PC disk drive technology heads to data centres

PC disk drive technology heads to data centres

For companies seeking to store mission-critical data, disk arrays configured with SCSI-attached drives have typically been the only game in town. Lower-cost drives based on the Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) standard, while plentiful in PCs, lacked the performance and reliability needed at the data centre level.

In recent months, however, vendors such as EMC and Network Appliance have begun building ATA drives into storage devices. Now the advent of serial ATA technology is expected to boost data throughput rates from the 100MB per second that parallel ATA drives are capable of, to 150MB per second, and eventually to 600MB per second.

3Ware last week announced a serial ATA RAID controller that it said provides SCSI-like performance at ATA prices. And Fujitsu Computer Products of America said it plans to ship serial ATA drives by year's end.

ATA drives still run more slowly than their SCSI counterparts. But storage vendors can profitably sell disk arrays built around ATA drives at a per-megabyte price that's about half what it costs to buy a low-end array based on SCSI drives, said Bob Zimmerman, an analyst at Giga Information Group. "There are some real price advantages," he said.

ATA technology won't push high-end SCSI arrays such as EMC's Symmetrix boxes out the doors of data centres, he added. But ATA drives should be good enough for use in disk-to-disk data backup applications, Zimmerman said.

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