Need a nanny for your network? PCI-to-Fibre Channel host adapters provide storage interfaces for Windows NT

Companies often use data-intensive applications, such as client/server applications, online transaction processing, data mining and warehousing, special effects production, and Internet and intranet server applications. These data-intensive applications require fast processors with large, fast storage systems. Processor designers, such as Intel and Digital Equipment, are stepping up to the challenge by providing faster system solutions.

Storage system manufacturers are doing the same. To increase data transfer speeds, they often use Fibre Channel Arbitrated Loop (FC-AL) interface technology. With FC-AL technology, you can attain data transfer speeds of 100MBps.

Faster Speeds and Longer Connections
Faster speed is not the only benefit of FC-AL. With FC-AL, you can connect as many as 126 widely dispersed peripheral devices. You can use copper wiring to connect peripheral devices that are up to 30 meters apart and fiber optic cabling to connect peripheral devices that are up to 10 kilometers apart. These distances are notable improvements over differential SCSI technology, which has a limit of 25 meters. (For more information about FC-AL, see "Fibre Channel, SCSI, and You," September 1997.)

A New Player in the FC-AL Market
Adaptec, an industry leader in SCSI controllers and SCSI chipsets, is entering the Fibre Channel market by introducing two new adapters: AHA-F940 32-bit PCI-to-Fibre Channel host adapter and the AHA-F950 64-bit PCI-to-Fibre Channel host adapter. The adapters use Adaptec's new AIC-1160 PCI-to-Fibre Channel controller chipset. This single-chip controller provides a full-speed Fibre Channel interface. The AIC-1160 uses an integrated RISC multitasking processor for its protocol engine.

You can configure the AIC-1160 for arbitrated loop, point-to-point, or switched fabric links. It supports both 32-bit and 64-bit PCI data transfers over a full 64-bit PCI address range.

Update Microcode Using Software
One useful feature of the AIC-1160 chipset is that you can use software to update the microcode. You do not have to replace a chip on the controller or replace the controller. Other AIC-1160 features include:

  • Built-in diagnostics
  • Independent send and receive buffers for full-duplex operations
  • Independent PCI direct memory access (DMA) channels for data and commands
  • Zero-wait-state PCI bus master transfers with cache line streaming
  • PCI data and address parity generation and checking
  • Programmable PCI latency timer, cache size, and interrupt line select registers

Adaptec's a Viable Contender
Adaptec sent me a preview version of the AHA-F940 host adapter for review. The controller card looks clean. Only a few components populate the board's surface, and the large AIC-1160 controller chip is in the middle.

I used an Amdahl FS Quad-Pentium Pro server with the Raidtec Fibre Channel drive array to examine this adapter. Setting it up was very easy. I just installed the card, hooked it up to a drive array, booted the system, and installed the drivers.

Next, I formatted the drives in the Fibre Channel array and used them without any problems. I copied files and installed SQL server databases. I also performed queries and accessed files on the Fibre Channel array. The AHA-F940 worked as it was supposed to. Its performance was very good.

If you need the benefits of Fibre Channel technology, consider the AHA-F940 and AHA-F950 adapters. Adaptec is fully using Fibre Channel's ability to provide faster speeds and longer links between peripheral devices.

AHA-F940 and AHA-F950
Contact: Adaptec * 408-945-8600
Web: http://www.adaptec.com
Price: Call for price
System Requirements: Windows NT 4.0, PCI bus, 2.1 compliant