This excerpt taken from the MRVL 10-K filed Apr 14, 2005.
Storage of Data
A substantial portion of all business and personal information is recorded on magnetic disk drives in data servers, workstations, personal computers and a variety of emerging consumer devices. As end-user data requirements increase, disk drive suppliers must consistently offer drives with faster data transfer rates and higher capacities. Disk capacity is measured by areal density, which is the amount of data stored
on one square inch of disk space. Also, within computers the transmission of data from the disk drive to the motherboard is transitioning to Serial ATA technology from Parallel ATA technology. Serial ATA technology allows data to be transmitted at higher speeds but requires a change in the silicon components on both the disk drive and the motherboard.
A critical component in every disk drive is the read channel. The read channel is a physical layer device that transmits and receives the data that is stored on the magnetic disk and converts it to the digital data required for use in computing systems. The read channel plays a critical role in enabling the disk drive to achieve higher data transfer rates and areal densities. Often, the read channel can become the limiting bottleneck for the entire disk drive system because higher data transfer rates complicate recovery of the data stored on the disk. As data tracks are packed more closely together to achieve greater areal density, problems arise from interference between adjacent data tracks. These challenges require increasingly sophisticated read channel designs.
In addition, as disk drive manufacturers seek to reduce costs, they now largely require that functions traditionally performed by stand-alone integrated circuits be combined with the read channel into a single integrated circuit referred to as a System-on-Chip, or SOC. Components which are now integrated into a single chip include the read channel, hard disk controller, embedded memory and one or more microprocessors.
Traditionally, disk drives have been primarily utilized by data servers, workstations, and personal computers. However, over the past few years, there has been a growing trend for a variety of new consumer electronic devices to integrate disk drives to increase the devices' storage capacity. Consumer devices such as personal video recorders and gaming consoles have adopted standard disk drives used by personal computers. Additionally, there has been a growing adoption of small form factor drives used by emerging consumer electronic devices such as MP3 music players and PDAs. These small form factor drives are much smaller in size than drives used by personal computers and typically have lower power and utilize different interfaces to the host CPU.