SATA Speeds Up

News of 3-Gbit/s SATA interfaces from Maxtor and Seagate signal more to come

October 11, 2005

3 Min Read
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Enterprise users are flocking to faster SATA, many for primary storage, according to vendors of disk arrays. In response, suppliers plan a flurry of upgrades.

Two announcements today illustrate the point. Maxtor Corp. (NYSE: MXO) announced the addition of a 3-Gbit/s interface to its SATA II drives, including its 300-Gbyte MaXLine III series for enterprise storage OEMs. (See Maxtor Intros 3-Gbit/s SATA .) And Seagate Technology Inc. (NYSE: STX) unveiled 3-Gbit/s SATA drives for video servers and the like. (See Seagate Unveils Barracuda .)

These are only the latest of several SATA upgrades that add faster interfaces, higher capacity, and streamlining features such as Native Command Queuing (NDCQ) to SATA drives -- a procedure nicknamed SATA II. (See Souping Up SATA.)

Indeed, today's news is largely about catching up. Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (Hitachi GST) was the first to launch a 500-Gbyte, 3-Gbit/s SATA drive early this year. Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ) and Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) already have 120-Gbyte and 400-Gbyte drives operating at 3-Gbit/s. (See table below.)

Table 1: SATA Drive Sampler




SATA Data Transfer Rate


Ship Date

Fujitsu Computer Products of America


120 Gbytes

1.5 Gbit/s



Hitachi Global Storage Technologies

Deskstar 7K500

500 Gbytes

3 Gbit/s





250 Gbytes and 300 Gbytes

3 Gbit/s





250 Gbytes and 400 Gbytes

3 Gbit/s



Western Digital

WD Caviar SE16

250 Gbytes

3 Gbit/s



All these improvements show SATA is making headway in applications like rich media and scientific computing that used to be reserved for Fibre Channel alone. What's more, SATA's apparently making it as more than a backup drive. According to Brendan Kinkade, VP of marketing at Nexsan Technologies Inc., a "great number," albeit not a majority, of his company's customers are using SATA for primary storage. Nexsan OEMs Hitachi's 500-Gbyte SATA drives.

"Are customers resisting SATA? My gosh, no! They're demanding greater capacity and density," he says.

Another Hitachi customer, EqualLogic Inc., says that for a few dollars more, customers of its iSCSI arrays are finding SATA II a no-brainer. "We sell our PS200E with 5.6 Tbytes for $51,800, and the PS300E with 7 Tbytes at $56,000. Both have 14 drives. That's way below $8,000 per Tbyte," says spokesman Roman Kichorowsky.

Are 1-Tbyte drives on the horizon? Not yet, and maybe not for awhile. Though OEMs sing the praises of SATA II drives, there's no widespread indication that they're overtaking Fibre Channel just yet, especially given that enterprise FC drives are heading to 4-Gbit/s. Still, Maxtor plans to offer 500 Gbytes of 3-Gbit/s SATA for its enterprise drives within the next two weeks. Fujitsu is working on it, too, though no date's been set.

Mary Jander, Site Editor, Byte and Switch0

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