SAN MATEO, Calif. PMC-Sierra Inc. is working the silicon integration lever as it takes its first steps into storage chips this week with the release of a quad Fibre Channel serializer/deserializer (serdes), seeking to leapfrog market leader Agilent Technologies.
PMC-Sierra packed four 1- or 2-Gbit Fibre Channel serdes physical layer interfaces into its PM8356 QuadPHY FC, a 0.18-micron CMOS chip that will save significant space and power compared to chips from Agilent and others, the company said. Power consumption for the PM8356 is estimated at 365 mW per channel, compared to more than 2 W/channel for some single-channel chips made in other process technologies.
"This is our first part specifically targeted at the storage area. PMC sees the storage market as stable and growing with solid fundamentals behind it," said Peter Wong, a marketing manager for the company's enterprise and storage division, formed last December to help PMC-Sierra diversify beyond its core markets in the battered telecom and networking sectors.
"We want to become a significant player in storage networking across the board," Wong said.
Wong gave no indications of PMC-Sierra's next steps in its storage gambit. Possibilities include Fibre Channel MAC and switch products and iSCSI/TCP offload processors.
"Storage is just like networking and telecom in that people are moving away from ASICs to save time and lower the cost of development," Wong said.
Sean Lavey, research analyst for communications and networking at International Data Corp. (Framingham, Mass.), took issue with that assessment. Fibre Channel switch leaders such as McData Corp. and Brocade rely primarily on their own ASICs, then buy serdes chips off-the-shelf, he said.
"We will continue to see that design trend in the future," Lavey said.
Nevertheless, Lavey gave PMC-Sierra high marks for delivering what he said was the first quad serdes for Fibre Channel to support 2-Gbit/s data rates. The integration will help save board space and power on designs, he said. PMC-Sierra's per-channel price is "right in line" with Agilent's at about $12 per channel, Lavey said.
For it's part, Agilent currently offers single and quad 1-Gbit/s Fibre Channel serdes products on its Web site. But a company spokesman said Agilent is now sampling quad parts that run at 2 Gbits/s; those parts will be formally announced soon, and the company is in an early definition phase for parts that integrate eight channels, the spokesman said.
The PM8356 device integrates a number of passives, including features for resistive termination and ac coupling, to lessen die size. The part ships in a 23 x 23-mm, 324-pin PBGA.
The part is available for volume shipments in the fourth quarter priced at $44 each in 1,000-piece quantities.