PMC-Sierra Unveils 4-Gig Loop Switches

PMC-Sierra has introduced Fibre Channel cut-through switches for the emerging 4 Gigabit per second (aka 4Gbps, 4-Gig, or 4G) standard, and Agilent has announced a number of its own 4-Gig offerings.

Travis Karr, PMC-Sierra's director of marketing and applications, says the company's new switches employ a "clever switching mechanism that changes the cost points in the industry" and increases performance and fault tolerance.

The four-port, 18-port, and 20-port switches will let OEMs build low-cost 4-Gig disk enclosures with higher performance, reliability, availability, and serviceability than current systems, according to PMC-Sierra. The devices are targeted at RAID , SBOD (Switched Bunches of Disks), MBOD (Managed Bunches Of Disks), and JBOD enterprise storage equipment.

The loop switch products are pin and software compatible with PMC-Sierra's previous generations of 1, 2, and 4-Gig intelligent port bypass controllers, so OEMs will be able to provide increased disk error isolation and reduced loop latency capabilities while preserving existing investments. The devices are interoperable with 4-Gig hard disk drives over long backplanes and are compatible with existing 1 and 2-Gig HDDs and storage networks.

Features include embedded point-to-point cut-through switching for hard disk drive isolation and loop latency optimization; per port monitoring and diagnostics; and loop port state machine, signal integrity, and hard disk drive error monitors.

Pricing is $19 for the four-port switch, $66 for the 18-port switch, and $70 for the 20-port chip.

Karr says he expects 4-Gig commercial products to debut in the first quarter of 2005. "Things have been pushed out a little bit," he told Enterprise Storage Forum.

Agilent Also Debuts 4-Gig Products

Agilent Technologies has unveiled a number of 4-Gig products of its own, including a loop switch, controller, and SAN tester.

The 4-Gig loop switch IC is designed to replace older port bypass circuits and uses intelligent port management features to reduce system costs and downtime, according to Agilent. The Agilent HDMP-0540 loop switch is designed to connect disk drives in a JBOD configuration using Fibre Channel arbitrated loop (FC-AL) topology.

Agilent's 4-Gig controller IC provides a complete hardware-based solution in a dual-channel Fibre Channel device, and incorporates T-10 Data Integrity Field support to improve end-to-end data reliability from the host server to the target storage devices. Agilent also offers an API tool set, including sample drivers, to help new customers develop software solutions quickly.

Agilent also announced test capabilities of its storage area network tester that address the 4-Gig Fibre Channel standard.

SAN equipment is typically tested with actual servers and storage equipment, but with the emergence of new standards such as 4-Gig, manufacturers need to test next-generation switches and fabrics prior to the availability of 4-Gig servers and storage devices, and as SAN fabrics grow in size, traditional server- and storage-based tests reach scalability limits and become increasingly challenging and expensive.

The 1733A SAN Tester from Agilent augments 1 and 2-Gig Fibre Channel testing capabilities with 4-Gig support for providing simultaneous line speed traffic generation and continuous performance measurement.

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