More Goodies from the Expo - Part Two

More Goodies from the Expo - Part Two


You may need to be a storage geek to fully appreciate FirmTek's breakthrough. If you're not a storage geek, you're just going to have to trust me.


Personally, I'm tired of the ridicule. Every Expo, someone asks me the inevitable "So, what have you seen that most excited you here at the show?" My response is usually something along the line of, "Well, FirmTek is showing a bootable port-multiplier-equipped SATA drive enclosure and AMCC is shipping its xSATA multi-channel RAID array." And the eyes of my questioner roll, and they either say right out or merely think, "What a geek!" Look guys, not everything important is multi-colored, splashy-flashy, or preceded by the letter "i."


Okay, maybe I am a bit defensive. Must be this cold (which, since I first started writing this, appears to be graduating to ague status).


So enough about my hang-ups and health. What I really want to tell you is that FirmTek of Union City, California, was showing a couple of impressive storage products at the Expo, one with a capability shared by no other product in the entire Mac and PC industry - at least to my knowledge and as is claimed by George Rath, the company's Firmware Engineer.


First off, a quick lesson in storage geekery: A port multiplier is a device that allows multiple SATA hard drives to be connected to a drive controller via a single cable, thus saturating the SATA bandwidth over this single cable. At the Expo, FirmTek introduced a five-drive enclosure with a port multipler. Now, a port-multiplier is not rocket science; what is, however, ground-breaking is that FirmTek's microcode in the multiplier allows you to boot from this eSATA enclosure. According to Rath, that's a first.


Also according to Rath, "with five drives, basically off-shelf drives, we can achieve speed significantly over 200MB per second." The five-drive enclosure pictured above, not yet named, will ship "probably in March," at a cost of around $550. FirmTek sells its enclosures without drives - "unpopulated" is the standard industry term - so you can fill them with whatever drives you'd like (an easy task, by the way).


FirmTek was also showing the euphoniously named FirmTek SeriTek/2EN2 (the top unit in the photo above), a dual-bay, hot-swappable SATA enclosure. It's a straightforward dual-cable enclosure without a port multiplier, and goes for $199.95. The other nifty item in FirmTek's booth was their FirmTek SeriTek/2SM2-E (somebody's gotta help these guys with product names), an ExpressCard for MacBook Pros that has two eSATA ports to accommodate, say, a companion FirmTek SeriTek/2EN2; the FirmTek SeriTek/2SM2-E ExpressCard is a mere $119.95. To quote the humble Rath, as he swept his arm to indicate the Expo floor, "What is interesting about this unit is that we are using our own microcode which is superior to anything in this room."


One last word from Rath: "I'm pretty proud because it is our design entirely, the reason is that it doesn't use SCSI emulation, it's native SATA. It is providing the user with native S.M.A.R.T. data, it is a complete pass-through, it is the only one in the industry currently for this kind of chipset."


What a geek! Gotta love 'im.




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iPod junkie

I hope that the Macally TunePro sounds half as good as it looks (though I doubt it -- reality is always such a disappointment...) because it would make the ideal nightstand speaker stand. Thing about it: The alarm goes off and your favorite wake-up tune starts playing, but then you see your own bleary face in the mirrored flat-panel speaker and you're rudely jolted awake. You'll never be late for class again!

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