When it comes to disk drives, cars, suits, and nearly everything else: You get what you pay for. So while ATA disk drives have already earned a place in SANs, it's no secret that these inexpensive drives bring a tradeoff in reliability.
The higher failure rate of ATA offers little comfort to IT managers trying to do more with less. Storage buyers opening their arms to the cheaper variety add risk to their environments, while mission-critical applications demand more costly options.
But some new developments could ease the tradeoff between cost and reliability. Nobody's saying you should hold your breath waiting for ATA drives to get more dependable, or for windfall capex budgets that allow you to purchase more expensive drives. We're talking about developments such as Distance 4, Ice Cube, and the Oracle Resilient Low-Cost Storage Initiative. (See IBM R&D Aimed at Storage and Oracle Teams With Storage Vendors.)
These solutions take a holistic approach to drive reliability, making it possible to deploy more reliable systems with cheaper components.
Storage technologies that operate under the "sum is greater that its parts" principle are hardly new. RAID striping relies on this principle and new drive technologies advance it. For example, proprietary extensions to RAID 5 (sometimes referred to as RAID 6) achieve this goal by protecting against two drive failures instead of one.