By Dave Simpson
Recognizing that most low-cost servers and workstations do not include RAID functionality, Intel last month enhanced its I/O portfolio with a RAID reference design kit and controller (see chart).
The initiative is primarily designed to help the company's server, workstation, and controller OEMs. However, a number of end-user benefits are also expected, including:
- The proliferation of high-end RAID functionality in low-end, low-cost (e.g., <$10,000) servers.
- Reduced price premiums for RAID functionality through commoditization and time-to-market advantages.
- Increased data protection in low-cost servers.
OEMs are expected to benefit because Intel will supply RAID specifications and components that were otherwise shouldered by the OEMs. "This helps controller and system OEMs to get high-end RAID functionality into low-cost systems," says Christopher Croteau, marketing director for I/O products. "The design kit allows developers to break apart the value chain that goes into a RAID controller."
The initiative was endorsed by RAID controller vendors such as American Megatrends Inc. (AMI), LSI Logic, and Mylex, as well as systems vendors such as Hewlett-Packard.
The Integrated RAID Design Kit SMU22R specifies a two-channel Ultra2 SCSI RAID implementation, based on Intel's i960 RM I/O processor, that can support as many as 30 disk drives (15 per channel). Other features include online capacity expansion, RAID level migration and strip size migration; global spares; support for RAID levels 0, 1, 5, and 10; and support for Windows NT, Windows 2000 and Linux (in the second quarter), NetWare, and UnixWare.
The software stack includes drivers, utilities, firmware, and Web browser-based management tools. Intel is also offering the single-channel KMU21 RAID controller. Both the controller and the design kit use LSI's Ultra2 LVD (low voltage differential) SCSI controller.
The i960 RM I/O processor includes a PCI-PCI bridge, hardware XOR engine for RAID-5 parity calculations, multiple concurrent data paths, and an integrated memory controller. The units are supported by Wind River's IxWorks real-time operating system.
Intel adds RAID management:
Intel is expanding its I/O building block strategy with RAID functionality and Web browser-based management capabilities.
Croteau says that an Ultra3 SCSI version of the RAID design is due in the first half and that support for Fibre Channel depends on market adoption. Also around the middle of this year, Intel plans to introduce the Zion I/O processor, a 64-bit 66MHz implementation. The company claims that the Zion processor will improve RAID-5 performance by up to 15%, and will include 512MB of SDRAM memory support.
For more information on Intel's RAID I/O building blocks, visit http://developer.intel.com/design/iio/devtools/.