Feature

ATA Drives Move Up the Ranks

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The nod has been given to ATA drives by EMC, which is now giving customers the option of buying disk array enclosures (DAEs) for their Clariion CX400 and CX600 arrays equipped with ATA, rather than the usual Fibre Channel drives.

The result is an array that costs about 60% less than its Fibre Channel-equipped brethren, according to Michelle Hanson, spokeswoman for Dell, which resells the array. To wit: In cost per gigabyte terms, a 3.7TB Clariion with Fibre Channel drives costs $19.83/GB, while an ATA-equipped version would only cost $8.61/GB.

Of course, the performance isn't there--Dell's Hanson expects it's around one-fourth of a Fibre Channel array's--but the software functionality is. "All the storage functionality that already exists on the Clariion has been applied against ATA drives," notably SnapView and MirrorView, says Jay Krone, EMC director of Clariion product marketing, who claims that "a big chunk of the Clariion base is buying it to take advantage of mirroring," as well as disk-based backup.

High-performance network-attached storage (NAS) vendors Spinnaker Networks and BlueArc are also offering ATA options for their systems. Within the Spinnaker system, you can put an ATA RAID array from Infortrend in back of Spinnaker's SpinServer 3300 NAS head system. BlueArc, meanwhile, will offer ATA versions of its storage bricks--one equipped with 7,200 rpm drives for "general performance" needs, and another with 5,400 rpm drives for "deep archive" purposes,

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says Jeff Allen, BlueArc senior vice president.

EMC's Krone believes its ATA option will be used largely as an intra-array online backup and archival target, but that's not all say the spokespeople for Spinnaker or BlueArc. "Backup will only be one of the applications for ATA drives," says BlueArc's Allen. For many customers, ATA drives will allow them to bring data online that otherwise would have to live on tape. Take, for example, the oil and gas industry, where "primary and reference data is one and the same," says Spinnaker's Tabor. In cases like that, they "can live with the lesser reliability of ATA" compared to SCSI drives, in exchange for being able to store their data online.

This was first published in May 2003

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