Palmchip Targets Wireless NAS

Chips for wireless NAS sounds a bit dippy, but a new company is dedicated to making it work

August 27, 2004

2 Min Read
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Now that the concept of wireless storage has been around for about 15 minutes, its time to start improving the technology (see Storage Goes Home).

That’s the idea behind Palmchip Semiconductor, the new company launched this week by Palmchip Corp. to manufacture system-on-chip silicon for wireless storage applications (see Palmchip Opens in Pakistan). The chips will probably initially find their way into consumer products such as cell phones, cameras, and PDAs, but Palmchip CEO Jauher Zaidi sees them eventually used for home networks and even wireless NAS.

“I think it will be a big business for us,” Zaidi says of wireless NAS. “With next-generation wireless technology, corporations will use it.”

The idea of wireless NAS isn’t brand new. A partnership combining Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) Linksys routers and Maxtor Corp. (NYSE: MXO) USB drives announced in June introduced the concept of a wireless mini-NAS. It works by plugging a Maxtor USB drive loaded with file management software into a Linksys wireless router to provide 250 Gbytes of storage for $450 (see Broadcom Broadens NAS Market).

Zaidi envisions delivering wireless NAS-on-a chip systems for around $200 for 300 Gbytes, with improved performance over current USB setups.“Once you go through the USB, you lose performance. We will connect directly to the storage,” says Zaidi, who managed the ASIC group at Quantrum LLC before starting Palmchip in 1996.

Zaidi says Palmchip will be able to provide the chip, reference design, and software to hard-drive vendors that would market the product. He hopes to have product available early next year, but he sees WiMax as a big piece of the corporate puzzle (see WiMax Spec Ratified).

Fast fact: Based on the technical specifications developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) Wireless MAN 802.16 Task Group, WiMax is an emerging technology that aims to deliver last-mile broadband connectivity in a larger geographic area than currently available. WiMax products are probably at least a year away, though.

Can we now anticipate wireless NAS from EMC Corp. (NYSE: EMC) or Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)? Don’t bet on it. But Zaidi is serious enough about wireless storage to bet his reincarnated company on it.

Palmchip sold off its ATA drive intellectual property (IP) business to Mentor Graphics Corp. to concentrate on wireless storage chips. The San Jose, Calif.-based Palmchip plans to expand from 15 to around 40 employees and open a software design center in Pakistan. “We see this as a natural progression for us,” Zaidi says of wireless storage.— Dave Raffo, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

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