StorageTek launches ATA disk array

Storage Technology Corp. this week will announce a new class of ATA-based disk arrays for fast disk-to-disk backups and storage of unchanging data with a product line that will offer high-capacity secondary storage at a comparatively low cost. Those qualities are shared with servers introduced by EMC Corp. and others this year, but there are important differences.

The BladeStore B150 server is the first in Louisville, Colo.-based StorageTek's B-Series disk array family. The product line, which will be rolled out during the next year, uses Advanced Technology-Attached (ATA) disks with a Fibre Channel controller to achieve gigabit speeds.

The box can be used as temporary storage before archiving to tape, or as so-called near-line storage for faster access to data online.

Tom Major, vice president and general manager of StorageTek's Disk Business Unit, said that by using ATA, his company was able to drop the price per megabyte of storage from a range of 3 to 10 cents to 1 to 2 cents. Major said prices vary depending on configuration, but a 4TB BladeStore server carries a list price of about $85,000. BladeStore, which will be generally available by the middle of next month, will scale to 160TB behind a single controller.

The starting price yields a system with controller and management software.

"In our midtier systems, there's no reason that your second or third copy of data should cost the same as the first," Major said.

In comparison, EMC's Centera array starts at $101,500 for a 5TB system, plus $103,200 for companion storage management software. While boxes from both EMC and StorageTek target the fixed-data market, which includes X-ray images, checks and documentation, Centera sports a 27-character metadata tag that makes it impossible to copy over or change a file that was previously created.

Bustling Field

Jamie Gruener, a storage networking analyst at The Yankee Group in Boston, said the disk-to-disk backup and fixed-content storage markets are "becoming rather crowded fairly quickly."

"The differentiation will come in how software is used to manage the system and manage the duplication of the data—making sure there's efficient duplication as opposed to multiple copies or blanks sitting on the storage array," Gruener said.

Last week, start-up Avamar Technologies Inc. in Irvine, Calif., launched an ATA-based disk array that's more analogous to EMC's Centera in that it uses metadata to create unique documents that can't be changed. It costs about $175,000 for 7TB of capacity.

In the past, ATA disks have been used only in PCs and lacked the performance and reliability needed at the data center level. But advancements in quality and speeds have more recently made them appealing to vendors seeking a lower price point to hawk to customers.

Still, ATA disks have far slower data transfer speeds than SCSI or Fibre Channel disks, which spin at 15,000 rpm, compared with ATA's 7,200 rpm. For example, StorageTek's high-end D280 Fibre Channel array can perform 160,000 I/Os per second. The BladeStore server can perform just 20,000 I/Os per second.


StorageTek's Foray

The BladeStore server targets:

Electronic communication data such as IM and e-mail traffic

Faster backups over tape drives

Faster disaster recovery via online data

Fixed content such as X-ray images and checks

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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