Storage processors to sharply boost protocol bandwidth -

Storage processors to sharply boost protocol bandwidth


Astute Networks Unveils Second-Generation Family of Advanced Storage Processors

The Athens solution family features in-demand interfaces and unparalleled cost and power savings

San Diego— Astute Networks, a leader in changing the economics of scalable storage systems, today announced the introduction of the company's Athens Storage Processor family. The Athens family, comprised of the AN2000 and the AN2004 processors, is the industry's most highly integrated multi-protocol storage processor family of devices offering best-in-class price-power performance at more than 1.6 million I/O operations per second (IOPs) in less than 14 Watts.

The Athens solutions allow storage OEMs to build systems that offer high-end features, low power and high-performance at entry-level prices. These devices are the first in a series of processors to be delivered as part of the Athens family of solutions. Astute Networks is uniquely positioned to deliver a single, integrated PCI-Express solution for Fibre Channel, Network Attached Storage and iSCSI storage applications. The AN2000 is a full-featured device that integrates 8 lanes of PCI-Express, 4×1/2/4G Fibre Channel (SERDES), 4×1 Gigabit Ethernet (SERDES), 4×1 Gigabit Ethernet (Copper GMII), and 1×10 Gigbit Ethernet XAUI I/O interfaces. The AN2004 features 4 lanes of PCI-Express and a 4x1Gigabit Ethernet interface.

The on-chip integration of such a wide variety of I/O interfaces enables the Athens family to support lower cost and power designs. By providing processing for storage clustering and high-availability applications, Astute's customers can service multiple markets including enterprise, mid-range and SMB with a single-storage platform. This results in reduced R&D, as well as qualification and development savings.

“OEMs are faced today with an ever increasing need to deliver product solutions that allow end users to lower OPEX and CAPEX costs. That, in turn, drives the need to differentiate their products through scalability, new features and performance at radically lower price and cost envelopes while maintaining reliability and robustness,” said Tony Asaro, senior analyst, Enterprise Strategy Group. “The Astute Advantage is an approach that uniquely addresses this need by providing an ultra efficient, programmable platform along with proven software. By partnering with reliable, industry leading sub-system vendors for complete, qualified solutions, Astute also provides a time-to-market advantage.”

“By combining a parallel RISC processor architecture with specialized hardware engines, the Athens processor family accelerates networked storage protocols to IOPS performance levels that are unprecedented for a customer-programmable chip,” said Bob Wheeler, senior analyst at The Linley Group. “While maintaining performance, the Astute architecture is easy to program using standard C tools. This enables OEM and software vendors to leverage their existing software intellectual property.”

“Building on our proven expertise in storage application design, we developed the Athens family to provide a compelling solution for the storage array and blade server market,” said Jon Siann, vice president of marketing at Astute Networks. “Using a combination of high-performance silicon and tightly integrated software, the Athens family takes the bottlenecks and overhead out of storage protocol and software services. In a single chip, the Athens architecture packs the processing capacity in the class of four high-end 64-bit general purpose processor complexes at one twentieth of the power, which enables high-end features in form factors such as the Storage Bridge Bay standard. This changes the economics of high performance scalable storage for sub-systems vendors and OEMs.” The Athens family integrates the I/O ports around a proven clustered, multi-core (10 CPUs) design. The ports can be used in any combination to provide both host and clustering connections. The Athens family provides T10 DIF (Data Integrity Field) for both Fibre Channel and iSCSI, on-chip CRC, and Checksum for improved link integrity.

The Athens single-chip architecture has been measured at over 1.6 million Fibre Channel IOPs (fully terminated on chip, requiring no external CPU intervention), more than 200,000 iSCSI IOPs and over 11 Gb/s of complete TCP/IP processing. Overall, Athens offers the industries best choice for price and power per unit of programmable processing.

Astute Networks' second-generation family of storage processors named Athens consists of two parts, the AN2000 and AN2004, which have been significantly enhanced over its Pericles family of storage devices.

Aimed at speeding up network and storage protocols, the Athens storage processors are based on a parallel RISC architecture with specialized hardware engines. They can run more than 1.6 million I/O operations per second (IOPS) in less than 14 Watts in Fibre Channel applications, and more than 200,000 IOPS for iSCSI. The Athens 2000 processor offers 16-Gbits/s full duplex Fibre Channel bulk throughput and 10-Gbits/s TCP & iSCSI throughput. And the 2004 processor provides full duplex throughput of 8-Gbits/s for Ethernet applications.

Astute's latest devices, which are protocol engines designed to accelerate bandwidth in storage applications, integrate several I/O interfaces. The Athens 2000 is a single-chip device with an 8-lane, PCI Express (PCIe) host interface, a single 10-Gigabit Ethernet (10-GbE) port via a XAUI-compliant interface and SerDes, four 1- 2- and 4-Gbits/s Fibre Channel (FC) MACs and SerDes, and four Gigabit Ethernet MACs and SerDes. The Athens 2000 is tailored specifically for NAS, iSCSI and Fibre Channel storage applications.

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The Athens 2004 is also a highly integrated, single-chip device, which is intended for NAS and iSCSI applications. The 2004 integrates several I/O interfaces, including a 10-GbE XAUI Port and 8 lane PCIe host interface.

Flexible interfaces allow Athens to be incorporated into PCIe add-in cards, and directly onto server motherboards. Full support of the PCIe 1.0a standard ensures compatibility with industry standard host CPUs such as Intel architecture and PowerPC processors. The PCIe interface provides 16-Gbits/s via the 8-lane interface.

The Athens 2000 and 2004 are C programmable through firmware running on up ten 32-bit, 333-MHz RISC processor cores, which have access to up to 512-Mbytes of memory. 266-MHz DDR SDRAM is used to store state and payload data for protocols that require packets to be put back into a sequenced data stream.

When asked what sets them apart from competitors' devices, Jon Siann, vice president of marketing at the San Diego-based company said, “Athens offers Fibre Channel, iSCSI, NAS and virtualization offload, best in class price/performance, and enables scalable storage clustering.”

However, the company has still not released pricing information. A spokesperson said that the timing is just too premature for anything to be released, considering Astute is still working with suppliers to finalize the exact price.

Still, Athens' features enable storage OEMs to service multiple markets, including high-end, mid-range and low-end.

“A single-chip architecture can be used for multiple platforms, including Fibre Channel and iSCSI, which saves R&D and speeds time-to-market,” Siann said.

Also attributing to faster design times is the fact that the processors are C programmable using a standard GNU tool set. A debugger is included with the development tools, which also cuts down on the design cycle, he said.

The AN2000 and AN2004 are packaged in an 896-pin Hyper BGA. Parts are in qualification now, and engineering samples will be available in this quarter.

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Astute Networks, 1 (858) 673-7700,

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