Trebia's claims to have a specialized SAN network processor have some experts stumped. They say network processors designed to filter and manage traffic in broadband applications can be easily adapted to SANs. Indeed, vendors say their chips already are used for SAN gear. "Roughly ten percent of our design wins are in the SAN area," says Graham Allan, director of marketing at SiberCore Technologies. He says that figure could get much bigger, depending on how well customers adopt a model of using SANs as data-retrieval VPNs (virtual private networks).
Applied Micro Circuits Corp. (AMCC) (Nasdaq: AMCC) also claims SAN customers for its network processors, but spokespeople say the company's waiting to see whether the market is sufficient to justify creating storage-specific processors.
But Trebia insists SANs have special requirements. "Traffic characterization, throughput, and forwarding rates are different in SANs than they are in LANs or WANs," says CEO Bob Conrad.
"It sounds like they plan chips that are either faster or cheaper than what's offered now," says Colin K. Mick, president of The Mick Group consultancy, and CEO of the Network Processing Forum (NPF) (of which Trebia is not a member).
Mick says that a couple of SAN companies say they're looking at network processing components, but none have specified that they require different capabilities than what's presently offered by companies such as AMCC, Cypress Semiconductor Corp. (NYSE: CY), Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT), NetLogic Microsystems Inc., or SiberCore. These firms already are working on 40-Gbit/s rates and a range of multiprotocol support.