HP plans disc array that supports serial interconnects

Hewlett-Packard plans to ship by mid-2004 a disc array that can mix serial attached SCSI drives and lower-cost serial Advanced...

Hewlett-Packard plans to ship by mid-2004 a disc array that can mix serial attached SCSI drives and lower-cost serial Advanced Technology Attachment (ATA) devices.

HP said the upcoming array will have a single serial backplane that can support both kinds of drives, plus an interface that will let the different discs replicate data to one another for backup and recovery purposes. The mix-and-match capabilities could potentially lower storage costs by allowing IT administrators to provision capacity based on the type of data that is being stored.

Daniel Morreale, chief information officer at North Bronx Healthcare Network, recently talked to HP about the array for potential use in storing medical images and documents from clinical studies.

"I can definitely see the value of it," he said. "We'd like to get rid of our tape environment."

HP's disc array would let North Bronx Healthcare store images and electronic documents on serial ATA discs that cost roughly the same as tape devices and provide end-users with online access to the data, Morreale said.

But he added that the healthcare provider is currently installing an EMC Centera array, which uses parallel ATA disc drives to store data in a non-rewritable format.

Mark Almendinger, enterprise infrastructure manager at Huntington Bancshares, said the financial services firm could use the promised HP array to take advantage of inexpensive serial ATA drives for applications like its Notes e-mail systems. Data from heavy-duty transaction applications could be stored on higher-performance serial attached SCSI devices, added Almendinger.

HP is partnering on the mixed array with disc drive maker Seagate Technology and network adapter supplier Adaptec. Seagate and Maxtor have both said they plan to begin shipping serial attached SCSI drives to hardware supplier by the end of the year.

A 1.0 version of the serial attached SCSI specification was ratified by a technical committee last month and is in the midst of a 45-day public comment period. One of the key features built into the new storage interconnect technology is its compatibility with serial ATA drives.

HP is the first supplier to formally announced plans to develop an array that mixes the two technologies. But Robert Grey, an analyst at IDC, said the product promised by HP is only the first of what will be "a total industry flip over time" to such devices.

Lucas Mearian writes for Computerworld

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