PARIS Anticipating the eventual need for a home "gigabit pipe" to distribute high-definition video content over home networks, Agere Systems has developed a family of storage chips designed for use in digital media servers, multiuser personal video recorders and network attached storage devices.
The company will demonstrate an engineering prototype next week at Computex in Taipei. Agere's new media server chips, priced at as much as $36 per 1,000 units, are scheduled for general sampling in July. The chip's price varies in accordance with the number of hard-disk drives supported, ranging from one drive to eight.
The chip family is capable of streaming multimedia content at 1 Gbit/s and can move multimedia file transfers within homes and businesses 20 times faster than current devices, according to Agere.
Multimedia content for the home is increasingly video-centric. It's now possible for several family members to simultaneously stream or download high-definition movies onto different TV sets. This turns home networks into "choking points," predicted Surinder Rai, director of client access products in Agere's enterprise & networking division. Inevitably, new multimedia applications will "demand a gigabit pipeline," he stressed.
Agere said its new media server controllers provide an interface between a network and an array of hard drives for storing a personal media archive. Their mission is to enable multiuser, multimedia, concurrent streaming sessions to networked storage devices.
Agere developed the chips with two requirements in mind: the need to protect personal content in a storage device and faster access to stored content. "What consumers store in a home server is truly personal. [It} needs to be well protected in a storage device featuring redundancy," said Rai. "Consumers don't want to wait for 30 minutes to access what they want to watch," he added.
IdaRose Sylvester, a senior analyst with International Data Corp., said a new device class is emerging that she called the "home networked attached storage," or HomeNAS. "It makes sense to be able to store, backup and access your data in one device." With companies such as Broadcom and Infrant Technologies (Fremont, Calif.) also jumping on the HomeNAS bandwagon, Sylvester estimated the entire semiconductor bill of materials cost for HomeNAS (including memory and storage chips) will grow from $200 million in 2006 to "significantly more than $500 million" in 2008.
Integrated into Agere's storage chips are high performance network interfaces, including a Gigabit Ethernet (10/100/1000) Media Access Control (MAC) for high bandwidth
local-area network applications and a Universal Serial Bus 2.0 for connectivity to a wireless LAN.