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Dell says 2.5-inch SAS drives will reinvigorate DAS

The march of 2.5-inch SAS drives into networked storage took another step today when Dell launched its PowerVault MD1120 storage expansion enclosure. The enclosure is designed with the small form factor drives.

The MD1120 expansion closure isn’t a SAN, but a JBOD that connects to Dell’s PowerEdge server. And it’s not the first external storage system with 2.5-inch SAS drives — Infortrend has been shipping one since January. But Dell will obviously drive a lot more adoption than Infortrend, and Dell execs expect 2.5-inch SAS drives to co-exist with 3.5-inch drives in SANs before long.

“We see 3.5-inch drives being relevant for a long time in external storage, with 2.5-inch becoming a relevant complement in the next few years,” said Howard Shoobe, Dell’s senior manager of storage product management.

Small form factor drives allow for denser enclosures and reduce power consumption, but capacity is the main inhibitor for their inclusion in enterprise SANs. The new Dell enclosure holds 24 drives that are either 10,000 RPM 146GB or 15,000 RPM 73GB models. Shoobe expects the tipping point to come when 300 GB SAS 2.5-inch drives are shipping. Seagate has announced a 300 GB 2.5-inch drive that should begin shipping in systems later this year. Shoobe says Dell will incorporate them into the MD1120 when they’re available.

“The capacity we offer today will double, and that’s the trigger point,” he said.

Dell isn’t giving a forecast on when we might see 2.5-inch drives in its EqualLogic PS iSCSI SANs, and certainly not for the Clariion systems it co-markets with EMC. But even if it takes longer than expected to show up in enterprise SANs, Dell sees 2.5-inch SAS helping to give a new life to DAS because of the small form factor and coming bump from 3 Gbps to 6 Gbps.

“We have invested in DAS while the rest of the industry has been abandoning it,” said Praveen Asthana, global director of storage and networking for Dell. “DAS boxes are becoming more capable, especially with SAS. Why are we getting excited about a DAS announcement? It’s big business for us, and it’s growing.”

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