Insider Compares SAS & Fibre Channel

Report looks at how SAS and Fibre Channel stack up, and which one's ahead

January 3, 2008

3 Min Read
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Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) stands to replace the parallel Small Computer System Interface (SCSI) technology that has reached the end of its shelf life. The next question is: Will it replace Fibre Channel?

According to the latest Byte and Switch Insider report, SAS and Fibre Channel are neck and neck in terms of features, with one or the other providing an advantage in key areas. When it comes to speed, for instance, SAS offers a data transfer rate of 3 Gbit/s, while Fibre Channel offers 4 Gbit/s. Both offer similar performance and connectivity features as well.

"For the moment, it is hard to differentiate between the technologies on performance or reliability, though cost presents a different argument," states report author Martin Courtney.

SAS can be 25 percent to 50 percent cheaper than Fibre Channel, because it has cheaper components, the report states. What's more, 3.5-inch Fibre Channel disks cost more compared with 2.5-inch SAS units, and drive manufacturers claim smaller units use less power. SAS is also compatible with SATA for tiered storage environments, while Fibre Channel is not.

But it's still tough to make a storage area network based on SAS, the report points out. Adaptec, LSI, PMC-Sierra, and Vitesse make expanders that connect multiple SAS devices to a limited number of host ports. Some of these expanders can be used in fan-out configurations to support tens of thousands of devices, albeit at a distance range of 8 meters.For the time being, though, it's unlikely these "SAS SANs" will displace Fibre Channel in any sizeable way. Fibre Channel is a mainstay in enterprise storage networks, and it's also getting its fair share of enhancements and fixes. What's more, the vendors who make SAS expanders aren't tooting the SAS horn too loudly, especially since most of them also have a vested interest in Fibre Channel.

Still, it's likely that SAS will increase its influence as more development takes place. External SAS RAID arrays are only just hitting the market, and interoperability problems between different SAS components, discussed in detail in the report, will likely be ironed out within the next year. After that, we may indeed start to see SAS encroach on Fibre Channel for smaller shops.

Companies covered in this report include: Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT); Dell Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: DELL); Dot Hill Systems Corp. (Nasdaq: HILL); EqualLogic Inc. (Nasdaq: EQLX Proposed); Fujitsu Siemens Computers BV; Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ); IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM); Infortrend Corp.; JMR Electronics Inc.; LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI); Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP); Overland Storage Inc. (Nasdaq: OVRL); Proavio U.S.A.; Promise Technology Inc. (Taiwan: 3057.TW); Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: JAVA); Silicon Graphics Inc. (Nasdaq: SGIC); and Xyratex Ltd. (Nasdaq: XRTX).

Get more details and/or purchase the report here.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Byte and Switch's editors directly, send us a message.

  • Adaptec Inc. (Nasdaq: ADPT)

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • Dot Hill Systems Corp. (Nasdaq: HILL)

  • EqualLogic Inc.

  • Fujitsu Siemens Computers

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Infortrend Technology Inc.

  • JMR Electronics Inc.

  • LSI Corp. (NYSE: LSI)

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Overland Storage Inc. (Nasdaq: OVRL)

  • Proavio U.S.A.

  • Promise Technology Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Xyratex Ltd.

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