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Next year's hot technologies

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SAS-2 spec (6Gb/sec) and 10GbE
These are different technologies, but together they put pressure on FC's dominant position in storage networking. At 10Gb, Ethernet becomes more of a storage play because it boosts iSCSI's performance. And the serial-attached SCSI (SAS-2) standard will fortify that interface as "enterprise class" in 2009, largely because of its 6Gb/sec capabilities.

That means SAS should start to challenge FC for high-performance disk drives. Analysts say 6Gb/sec SAS will eventually become the new enterprise storage drive standard. "It's going to be the first time that this serial-attached SCSI interface is faster than FC," says John Rydning, research director for hard disk drives at Framingham, MA-based IDC. "We've seen a pretty rapid adoption for internal storage, and now it's going to get the attention for external storage," he says.

Doubling from its current 3Gb/sec bandwidth, 6Gb/sec SAS enables solid-state disk (SSD) adoption and compatibility with the SATA connection. In October, LSI Corp. brought out what it calls the industry's first 6Gb/sec SAS-to-SATA bridge cards and 16-port SAS storage processors.

Marty Czekalski, senior staff program manager at Seagate Technology and VP of the SCSI Trade Association board of directors, says 6Gb/sec SAS will start shipping in systems to customers about halfway through 2009.

"You're still going

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to have FC SANs between servers and external storage systems, but you will start to see 6Gb/sec SAS drives used on the back side of those controllers. They will replace the FC drives on the back side over time," notes Czekalski. Less cabling, doubled transfer rates, improved link utilization and rack-to-rack distances are among the advantages 6Gb/sec SAS users can expect, he says. "And 6Gb/sec SAS is a great connection for SSDs," he adds, because users can get 6Gb/sec per link, low latency and high aggregate performance.

Brad Booth, president and chairman of the board of the Ethernet Alliance, says Ethernet has progressed from a technology that would carry only LAN traffic to "a unified fabric ... iSCSI, NAS, FCoE all rely on the Ethernet," he says. Booth, who's also senior principal engineer in the office of the CTO at AMCC, says the advent of electronic dispersion compensation (EDC), used in optical and backplane platforms as a means to compensate for some of the impairments in the transmission medium, is among the most recent developments giving 10GbE technology a boost.

The biggest obstacle for 10Gb remains price, but industry analysts agree that the price of 10Gb in 2009 will drop as the technology matures. In addition, SFP+, a new optical form factor, will permit greater port density and lower the price per port.

This was first published in December 2008

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