AMCC Expands into Mac Market with External RAID Controller

The company claims the 3ware Sidecar four-port PCI Express Serial ATA RAID controller for the Apple Power Mac G5 maxes out at 3TB of RAID, several orders of magnitude faster than products provided by Apple itself.

Applied Micro Circuits Corp. has delved into new territory by introducing hardware RAID 5 protected storage for the Macintosh market.

Developed with Apples blessing, AMCCs 3ware Sidecar is a four-port PCI Express SATA (Serial ATA) RAID controller for the Apple Power Mac G5. Powered by AMCCs PowerPC processor, the 3ware Sidecar offers RAID levels 0, 1, 5 and 10, and JBOD and Single Disk capabilities. The product maxes out at 3TB of RAID, several orders of magnitude faster than products provided by Apple itself. With its maximum four drives, RAID 5 write speeds scale up to 150MB per second, while RAID 5 read speeds max out at 200MB per second.

Like its Windows equivalent, the 3ware 9550SX SATA II RAID controller, 3ware Sidecar offers AMCCs traditional features, including the StorSwitch switch fabric architecture, StorSave for data protection, the StreamFusion intelligent cache algorithm and NCQ (Native Command Queuing). It also provides multilane cabling, reducing the number of cables required.

One of the most interesting features of the product, said Mike Karp, senior analyst at Enterprise Management Associates of Boulder, Colo., is the fact that the 3ware Sidecar sits outside of the Mac itself.

"Most of the people who would use this would be fairly high-level skilled power users, and the content they produce takes up a lot of space. There isnt enough room inside the Mac, and this solves the problem by offering RAID support outside of the box," he said.

The 3ware Sidecars speed, capacity and external structure make it ideal for video and audio "prosumers"—users who require the fastest and most advanced applications in areas like video and audio sharing, high-end graphics, broadcast video capture and playout, and multichannel audio recording with video.

The speed and performance capabilities of the 3ware Sidecar offer new usability to the Mac world—especially individual Mac power users, who have been limited to the performance limitations of Firewire and USB 2.0. The 3ware Sidecar goes far beyond those limitations, said Scott Cleland, director of marketing for storage at the Sunnyvale, Calif., company.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more AMCCs 3ware Sidecar external RAID controller.

"The maximum line rate of the Firewire and USB 2.0 interfaces is 80MB per second, while a single line of SATA is 300MB per second. And this product has four SATA links, creating a pipe of 1.2GB per second," he said.

AMCC chose to enter the Macintosh market for several reason, most important among them the realization that Apple has been underserving the market with its workstation business.

"You get things like three- and four-drive software RAID 5 on a workstation, and then there is nothing," Cleland said. "We saw an opportunity to be a player and provide a solution that Mac prosumers dont currently have. We realized we could start generating not only some incremental revenue, but gain some expertise in the Mac market, which we believe will continue to grow significantly since it adopted the Intel architecture."

AMCCs move is a good one, Karp said.

"This market has been largely ignored by the major storage players because its a relatively small market, but a lot of companies can do well in small markets if they can become leaders in those markets," he said. "Its a very viable market, and its a very good business for them."

By introducing this product into the Mac market first, AMCC also has a chance to test the technology. If it takes off, Karp noted, the company could easily change the storage interface and expand it to other markets.

AMCC executives clearly see the opportunity. Company executives see the 3ware Sidecar as the first of many opportunities the company will have to develop storage solutions for the Mac market.

"The first step is to get the product out and have Mac users go to 3ware as a storage alternative," Cleland said. "Then we need to build up the Mac channel, and understand how and where its sold."

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