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Vixel puts 20 switch ports on a chip

Storage networking vendor Vixel has a new switch-on-a-chip that features 20 ports, eight more than its previous switch technology. The company said the switch was designed for the emergence of new hard drive technologies.

Vixel Corp., Bothell, Wash., has a new 20-port switch-on-a chip (SOC) on the market that begs the question: why doesn't every array have a switched back-end?

The new InSpeed SOC 320 features trunking, inter-switch frame communication and built-in fairness to ensure equal access to all drives. Vixel's pitch is that the SOC can change traditional 16-drive JBODs into a "Switched Bunch of Disks" or SBOD storage array.

The SOC 320, like its 12-port predecessor, has been designed as a replacement for Fibre Channel loop architectures, which according to Beth White, Vixel's vice president of marketing, provides improved performance and direct access to the hard drives within a storage array.

"We can improve latency issues in a RAID system. [Users] are no longer obliged to go through every drawer and drive for a single transaction," said White.

White said Vixel's 12 and 20-port switches are under evaluation by more than a dozen storage and server manufacturers.

The InSpeed 20-port technology comes in three forms, a chip, a blade and in a box. The switches run at speeds of 1 or 2G bits/sec on 9.5 watts of power.

White said the new switches enable trunking, and equal drive access.

She said in traditional array architectures the drive closest to the controller or NAS head receives more activity than drives farther away.

"In a switched environment performance does not degrade as you add drives and capacity," said White.

Some hardware vendors set limits and recommend that at users add another controller for a certain number of drives. Vixel claims that with InSpeed users can add capacity without adding controllers, which lowers the total cost per megabyte.

"There is no intelligent argument that says having a non-switched back-end is better than switched, so it's merely a matter of money," said Steve Duplessie, founder and senior analyst, Enterprise Storage Group Inc., Milford, Mass. "Vixel has pretty much eliminated that concern."

Duplessie said everyone who doesn't switch the back-end of their storage array will have to justify it to customers. "And there won't be any good answers."

Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer


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