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Advantages of ATA and SATA disk drives

What is the big deal with the ATA drive, besides the low cost relative to other drives? How about the performance aspect?

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Low cost and large capacity are the big deal with ATA and Serial ATA (SATA) disk drives.

What gets confusing is that there are different types and categories of ATA and SATA disk drives. If you take a look at the products pages on the Web sites of Seagate, Fujitsu, Hitachi (HGST), Maxtor, Seagate and Western Digital you will see different types of each. For example, there are the mobile and server ATA disk drives you might find in your laptop or PC server. There are also higher end ATA and SATA disk drives for use in storage subsystems.

This is similar to what you would see with SCSI and Fibre Channel disk drives. Beyond price and capacity some things to keep in mind with ATA, SATA, and Fibre Attached Technology Architected (FATA) disk drives is performance and availability. Typically you can expect to see lower performance on ATA and SATA disk drives compared to traditional Fibre Channel and UltraSCSI disk drives. The disk drive vendors are adding features to improve performance and availability of SATA disk drives while also reducing costs. This is where you will find low cost ATA and SATA disk drives as well as more expensive SATA disk drives with more features.

Just because a disk drive is an ATA or SATA or for that matter a Fibre Channel disk drive does not make them all the same. Also look beyond disk drive RPM numbers as a speed indicator to include latency, average seek, duty cycle, support for command queuing and amount of disk drive buffer cache.

This was first published in July 2004

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