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Controllers target home storage systems

Posted: 24 Jul 2008     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:controller  storage systems  STB  network-attached storage 

Oxford Semiconductor is rolling out four new controllers for consumer storage systems in its effort to expand into a growing field beyond its core competency in more mature 1394 and USB silicon. The latest controllers aim to raise performance while keeping costs low for digital home storage devices.

Disc drive makers such as Western Digital, which Oxford had its first big design win, and Seagate pioneered the market for consumer network-attached storage (NAS) systems. But now consumer electronics and networking companies are jumping into the fray. On the horizon is the possibility the NAS function will be built into future home gateways, routers and STBs.

Several European service providers including BT, Deutsche Telekom and Orange have requests for proposals out for home access systems paired with NAS boxes, said Ali Simnad, a director of product marketing and business development at Oxford.

Those RFQs are likely to be filled by vendors making logical connections between separate NAS systems, gateways, routers and set-top boxes. Service providers aim to use the boxes to download and cache content such as pay-per-view movies.

"Over the next two years, I think these systems will move to being physically integrated at least for the service provider market," said Simnad.

Today the market for consumer and small business storage systems is valued at about Rs.513.85 crore ($120 million) a year most of it focused on systems that directly attach to a computer, according to Oxford. By 2011, it could more than double to about Rs.1,284.62 crore ($300 million), most of it based on NAS systems, the company estimated.

The company is attacking the NAS market with its new OXE810 controllers which come in two flavours, one for single- and one for dual-disc systems. Both chips are now in production.

The 810 is a more powerful and integrated update of the company's 800 chip released last year, delivering throughput of up to 24 MB/second, about three times the capabilities of Oxford's previous chip. "You can saturate any pipe you have in the home—802.11n, MoCA, or any other wired or wireless link and a NAS box built on this chip will still not be the bottleneck," said Simnad.

The 810 sports a 370MHz ARM9 core, up from 200MHz, as well as offload engines for networking jobs such as TCP segmentation. Oxford claims the offload support helps it achieve similar or better performance than the competing 5182 part from Marvell which uses a 500MHz ARM9.

The new chip also integrates a Gbit Ethernet media access controller, up from support for an external 10/100Mbps Ethernet MAC in the previous chip. Oxford also added support for DDR2 x16 memories.

The integration helps support a total bill of materials for a home NAS device of less than Rs.856.41 ($20) including the Oxford chip, a Gbit PHY chip and a minimum 64MB DRAM, Oxford claims. The company can also supply a range of applications such as a media server and automated backup utility running on the chip's Linux 2.6 OS.

Oxford also rolled out two controllers for directly-attached storage boxes. The OXFUS936 comes in flavours supporting two- and four-disc systems.

- Rick Merritt
EE Times

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