FATA disk vs Fibre Channel for Exchange and SQL workloads

Learn about the differences between a FATA disk and a Fibre Channel drive, and find out how to determine which drive type is better for Exchange 2007 and SQL.

FATA disk or Fibre Channel drive? How do they compare in terms of performance and failure rates? Which is best for an Exchange 2007 and SQL infrastructure?

To understand whether a FATA disk or a Fibre Channel drive is the most appropriate drive type for Exchange 2007 and SQL, you need to know the performance characteristics of each drive type and that required by the applications. Fibre Channel and SATA drives have been around for a number of years, and their performance characteristics are fairly well-known -- Fibre Channel for performance and SATA for capacity -- but FATA drives are not as widely available and less is known about them.

Common sense would indicate that the “F” in FATA stands for “Fibre” and that the “ATA” stands for the standard “Advanced Technology Attachment”-type mechanism that is used in SATA drives.

Common sense in this case would prove correct, but does this mean performance is more like Fibre Channel than SATA, or more like SATA than Fibre Channel? In fact, a FATA drive is a little more than a SATA drive with an altered interface that allows it to be inserted into certain storage arrays without a separate enclosure. The underlying performance will therefore still be similar to that of a standard SATA drive and should not be considered for low-latency or intensive workloads.

Therefore, when considering S/FATA for an application such as Exchange or SQL, you need to understand the workload characteristics of the application. For a small SQL application, S/FATA may be entirely suitable; however, for more intensive workloads, Fibre Channel is the more appropriate choice.

Traditionally, Exchange has been an application that by default would sit on Fibre Channel hard disks. Even though Microsoft has reduced the disk performance requirements of Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010 over previous versions, it is still important to understand the expected workload of the Exchange design, so you can select the most appropriate disk type and configuration.

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