Marvell Charges Up SATA

Chipmaker hopes to jumpstart 3-Gbit/s speed grade to push Serial ATA II into enterprise storage

August 19, 2003

2 Min Read
Network Computing logo

Marvell Technology Group Ltd. (Nasdaq: MRVL) hopes to improve the standing of Serial ATA in enterprise storage with two Serial ATA II host controllers announced today -- the eight-port 88SX6081 and the four-port 88SX6041 -- which support both 1.5- and 3-Gbit/s speeds (see Marvell Intros SATA Host Controllers).

Could it be another entryway for lower-cost enterprise storage? Marvell has been pushing for 3-Gbit/s Serial ATA II for the past few months, having announced a bridge chip in April (see Marvell Intros 3-Gig Serial ATA). The idea is to entice enterprise buyers by showing that Serial ATA II is on a par with Fibre Channel and SCSI in terms of performance.

The company's hope is that the fast speed, coupled with Serial ATA's low cost, could be enough to overcome questions about its reliability. Serial ATA was crafted with desktop PCs in mind, so it lags Fibre Channel and SCSI in terms of reliability and features needed for enterprise storage.

Serial ATA II makes up for some of the gap, adding features such as native command queuing. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX), and Silicon Image Inc. put some of those features on display at the Intel Developer Forum nearly a year ago (see ATA Claws Its Way Up and Trio Demo Serial ATA II).

The technology isn't ready to displace Fibre Channel or SCSI, but it is less expensive. With the lower price and comparable speed, Serial ATA II could be useful for low-end or midrange enterprise storage, says John Williams, product marketing manager at Marvell."You've still got Fibre Channel at the high end, shipping to banking or financial institution customers. But there's a new segment," Williams says.

One example could be in near-line storage, sitting in front of tape drives as a kind of near-term cache. Data could be backed up to Serial ATA II drives first, taking advantage of their speed, and then moved to tape if the data goes untouched for, say, 90 days.

Serial ATA drives could also find uses in RAID arrays, where built-in redundancy means the architecture can tolerate the occasional drive failure. "A Serial ATA drive might fail more often than a Fibre Channel drive, but it's so cheap, you just rip it out and replace it," Williams says.

Drive manufacturers are already testing the approach. For example, Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) has been pushing RAID applications for its WD Raptor line of Serial ATA drives (see Western Digital Hatches Raptor, Intel OKs WD's Raptor, and WD Raptor OK'd for Promise

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights