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Commodity chips settle in as Intel, AMD move into storage servers

Enterprise Storage Forum has an article this week on the transition to commodity chips into the storage community.

In general, storage vendors appear to be using Intel (NASDAQ: INTC) and AMD (NYSE: AMD) products for higher-cost, higher-performance applications, and using custom chips for lower-cost, lower-performance ones.

“Many vendors are using Intel chips and chipsets that have built-in support for XOR and P+Q computations needed for RAID-6,” said Brent Welch, director of software architecture at high-performance storage vendor Panasas. “Intel’s i7 platform is quite powerful, and coupled with the XOR and P+Q features, it can eliminate the need for ASICs.”

The article points out that the real value of a storage solution is the total package — the cache design, internal bus, cluster scheme, etc. — and that commodity chips offer specific advantages including ease of integration, wide availability of tools for development, and so on. But, don’t expect custom silicon to disappear entirely from storage solutions

“For example, custom silicon is often needed to handle communication and locking between processors,” said Garrett. “Adding a pinch of custom high-speed locking or caching silicon is often needed to remain competitive from a performance and/or fault tolerance standpoint. I don’t see this need for a bit of custom silicon going away anytime soon — especially within high-end enterprise-class storage systems.”

More in the article.

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