Trebia Breaks Silence

Startup gives details of storage-specific network processors due out later this year

October 18, 2001

2 Min Read
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When Trebia Networks Inc. came to public attention this summer, little was known about its product plans (see Trebia's $40M Secret). All the company would reveal was that it had garnered more than $40 million to develop programmable chips geared to storage networking.

Now the cone of silence has lifted. Trebia today unveiled details of what it calls its SNP (storage network processor) (see Trebia Unveils Storage Architecture). And it's shaping up to be pretty much what was expected -- a multiprotocol, programmable storage component with IP capabilities that's designed to replace application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) in storage networking gear.

Trebia says its chip is designed to streamline the creation of host bus adapters, switches, and storage devices in SANs. It will directly interface to IP, Fibre Channel, and gigabit Ethernet networks. It will translate among all the protocols that support these networks, including iSCSI. And it will offer security, classification of lower- and upper-layer traffic, and a direct device interface, all controllable via APIs (application programming interfaces).

Trebia emphasizes the chip's protocol processing capabilities, which the vendor says distinguish it from other network processors that aren't tailored to storage.

"Network processors with TCP offload engines are optimized for setup and teardown of sessions in IP networks," says Brendon Howe, VP of marketing at Trebia. In contrast, SANs are less demanding in terms of TCP setup and teardown, but sessions last longer, and more protocols are involved.For that reason, Trebia's packed the ability to filter, terminate, and reissue not only IP commands but also Fibre Channel and iSCSI ones as well. This ensures that storage traffic will stay intact and operate as close to line speed as possible, Trebia says. Indeed, depending on the applications required of the SNP, the vendor claims it can keep up with 10-Gbit/s line speeds.

Trebia also claims it's optimized network performance by designing its SNP to handle protocol traffic more efficiently and at less power than competing technologies. In early lab trials, the vendor claims it's seen performance improvements of "at least an order of magnitude" over other traditional ASIC solutions.

Analysts say Trebia's SNP should spur SAN device development but warn there will be a learning curve. "The first pass with these new programmable processors won't necessarily result in faster time to market," says Eric Mantion, senior analyst at Cahners In-Stat Group.

The real advantage of products such as the SNP, Mantion says, will come once devices containing them have been shipped. "Product life cycles will be extended, and companies will reduce development costs, since they won't need to remove a board to upgrade a product," he asserts. Instead, a change of code will enable new features and functions to be added to SAN gear, via their processors.

Trebia already faces competition. Aarohi Inc. and NetOctave Inc. are two that have made recent announcements (see NetOctave Sounds Security Note and Startup Joins SAN Processor Trend

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