less than $20 including the Oxford chip, a Gbit PHY chip and a minimum 64Mbytes DRAM," Oxford claimed. The company can also supply a range of applications such as a media server and automated backup utility running on the chip's Linux 2.6 OS.

Oxford also rolled out two controllers for directly-attached storage boxes. The OXFUS936 comes in flavors supporting two- and four-disk systems.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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