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Home, Home on the RAID

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Copious, networked, fault-tolerant storage is almost within arm's reach of the average consumer. By that, we mean a terabyte of RAID5 network-attached storage (NAS) for under $1,000. That's almost a fifth the cost of a comparably sized NAS system today, such as a 1TB Snap Server 4500, which retails for approximately $4,500 from CDW.

Certainly, the need is there, says Ahmet Houssein, vice president and general manager of Adaptec's storage systems group. That need is being fueled by the explosion in personal digital content, from music to DVDs to digital photos. Indeed, in techie circles, geeks are already discussing how to build low-cost RAID arrays out of off-the-shelf hardware (see Ryan Finnie's article on how to build a 1.2TB SAN for $1,600 at

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www.finnie.org/terabyte).

Furthermore, "the technology is there, the pricing is there," says Houssein. Working with Intel, Adaptec has published a reference design for a low-end NAS array (LENA) called Hammerhead, which may become the basis of future consumer storage devices.

The idea behind Hammerhead is the use of standard components, including the new Intel IOP332 I/O processor, a.k.a. Dobson, which would be used to perform RAID calculations.

"That's the concept we've been driving with SMB products, and now we're factoring it down to the consumer level," Houssein says. In volume, Dobson adds about $82 to the total system cost, estimates Michael Ludgate, director of marketing for Intel's storage components division.

Cheap RAID, in many respects, is the fundamental technology that makes the concept of LENA possible. "Asking a home user to back up a terabyte is a bad idea," Houssein says. And at the same time, consumers won't accept that a failed disk drive means they've lost all their data. Consumers need not know about RAID per se, "just that it has the right technology inside to survive a disk drive failure."

Houssein hopes that demo LENA units will start to appear next year. Systems may include four large hot-swap drives, a NAS file system and Ethernet, USB or even wireless connectivity.

This was first published in September 2004

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