Intel Brings Atom to Storage Devices

At the CeBIT show, Intel unveiled an Atom platform aimed at storage devices for small offices and homes. The new platform is the latest push by Intel to expand the reach of the Atom chip, which was initially intended for netbooks but now is finding its way into entry-level desktops, mainstream notebooks and embedded devices.

Intel is continuing to push its Atom chip platform, initially designed for netbooks, into new areas, the latest being storage.

At the CeBIT show held in Hannover, Germany, Intel on March 4 unveiled an Atom-based platform designed for networked storage devices used in smaller business offices, home offices and residences.

The platform, which Intel officials touted for its energy efficiency, includes a single-core Atom D410 or dual-core D510, along with Intel's 828011R I/O controller. Intel sees it being used for NAS (network-attached storage) devices that can act as centralized hubs enabling users to organize, manage and share documents, photos, videos and music throughout the home or small office.

Intel said the new chips consume up to 50 percent less power than current Atom chips, and offer better performance.

"NAS systems have traditionally been found in businesses [being used] to manage, store and access data," Seth Bobroff, general manager of Intel's Data Center Group, Storage, said in a statement. "Today, households and small offices have an ever-increasing number of computers, laptops, netbooks and mobile phones that create and consume digital content."

With the growth of mobile technology and of data and media generation, there is an increasing need for NAS devices for small offices and homes, according to Bobroff.

A number of manufacturers are developing devices to use the new Atom platform, Intel officials said. Among those are LaCie, LG Electronics, QNAP Systems, Synology and Thecus.

Intel is looking to expand the reach of its Atom products, which the chip maker first unveiled in June 2008 for netbooks. Since then, Intel has been pushing the chips into such areas as the embedded space, more mainstream notebooks and entry-level desktops, and, now, storage.

At the Intel Developer Forum in September 2009, officials also unveiled an Atom Developer Program designed to entice ISVs and programmers to create applications and components based on the platform. Intel released a beta of the program's SDK (software development kit) in December. The Atom SDK can be downloaded here.

The Atom chip has been a key driver in the recovery of the processor market, according to analysts. In January, IDC reported that shipments of mobile chips grew 11.7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2009 over the previous quarter, thanks in large part to Atom.

ABI Research has predicted that Atom shipments will grow into the hundreds of millions by 2011.

Intel is working to keep that rolling along. The chip maker March 1 rolled out the Atom chip, the N470, which is faster than the current N450. In addition, there reportedly were some devices being shown at CeBIT that sported the next round of Atom processors, the N455 and N475.

Intel officials at CeBIT also announced embedded versions of the D410 and D510 as well as the N450 chip. The chips are designed with a seven-year life cycle and are designed for smaller, energy-efficient devices in such areas as print imaging, digital security and industrial markets, according to Intel.

All three are used with Intel's 82801HM I/O controller. Combined, the technology offers a two-chip combination promising I/O flexibility through such high-bandwidth interfaces as PCI Express, PCI, SATA (Serial ATA) and USB 2.0.