Serial ATA Poised for Market Ramp

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Serial ATA, the next-generation storage interconnect, is gaining steam within the storage industry. The Intel Developer Forum (IDF), being held this week in San Jose, CA., has hosted a number of Serial ATA demonstrations and related announcements.

As Serial ATA-based products are starting to roll out, significant milestones are being achieved. New and recent accomplishments center on the development and adoption of Serial ATA and the server and networked storage-focused enhancement specification known as Serial ATA II.

The Serial ATA Working Group has announced the release candidate of the first phase of the Serial ATA II specification. The spec, which is scheduled for public availability in the fourth quarter of this year, will enhance the existing Serial ATA spec for the server and networked storage market segments. These features are expected to build on the momentum of Serial ATA 1.0 in those segments.

Many of the announcements and demoed products at IDF are the public follow-up of the first Serial ATA 1.0 “plugfest” held last month in Colorado. Sponsored by Intel, Seagate and Silicon Image, the Serial ATA plugfest drew nearly 50 companies and 140 people, including participation from manufacturers of cables, connectors, silicon, add-in cards, motherboards, disk drives, test tools and enclosures. More than 900 tests were run with a success rate of greater than 95 percent.

Further momentum for Serial ATA is evident by a large number of related announcements made this week at IDF by Serial ATA Working Group member companies.

“The industry is working hard and in unison toward the ramp of Serial ATA products,” said Jason Ziller, chairman of the Serial ATA Working Group and Intel technology initiatives manager. “Dozens of companies have been announcing product and product plans for the past several months, and we’ll be seeing even more ramped up through the remainder of the year. Broad deployment is expected in 2003, not uncoincidentally the same year Intel is planning to launch its first chipset with integrated Serial ATA.”

The Serial ATA Working Group has surpassed 100 members, including promoting companies APT, Dell, Intel, Maxtor and Seagate.

Serial ATA’s enhancement spec, Serial ATA II, is being completed in two phases. Phase 1 was the definition of server and networked storage features. These include new performance features to address server workloads, and infrastructure additions to improve integration of Serial ATA into storage enclosures. These additions include enclosure management services and backplane interconnect support. Phase 1 product adoption ramp is expected in mid-2003. To enable rapid product adoption, Serial ATA 1.0 products are 100 percent software compatible with existing parallel ATA protocol, and maintain software compatibility with today’s operating systems.

The specification for Serial ATA II’s second phase, focusing on next-generation signaling speeds, is on schedule for release in the second half of 2003. Phase 2 products are expected to start deployment in the second half of 2004.

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