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IBM's SATA-Day Arrives

Big Blue ships SATA expansion unit for midrange SAN server and announces two customers

In the dwindling days of 2003, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) is moving to get an early jump on two of the hottest trends forecast for next year: It's shipping a midrange storage server with Serial ATA (SATA) disk drives. But questions surround its choice of target market.

Let's start at the top. IBMs new TotalStorage FastT expansion unit lets companies attach SATA disk drives to its FastT900 and FastT600 midrange storage servers. The solution is aimed at companies looking to use SATA disks in their organizations -- and according to IBM, a main reason is to comply with new regulations that call for increased storage of corporate documentation. Indeed, the new unit is part of IBM’s compliance strategy announced in October (see IBM Chases Compliance Dollars).

On the face of it, SATA seems a good approach to compliance. The disks are designed to provide high-reliability characteristics akin to more expensive Fibre Channel drives, but they cost substantially less. SATA drives also are faster and more reliable than tape, which makes them a good choice for near-line storage of data, such as archived email, that's needed to meet new federal regulations.

IBM's unit has plenty of room for all the data companies need to track. It comes as a rack-mountable enclosure that supports up to fourteen 250-Gbyte SATA disk drive modules, for a total of 3.5 Tbytes per enclosure. The expansion units pack redundant 2-Gbit/s Fibre Channel connections to FastT servers.

Here's the rub: Most SATA offerings are for low-end storage. Examples include wares from LSI Logic Corp. (NYSE: LSI), Maxtor Corp. (NYSE: MXO), 3ware Inc., Agere Systems Inc. (NYSE: AGR.A), IntraDyn Inc., RaidCore Inc., and Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) (NYSE: SGI) -- all of which have released or demonstrated SATA products. See:

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