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A New Landscape for Disk

Since SATA drives became a viable option about three years ago, choosing a drive for networked storage has been fairly simple. There was Fibre Channel for the highest performance and reliability, and SATA for high capacity and low cost.

Now those choices are getting more complicated. Serial attached SCSI (SAS) systems are moving up the food chain into networked storage, mainly because, unlike their parallel SCSI predecessors, SAS can run in the same arrays as SATA. The SAS/SATA combination places high-performance SAS and low-cost SATA as two tiers in the same system.

Then there's FATA, which has been kicking around for two years and is slowly finding its way into more systems. FATA is a hybrid combining a Fibre Channel interface with ATA drives, which makes it an alternative to SATA. Fibre Channel and FATA drives can sit side by side in a system as a two-tier rival to SAS and SATA.

"We're seeing drives go down parallel tracks," says analyst Greg Schulz of StorageIO Group. "Until now you've had Fibre Channel for performance and SATA for price and capacity. Now that's being split down the middle. On the Fibre Channel side, you're seeing Fibre Channel and FATA together and on the SATA side there's SATA and SAS."

When SAS was developed, the conventional wisdom held that it would be primarily used for low-end storage and servers rather than as an enterprise alternative to Fibre Channel. That's still how LSI Logic, the top seller of SAS components, sees it. (See LSI Rolls SAS for DAS and LSI Launches SAS.)

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