Hitachi unveils 4G-bps Fiber Channel drives

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc. (HGST) will next month begin shipping its first drive that supports the new 4G-bps (bits per second) Fiber Channel interface standard, it said Wednesday.

The Ultrastar 15K147 drive, which HGST said is the industry’s first to support the interface, will be available in sample quantities to system vendors for testing from June, said Sam Sawyer, a senior advisor at HGST’s product planning and strategy department. Mass production of the drive and a second model that supports Serial Attached SCSI (small computer system interface), or SAS, will begin in late July.

HGST already offers a version of the Ultrastar 15K147 with Ultra320 SCSI interface and the two new drives share many of the same specifications. They will be available in three capacities: 147G bytes, 73G bytes and 36G bytes. Average seek time for the three models will be, respectively, 3.7 milliseconds (ms), 3.6 ms and 3.3 ms.

The faster Fiber Channel drive is being announced just as the industry begins a transition from current 1G-bps and 2G-bps Fiber Channel interfaces, said Jim Porter, president of disk drive market research firm Disk/Trend. He expects HGST’s competitors will follow its lead with their own drives, all of which will be aimed at applications requiring the high-performance that can be delivered by a drive offering such fast seek times

“It’s a minority of server applications, but they are the ones that require high performance,” said Porter. “Any application where there is a bunching up of a lot of people at different workstations accessing the server at a given point in time.” He suggested as an example an airline system where check-in requests or flight booking requests are being made right up to the closing time of a flight.

The faster interface is backwards-compatible with hardware designed for current 1G-bps and 2G-bps Fiber Channel interfaces and this means companies will be able to use existing drives in hardware designed for 4G bps Fiber Channel, he said.

HGST acknowledged there isn’t a great amount of demand for drives based on the faster interface at present, but Sawyer said that by offering them now the company will enable system builders to work with the technology before they offer products later this year.

The SAS model is expected to be used in storage cabinets and hardware such as blade servers. One of the biggest advantages of SAS is that it shares a common connector with Serial ATA drives and that makes it easy to mix and match higher performance SAS drives with higher capacity SATA drives in a single system.

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