Back in October last year Emulex acquired Vixel, a maker of InSpeed switch-on-chip ASIC used in storage arrays. Emulex wanted to become a supplier of embedded storage switching products. It has now made the first move. End users won't see the benefit for a few months yet though.

Xyratex Storage Systems, a supplier to OEMS, has deployed Emulex's InSpeed SOC 320 in its newly announced RS-1600-FC-SBD storage enclosure. Emulex's 20-port InSpeed 2Gb/s SOC (Switch-On-a-Chip) was used by Xyratex to create an "SBOD," or "Switched Bunch Of Disks," application that brings high performance switched connectivity to each individual drive within the storage enclosure.

The set of drives in the array can perform better, in the more IOPS sense, than the same set of drives in a JBOD or "Just a Bunch Of Disks" arrangement. SBOD technology such as the SOC 320 allows storage designers to create storage enclosures that are inherently more dependable and efficient.

Xyratex is the first OEM storage vendor to integrate the Emulex InSpeed SOC 320 Fibre Channel switching technology into a non-raided storage system. The embedded switching technology eliminates the FC-AL drive loops found in standard JBOD systems, and instead uses a system of point-to-point connections between the IO controller and the individual disk drives enabling greater performance, management and reliability.

SBOD or JBOD? Xyratex offers Fibre Channel (FC) storage in RAID, SBOD or JBOD form to OEMS and storage integrators. It offers FC SATA storage in RAID and JBOD forms but not SBOD. FC SCSI is offered in RAID form and SCSI storage is supplied either as RAID or JBOD. A question is will SBOD technology be extended to cover SATA arrays and switching inside non-FC-connected arrays. A very much larger group of potential customers would then result, with prices probably falling as well. Emulex and Xyratex have both been asked the question but not responded.

SBOD arrays won't necessarily cost less than Fibre Channel JBODS but they should cost less to own. "This new technology provides dramatic performance increases as well as numerous enhancements to system reliability and SAN availability," said John Howarth, senior director of product marketing for Xyratex. "These enhancements will bring higher data availability and lower maintenance costs to the end user."

SBOD features The InSpeed SOC 320-based family features include: - Automatic trunking capabilities-- Multiplies internal bandwidth with fail-over pathing for more reliable performance. - Drive fairness and prioritization -- Prevents drive starvation and ensures equal access to all drives within the storage array. - Stealth intelligent change manager - Fully isolates systems from change notification disruptions. - Continuous diagnostic monitoring capabilities.

Emulex says that because of these features InSpeed technology has lower in-field servicing costs and MTTR (Mean Time To Repair), significantly improving storage system reliability levels and provides the ability to increase performance while scaling to maximise the useable drive count. This would be desirable in GigE and SCSI-connected arrays as well as FC ones.