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However, once the software issues have been dealt with, cheaper disk drives will dominate in disk-based backup.

It's not accurate to say disk drive interfaces don't make a difference, because they obviously do. The data availability and scalability features of a disk subsystem depend on the characteristics of the disk interface.

SATA is influencing the evolution of storage subsystems. SATA transforms the limited legacy direct-attached storage (DAS) ATA bus into a miniature, serial switched fabric. As hot-swappable disk drives are a fundamental requirement for greater data availability, SATA is the latest, low-cost alternative to enable hot swapping. Unlike SATA, the ATA bus was never designed for hot swapping. In fact, it can be argued SATA is a better interface than FC for hot swapping because of the cost of FC and the problems with inserting/deinserting devices on a FC loop.

Low-cost strategy
To start developing a strategy around lower-cost SATA drives, you'll need to become familiar with SATA-based subsystems. Look for enterprise storage features such as multiple SAN ports, multiple RAID levels and hot swapping. Even though the prices may seem ridiculously low, you should still try to get the best deal possible. After all, it wouldn't be a storage purchase without haggling over price. Finally, plan to use your SATA-based subsystems initially for applications with moderate requirements such as Microsoft Exchange. After you get some installations under your belt, you will probably feel like saving yourself big bucks every time you need a few more terabytes.

This was first published in October 2003

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