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Souping Up SATA

SATA drives, originally developed as disk for low-cost desktops, are picking up features to make them more enterprise-friendly.

Industry standards group SATA-International Organization (SATA-IO) recently completed its fourth plugfest, drawing 61 vendors to Portland, Ore. Knut Grimsrud, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) principal engineer and SATA-IO president, pronounced the major new technologies such as 3-Gbit/s bandwidth and Native Command Queuing (NCQ) ready to go.

What will these new features mean for SATA? Driven by a rise in disk backup and ILM, SATA drives have caught on in the enterprise largely as secondary storage. But even the new features wont help SATA replace Fibre Channel and SCSI as primary enterprise drives. They might persuade enterprise administrators to take SATA more seriously as part of a tiered storage approach, especially considering the new features aren’t expected to add to SATA’s price tag.

“This will make it easier for IT to see SATA as something that belongs on the enterprise floor,” says analyst Mike Karp of Enterprise Management Associates. “If a SATA device is maybe not as robust as SAS or Fibre Channel, IT managers are still going to have to look at it and say, ‘I can do the math. It’s 40 percent cheaper, and that’s a pretty compelling argument even if I have to keep replacing drives.’ ”

Before we get into the new features, let’s clear up a misconception. There’s no such technology as SATA II, although vendors commonly use the term as an umbrella for SATA’s advanced features. SATA II was the name of the standards group that has turned into SATA-IO. So just because a product is billed as SATA II, it doesn’t mean it supports all of its new features.

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