Lattice Puts 4-Gig Fibre Channel on a Chip

Lattice Semiconductor has unveiled what it claims is the first 4 gigabit per second (4-Gig) Fibre Channel system-on-a-chip (SoC).

The breakthrough is the latest for 4-Gig Fibre Channel, which has caught on quickly as a bridge between current 1-2 Gig systems and the 10-Gig systems of the future.

One of the benefits of 4-Gig is that, unlike 10-Gig, it is backwards-compatible with 1-2 Gig FC. 4-Gig will also cost about the same as 1-2 Gig systems. The case for 4-Gig FC is so compelling that industry analyst Arun Taneja has worried that Fibre Channel may unwittingly be giving IP-based storage the edge in the race to 10-Gig.

Lattice reports that its ORT82G5 Field Programmable System-on-a-Chip (FPSC) has demonstrated the capability to pass error-free data at 4.25-Gig across six inches of printed circuit board and 26 inches of coaxial cable, making it the industry's first programmable 4-Gig Fibre Channel-based backplane transceiver in production.

"An emerging standard like 4G FC fits nicely into Lattice's field programmable component strategy," Stan Kopec, Lattice's vice president of corporate marketing, told Enterprise Storage Forum.

"By integrating high-performance SERDES transceivers with a flexible FPGA fabric, we have an off-the-shelf silicon platform that is available for system designers to use on the leading edge of such a standard," continued Kopec.

Kopec says Lattice "has been working with leading-edge vendors in the SAN market to verify the 4-Gig FC capability of the device. All our tests confirm the superior speed, flexibility, and low power consumption of our solution. Our customers are getting a real jump on the 4G FC market with a proven device ready for design and production now."

For QLogic, which single-handedly pushed 4-Gig Fibre Channel earlier this year, the Lattice announcement "demonstrates that the whole industry is moving toward 4 gigabit Fibre Channel," says Frank Berry, QLogic's marketing vice president.

The Lattice SoC will benefit OEMs that want to get products to market quickly, according to Berry.

QLogic plans to send 4-Gig HBAs, switches, management controllers, and chips for disk arrays and drives to OEMs early next year, and Berry says he expects 4-Gig products to hit the market by the end of next year. He predicts that 4-Gig FC will be adopted as quickly as the move from 1 to 2 Gig, which took only a year and a half.

The Lattice ORT82G5 includes 4 SERDES channels that run at more than 4.3 Gig, an embedded Fibre Channel Physical Coding Sublayer (FPCS) core with 8b/10b encoding/decoding and link state machine, and more than 10,000 programmable logic elements (equivalent 4-input lookup tables) in its general-purpose FPGA section for easy integration of customer-specific intellectual property.

The device also features 372 general-purpose programmable I/O pins supporting a variety of advanced interface standards, including HSTL, SSTL, GTL+ and others. A low 335 milliwatts of power is consumed per channel with the SERDES running in excess of 4.25-Gig.

The ORT82G5-3BM680C SERDES transceiver is currently shipping. The unit price in quantities of 10,000 is $160. The device is supported by Lattice's ispLEVER 3.1 design software, a dedicated design kit, HSPICE SERDES I/O buffer models to support backplane simulation, and popular third-party synthesis, simulation, and verification tools.

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