StarGen Debuts Merlin Advanced Switching Interconnect PCI Express Switch

6/9/2005 - StarGen, the leading developer of serial interconnect semiconductors, introduced its Merlin ASI Switch silicon and supporting product development suite. Merlin is the industry's first Advanced Switching Interconnect (ASI) compliant switch, demonstrating StarGen's leadership in this important new market. StarGen's AXSys architecture, announced in March 2005, supports both the ASI ( and PCI Express ( industry standards targeting chip-to-chip and board-to-board interconnect applications for system OEMs who are developing compute, storage, and communication platforms.

Merlin is designed for use in a wide variety of system applications including line-card interconnect in vendor specific platforms or in standards based hardware systems such as the PCI Industrial Computer Manufacturers Group ( AdvancedTCA (ATCA) 3.4 specification targeting PCIe and ASI usage. A single Merlin ASI switch has 80Gb/s switching capacity with the architectural capability to cascade multiple devices to support larger topologies and achieve aggregate system switching capacities up to 400Gb/s. Merlin is configurable in various port widths to meet diverse system needs including ten 8Gb/s (x4) ports or five 16Gb/s (x8) ports. The switch also includes native support for PCIe I/O endpoints by including PCI Express (PI-8) leaf bridges on all of its ports to eliminate the need for any additional bridging silicon.

Other features of the Merlin switch include:

StarGen is also releasing two Merlin Product Development Kits (PDKs) in order to provide customers with flexible platforms for evaluating ASI technology, enabling software development prior to OEM hardware availability, and accelerating time-to-market. The AXSys Switch Platform PDK, based on the Merlin switch, is a 1U, 19 inch rack-mountable chassis with ten external ASI ports. The ports support both copper and optical cabling for extended distances. An RS-232 serial port and an RJ-45 Ethernet port are available for out-of-band status monitoring.

The AXSys ATX Expansion Chassis PDK, also based on the Merlin switch, connects six ports (two x8 and four x4) of the Merlin switch to compliant PCI Express card slots in an ATX form-factor. The remaining Merlin ports are used for external connections. The Expansion Chassis PDK allows developers to evaluate Merlin's PCI Express tunneling capabilities using off-the-shelf PCI Express adapter cards.

Industry Accolades for ASI & StarGen
"StarGen is building strong momentum in the developing Advanced Switching Interconnect chipset business with the release of its Merlin product," said Allen Leibovitch, semiconductor analyst at IDC. "Wireline and wireless telecom infrastructure OEMs continue to evaluate standards-based switching platforms such as ASI as they look to increasingly outsource this portion of the design in the future."

"Kontron is focused on providing TEMs with a wide variety of standards-based, open modular hardware solutions. AdvancedTCA and ASI are key elements of this strategy and StarGen's Merlin ASI switch provides the flexibility and performance required by our top-tier clients," says Christoph Neumann, Director Engineering, Kontron. "By providing 100% interoperability with PCI Express devices in the market, Kontron can leverage the existing large ecosystem while enhancing system performance with ASI features."

Availability and Pricing
The Merlin switch, which comes in a 31mm x 31mm, 896-pin lead-free BGA package, will begin sampling in July. Supporting documentation including Hardware Reference Manual, Datasheet, and Implementation Guides are available immediately. The Development Kits will also be sampling in conjunction with Merlin availability. Merlin is priced at $165 in volume.

The Advanced Switching Interconnect (ASI) Market
ASI is projected to be a major force in the disruption of the $1.4B semiconductor interconnects market. Driving this technology shift is OEM migration from costly in-house development to a model of leveraging off-the-shelf hardware and standards-based interconnects whenever possible for rapid time to market, lower development cost, and overall risk mitigation. As a result of this fundamental shift, OEMs are now transitioning their value propositions from promoting proprietary hardware technologies built in-house to focusing their R&D resources on extending value-add applications running on standards-based modular computing platforms.

An additional driving factor in new system design is PCI Express (PCIe). This new chip I/O standard ( 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 who are actively working on compliant products. For more information on ASI ecosystem activities see today's related press release from the ASI-SIG ( announcing eight companies who are for the first time disclosing details of their products at Supercomm 2005.

About AXSys Architecture
AXSys is the industry's first full 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 comprised of a complementary family of switches, bridges, 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 software suite.

About StarGen
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 emerging PCI Express-Advanced Switching (ASI) standard 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. Additional company and product information is available at

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.

Previous Page | News by Category | News Search

If you found this page useful, bookmark and share it on: