Agere Unveils Serial Interface Platform

Agere Systems has introduced a platform that makes speedy serial interfaces work for storage applications.

Agere's Serial Storage Interface Platform (SSIP) is a configurable serializer-deserializer (SERDES) which can be combined with Agere's TrueStore read-channel technology to develop storage SoCs and controllers. The product allows hard disk drive and system manufacturers to move from parallel interfaces to serial interfaces, which will increase the data throughput between disk drives and motherboards in PCs, laptops, consumer electronic devices and corporate storage applications. SSIP can also be used in host bus adapter and chipset designs.

The news is indicative of the major push that serial technologies have been getting over older, traditional parallel technologies. Parallel data transfer, such as Parallel ATA , entails sending data along a number of parallel routes and has always meant many wires and high frequency signals prone to electrical interference. Serial ATA , on the other hand, uses a single cable with a minimum of four wires to create a point-to-point connection between devices.

Dave Reinsel, Research Manager, Hard Disk Drives and Components at IDC, discussed additional benefits of serial technologies over parallel with

"IDE or ATA drives can be master/slave, hence having two drives on one ATA channel, but sharing the bandwidth," Reinsel said. "SCSI drives exacerbate the problem with the ability to share up to 15 devices on one cable. Managing the signals becomes very difficult, especially as data rates increase. Hence, the desire for serial interfaces, or in the case of Serial ATA and Serial SCSI, point-to-point topologies. One drive gets its own channel.

"This way, each drive can utilize the full bandwidth itself without worrying about having to share or manage signal integrity. Parallel ATA at 100 or 133 is just about at the end of its rope and Parallel SCSI (SCSI 320) is bumping its head hard against the ceiling. Each will benefit greatly from a serial architecture.

Allentown, Pa.'s Agere sees its SSIP as a building block for drive-side systems-on-a-chip (SoCs) and integrated circuits (ICs) across such serial interface standards as Serial ATA, Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) and Fibre Channel. It will support current and next-generation data rates for each interface standard, including 1.5- and 3-Gbit/sec speeds for Serial ATA and SAS implementations, and 1.06-, 2.125- and 4.25-Gbits/sec for Fibre Channel networked drives.

Serial ATA and SAS are projected to replace the predominant parallel ATA and SCSI interfaces over the next few years, and Agere's SSIP core could be used to increase the data throughput available in current parallel ATA drives from 100 to 150- and 300-megabytes-per-second.

Reinsel said Agere is trying to support the serial interfaces (SATA, SAS, and FC) with a single core to ease the integration of these serial interfaces.

"Anytime we can integrate technology into a fewer, or better yet, a single, component then that eases integration and lowers the cost," Reinsel said.

Reinsel said he expects the number of hard disk drives using serial interfaces will represent 70 percent of the global drive market by 2006.

SSIP will be available for integration in custom-designed SoCs and controllers beginning in April.

This article originally appeared on

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