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Disk vendors driving toward SAS in enterprise storage

Solid state isn’t the only thing looming on the horizon in the enterprise storage drive space. Drive makers say small-factor (2.5-inch) SAS is poised to encroach on 3.5-inch Fibre Channel’s turf in storage arrays.

Seagate is eyeing enterprise storage arrays with drives such as the Savvio 10k.3 that it launched this week. At 300GB, the self-encrypting drive offers more than twice the capacity of Seagate’s previous SAS drives. It also supports the SAS 2 interface. SAS 2 includes 6 Gbit/s speed and other enterprise features likely to show up in storage systems by next year.

“300-gig drives will be more attractive to storage vendors, and they’re starting to find the small form factor drives more compelling,” said Henry Fabian, executive director of marketing for Seagate’s enterprise business. “You’ll start to see the small form factor ship in the second half of the year in storage arrays because of higher capacity and lower power requirements.”

Joel Hagberg, VP of business development for Seagate rival Fujitsu Computer Products of America, also sees small form factor SAS coming on strong in enterprise storage. “The storage vendors all recognize there is a shift coming as we get to 300 gigs or 600 gigs in the next couple of years in the 2.5-inch package,” he said. “We’re cutting power in half and the green initiative in storage is increasing.”

As for Fibre Channel, the drive makers agree you won’t see hard drives going above the current 4-Gbit/s bandwidth level.

“Four-gig is the end of the road for Fibre Channel on the device level,” Hagberg said. “All the external storage vendors are looking to migrate to SAS.”

By the way, Hagberg says Fujitsu isn’t buying into the solid state hype for enterprise storage yet. He considers solid state to be a few years away from taking off in storage arrays.

“There’s a lot of industry buzz on solid state, and I have to chuckle,” he said. “I meet with engineers of all storage vendors and talk about the hype versus reality on solid state drives. Every notebook vendor released solid state in the last year. Are any of those vendors happy with those products? The answer is no. The specs of solid state performance look tremendous on paper, but a lot less is delivered in operation.”

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