SCSI set to get big boost from Serial Attached tech

Vendors used the HP World trade show, held in Atlanta earlier this month, to showcase their upcoming Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) technology, which is designed to replace parallel SCSI and compete with Fibre Channel in some environments, according to industry observers.

SAS isn’t expected to be available to users until about the middle of 2004, but vendors such as Seagate Technology and Maxtor, both of whom are building SAS drives, are already busy singing the technology’s praises.

SAS will offer performance of up to 600MBps in full-duplex mode as compared to 320MBps and half-duplex mode for parallel SCSI.

SAS will also use smaller, 2.5-inch drives, which is an important consideration for space-conscious customers, said Brian Krause, product marketing manager with Seagate.

“We’re hearing from customers and from [original equipment manufacturers] that there’s too much gear to manage inside the data centre,” he explained. “There are too many disk drives, storage systems and in general too many physical locations for the data centres.”

By giving customers more storage power in a smaller footprint, SAS would allow them to shrink and simplify their storage environments, Krause noted.

Users are also looking for higher storage performance in transactional environments such as Internet servers, e-commerce servers and databases, Krause said, adding that SAS will be able to satisfy those demands.

“They don’t want 180GB or 300GB of capacity,” he noted. “What they want is a little less capacity per spindle, but faster performance.”

In some cases, SAS could replace storage area networks (SANs), said Dave Reinsel, research manager with Framingham, Mass.-based IDC.

Customers who want to deploy small point-to-point Fibre Channel SANs, in which one array attaches to one server, would be attracted to SAS.

Also, Reinsel noted, users are more likely to be familiar with SCSI than they are with Fibre Channel.

“Companies are going to be more likely to invest in legacy-proven technology such as Serial Attached SCSI and in products they have installed and where they have expertise, more so than some of the latest, greatest and newest technologies, because they have cost issues they need to solve,” he said.

Seagate’s Krause, though, believes SAS will complement Fibre Channel rather than compete with it. For example, he said, a customer could have SAS inside a box or have a SAS node, attached back into a Fibre Channel SAN, which connects back to other SAS nodes.

“It’s not as though SAS replaces Fibre Channel,” he said. “Fibre Channel is growing at a fast rate and it makes sense to have SAS in the box existing with Fibre Channel.”

Customers should begin seeing Seagate SAS technology in the market by the middle of 2004, Krause said. Seagate will begin shipping to system integrators such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM in the first half of 2004 with the technology wending its way into user environments soon after that.

– with files from IDG News Service