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Silicon Image Brings Virtualization to eSATA

Conclusion

Silicon Image used to have one or two different storage ICs in the past, which were oftentimes used on motherboards or with entry-level SATA RAID controllers (along with Marvell components). Although we don't have information about customers for the new SteelVine generation 2 storage processors, we're confident that industry feedback and interest will be positive.

The Sil57xx processors and their maximum flexibility features do not directly target the market for multi-channel controllers anymore, but businesses and consumer markets. By combining SATA port multipliers and a smart virtualization layer, Silicon Image opens up entirely new ways to manage multiple hard drives inside and - especially - outside the PC. The SteelVine gen. 2 technology can incorporate the capacity of individual SATA hard drives into large storage partitions. As it is possible to carry existing data over to the new, expanded partition, the storage processors enable allow the expansion of storage capacity for consumer and CE devices such as PVRs, set-top boxes or gaming devices by daisy-chaining hard drives.

Support for classic RAID 0 (FAST), RAID 1 (SAFE) and JBOD is mandatory today. We found the BIG, SAFE33 and SAFE50 modes much more interesting. BIG concatenates all drives into one large virtual drive, while SAFE33 and SAFE50 create safe RAID 1 partitions and use the remaining capacity for concatenated storage. Depending on how you configure external devices using the Sil57xx, you can create sophisticated storage constructions.

For the end user and small businesses, the new SteelVine generation 2 allows one to upgrade storage when it's needed. This means that you can buy affordable mainstream hard drives just in time when you need them - instead of purchasing expensive, semi-future-proof storage solutions. The Sil5733-if integrated on motherboards-can provide a high level of data security for businesses, as it locks the drive and binds external storage devices to the host PC using the 5733 controller. No employee will ever be able to steal business data, because the drive will only unlock with the controller on which it was initialized.

SteelVine offers some excellent technology here, but it cannot replace professional RAID arrays, nor should you stop doing backups of your important data. It merely, yet successfully simplifies the way you can handle (external) storage devices. We would love to see this technology integrated into hard drives some day. When I thought about the SteelVine technology and the possibilities of virtualized hard drive storage, I had the vision of a future in which hard drives carry jumpers or DIP switches again. These would not be used to select master or slave modes, but they would configure hard drives to be used for performance enhancements or to increase data safety. The host controller takes care of everything else. Anyone dare take the challenge?

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