10/17/2005 - StarGen, the leading developer of serial interconnect semiconductors, introduced its Kestrel PCIe to Advanced Switching Interconnect (ASI) Bridge silicon and supporting product development kit. Kestrel is the industry's first PCIe to ASI bridge and is used to connect PCI Express based host processors to ASI fabrics. This announcement again demonstrates StarGen's leadership in product development surrounding PCIe and ASI solutions and rounds out the first generation of AXSys switching and software products announced in early 2005. StarGen's AXSys architecture supports both the ASI (www.asi-sig.org) and PCI Express (www.pcisig.org) industry standards targeting board and system level interconnect applications for system OEMs developing compute, storage, and communication platforms.
Designed to connect to any processor or I/O device with a PCI Express interface, Kestrel provides full function bridging into an ASI fabric. Its ability to simultaneously support multiple data movement protocols and sustain data throughputs up to 16Gb/s makes Kestrel ideally suited for a broad range of system applications including storage arrays, video servers, bladed server platforms, IMS compute elements, and embedded image processing systems. Kestrel has a fully compliant x8 PCI Express interface that can operate at all of the intermediate widths. Its ASI interface supports two modes of operation. For high bandwidth applications, it can be configured as a single x8 port and for other platforms where redundancy or load balancing across two fabric planes is preferred, the ASI interface can be split into two independent x4 ports.
The Kestrel Bridge, specifically developed to provide seamless migration from legacy PCI Express to the powerful capabilities of Advanced Switching, operates as a multi-function device. It can simultaneously support legacy PCI Express traffic while utilizing ASI's native data movement protocols for peer-to-peer communication between ASI nodes. Data movement can be accomplished through either a simple programmed IO model or with DMA assist. With its two integrated DMA engines and two descriptor ring pairs per engine, Kestrel provides outstanding Inter Processor Communication (IPC). When combined with other recently announced AXSys products, including the 80Gb/s Merlin Switch and the AXSys ASI Software Suite, Kestrel completes the solution for developing high-performance and cost effective compute, storage, and communications platforms based on Advanced Switching and PCI Express architectures.
Other features of the Kestrel PCIe-to-ASI Bridge include:
Industry Adoption and Comment - ADLink Single-Board Computer
ADLink, a global leader in embedded computing, based in Taiwan has announced an ATCA SBC using Kestrel to mate the powerful Intel Xeon processor to a PICMG 3.4 compliant ASI backplane. The aTCA-6891 is a critical addition to the ATCA ecosystem, and an ideal application for the StarGen chip. Jeff Munch, CTO of ADLink commented, "ADLink is focused on providing high performance, standards-based methods for connecting multiple processing and I/O elements within an ATCA form factor, and with the introduction of Kestrel, Advanced Switching allows us to achieve that goal."
Jag Bolaria, semiconductor analyst at The Linley Group adds, "With the introduction of Kestrel, StarGen continues to lead the field in Advanced Switching Interconnect technology, The AXSys family of products gives hardware OEMs the pieces to develop mixed PCIe/ASI systems with unprecedented performance and scalability."
Kestrel Product Development Kit - Accelerating Time to Market
StarGen is also releasing a Kestrel Product Development Kit (PDK) to provide customers with flexible tools for evaluating ASI technology, enabling software development prior to OEM hardware availability, and accelerating time-to-market. The Kestrel PCI Express PDK, based on Kestrel silicon, is a x8 PCI Express adapter card, which inserts into any compliant PCI Express slot on compute, storage, and communication platforms. ASI connections are provided through high-speed cables connected to two independent x4 ports. The cabling solution provides the greatest flexibility for developers to evaluate the technology over all possible topology options. The kit includes device drivers for Linux 2.6 and other operating systems. It is fully compatible with StarGen's AXSys ASI Software Suite and Merlin PDKs so that system developers can quickly and easily assess different system architectures, develop software, and evaluate performance before OEM hardware availability.
Availability and Pricing
Kestrel, which comes in a 27mm x 27mm, 484-pin lead-free BGA package, will begin sampling in November. Supporting documentation including Hardware Reference Manual, Datasheet, and Implementation Guides are available immediately. The Development Kits will also be sampling in conjunction with Kestrel availability. Kestrel is priced at $43 in volume.
The Advanced Switching Interconnect (ASI) Market
ASI will be a major force in the $1.4B semiconductor interconnects market. OEM migration from costly in-house development to a model of leveraging off-the-shelf hardware and standards-based interconnects is driving improvements in time to market, lowering development cost, and mitigating overall design risk. As a result of this fundamental shift, OEMs are now transitioning their value propositions from promoting proprietary hardware technologies to focusing their R&D resources on extending value-add applications running on standard modular computing platforms.
An additional driving factor in new system design is PCI Express (PCIe). This new chip I/O standard (www.pcisig.org) is recognized as the dominant interface for almost every processor and I/O device on the market, and is expected to dictate the landscape for the next decade. However, PCIe is tied to its PCI heritage and unable to provide many advanced features that are demanded in converged compute, storage, and communication applications. ASI is designed to complement and extend PCI Express, taking over where the PCIe standard leaves off by adding numerous features including a standards-based model for peer-to-peer processor communication, multi-protocol transport, robust QoS, and high availability attributes, all while preserving legacy software and reusing the PCIe physical and link layers to ensure interoperability.
The ASI specification was completed in January 2004 and there are currently over 60 companies in the ASI Special Interest Group. For more information on ASI ecosystem activities see the press release from the ASI-SIG (www.asi-sig.org) dated 10/17/05.
About AXSys Architecture
AXSys, announced in March 2005 with initial customer samples shipped in June 2005, is the industry's first suite of ASI compliant silicon and software that meets the performance, scalability, and flexibility demands for chip-to-chip and board-to-board interconnects in next generation compute, storage, and communication applications. The AXSys architecture is composed of a complementary family of switches, bridges, product development kits and a robust software suite. OEMs who implement the AXSys architecture are guaranteed 100% compliance to the ASI specification, full compatibility with PCI Express and future ASI SIG defined endpoints, as well as the ability to fully implement the ASI SIG fabric management standard. For more information on AXSys, please see related releases at www.stargen.com/news.
StarGen, based in Marlborough, MA, is a fabless semiconductor company providing unified interconnect solutions for compute and communication markets. StarGen's AXSys product line is based on the Advanced Switching Interconnect (ASI) and PCI Express standards and targets system OEMs developing platforms for compute, storage and communication applications. StarGen's successful 1st generation product, StarFabric, extends legacy PCI applications and is currently in use in over 75 designs with greater than 250,000 ports shipped around the world.
PCI Express is a trademark of PCI-SIG. Advanced Switching Interconnect and ASI are trademarks of the ASI-SIG. StarFabric and AXSys are trademarks of StarGen.
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