January 15, 2003 11:03 AM PST

New chips take low-end drives higher

ServerWorks, an influential maker of server electronics, has begun shipping prototype chips designed to let computer-component makers put lower-end hard drives to high-end use.

The subsidiary of communications chipmaker Broadcom has begun shipping prototype chips intended to enable plug-in card makers such as Adaptec to federate numerous low-end disk drives into a single storage system.

Grouping disks together, a technique called redundant array of inexpensive disks (RAID), is common with higher-end SCSI hard drives, but the ServerWorks move could make RAID more feasible with lower-end drives that employ a new communication standard called Serial ATA, or SATA. Desktop computers almost universally employ ATA drives, and SATA models are expected to begin shipping in PCs this quarter, ServerWorks said Wednesday.

RAID is widely expected to improve storage system capacity, data protection and performance. While ServerWorks isn't selling RAID chips, those chips can be used in conjunction with ServerWorks' new chips, which will allow connections to two, four or eight SATA hard drives.

ServerWorks is providing SATA chip samples to potential customers and expects to ship production chips in high volume in March or April, the company said. In quantities of 10,000, the chips will cost $11 for the dual-port model, $25 for the four-port model and $40 for the eight-port model.

The use of SATA in RAID systems is a boost for ATA drives and a move that puts pressure on the SCSI industry. At the same time, IBM is moving SCSI features such as tag 'n' seek to ATA drives.

ServerWorks is a very influential maker of chipsets for Intel computers. Where the central processor from Intel acts as the brains of a system, the chipset is the spinal cord, connecting the main processor to other parts of the system.

ServerWorks products are used in many "blade" servers as well as more mainstream servers from the top server sellers.


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