LSI Logic Corp. has added a second channel to its Fibre Channel interface products, doubling the bandwidth to 2 Gbits/s while increasing the number of I/O transactions.
LSI's SYM FC929 chip addresses a market niche-high-performance disk drives and servers that require longer cable lengths and continuity than the more popular SCSI interface provides, according to Harry Mason, director of strategic alliances at LSI in Colorado Springs, Colo. LSI sells both SCSI and Fibre Channel interface products.
Despite promising higher performance, Fibre Channel has been largely overshadowed by SCSI. "The performance advantages have not materialized," Mason said. He noted that one disk-drive customer believes SCSI-based products will still hold up to 80% of the market in 2003. In servers, Mason estimated that 10% of the market needing the highest-performance interface will choose Fibre Channel.
While Mason said a small segment of the Fibre Channel market will prefer a single-channel interface, the company expects most customers to shift to the new chips. A second channel allows a dedicated channel for legacy devices or a dense configuration of storage devices. "It's like a hub vs. a switch," said David Allen, LSI's Fibre Channel senior product manager. "A hub allows devices to be connected around it using a single common wire. A switch is two different wires."
That means LSI is touting the systemwide advantages of the dual-channel Fibre Channel interface. Like LSI's single-channel FC909 device, the FC929 contains a customized ARM Ltd. core; the FC929 adds a second channel and increases the clock rate of the ARM core.
The chip offers 68,000 I/O operations per second, reducing by 30% the use of the host CPU to monitor I/O transactions, Allen said, noting that OEMs want the CPU to monitor RAID operations. Future derivatives may be necessary as embedded chips and other parts attempt to talk to Fibre Channel, he added.
The full-duplex 2-Gbit/s controller integrates a 64-bit, 66-MHz PCI interface and features automatic failover and interrupt coalescing. LSI's "link-check" bit-error-rate technology is also included, allowing a stream of data to be sent from the controller and returned by the device to isolate potential link errors.
Finally, Allen said the company has developed a true common OS driver for Fibre Channel, Infiniband, and SCSI interfaces, minimizing the time and complexity to qualify products for Microsoft and other operating-system certifications.
The SYM FC929 will sample in June and enter production around November, shipping in a 329-pin BGA for $172, Allen said. Three low-profile PCI boards are also available: a 500-m-qualified board for $2,080, a 10-km-qualified board for $4,160, and one using a copper connection for $1,300.