Trebia readies storage network processor

Posted on November 01, 2001

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BY LISA COLEMAN

Acton, MA-based Trebia Networks is taking "system-on-silicon" chips one step beyond traditional ASICs and network processors by introducing a storage network processor (SNP) slated for shipping next year.

According to Trebia officials, the SNP will enable network-attached storage (NAS), storage area network (SAN), server, host bus adapter (HBA), and I/O card manufacturers to develop more "feature-rich" products that integrate Fibre Channel and IP networks at higher levels of performance and scalability.

The SNP provides connectivity to heterogeneous storage and interoperability between different protocols. Through deep packet examination, the processor provides block-pooling, third-party copy, and other functions to enable applications such as storage virtualization, serverless backup, and content distribution.

"It's not simply a protocol processor or a TCP off-load engine," says Brendon Howe, vice president of marketing for Trebia. "It's all of those components packaged together with software tools to allow customers to control or manage packet flows."

Trebia is a one-year-old start-up that has received $40 million in funding, according to CEO Bob Conrad, who is a veteran of Analog Devices and Texas Instruments. A fabless chip company, Trebia is contracting with Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Ltd. to manufacture the SNP; Advanced Semiconductor Engineering in Taiwan will do assembly and test. Trebia expects to ship the SNP in the first half of 2002. An official product announcement is expected in the first quarter.


Trebia's storage network processor could be used in a variety of applications, including NAS, SAN, servers, HBAs, and storage systems.
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The "brains" of the processor is a programmable protocol engine where fast-path processing for storage applications reside. A software-hardware combination enables customizable packet processing functions. The chip comes with firmware that implements fast-path functions for storage network applications and a method for vendors to modify functionality as needed. On-chip memory stores protocol-specific state information for active data flows across protocol exchanges. The SNP interacts with an external CPU to implement non-fast-path functions such as error-handling.

The SNP can be used in a variety of applications such as on a line card for a NAS server or as a line card within a SAN-NAS combo system where the SNP would provide TCP offload.

For protocol mediation and/or gateway systems, the SNP could provide conversion from IP storage to Fibre Channel. For SANs, the SNP could be used in a line card of a switch where it would perform virtualization processing. For HBAs, the processor could be used for connectivity, including SCSI termination and TCP offload within appliance servers or clustered servers. Storage systems could use the chip on an I/O card for connectivity to a SAN.


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