HP adds 2.5-in drives to servers

Hewlett-Packard is to ship 2.5-inch disc drives with enterprise-class features in its ProLiant servers next year and will add the...

Hewlett-Packard is to ship 2.5-inch disc drives with enterprise-class features in its ProLiant servers next year and will add the space-saving technology to its disc subsystems and arrays at a later date.

Fujitsu Computer Products of America announced that HP has started testing its 2.5-inch drives, which use the Serial Attached SCSI interconnect and support data transfer rates of up to 300MB/sec. Seagate Technology will also deliver 2.5-inch drives to HP and other suppliers during the first half of 2004.

HP will be able to put three of the new drives in the same amount of space now occupied by one 3.5-inch model, said Jeff Jenkins, the company's vice president of server storage and infrastructure. That should let HP increase storage capacity and data throughput in servers, disc arrays and other non-PC devices while reducing the size of the boxes.

The 2.5-inch technology is expected to debut in the ProLiant line in the second half of 2004. HP then plans to roll out multiple-disc enclosures and modular arrays using the smaller drives in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

IDC analyst Dave Reinsel said HP is the most aggressive adopter of 2.5-inch drives among makers of enterprise servers and storage devices, adding that hardware companies could reduce by two-thirds the space required for disc drives in blade servers or rack-mounted systems by switching to the smaller units.

The support for Serial Attached SCSI is another potential advantage of the Fujitsu drives HP is testing. The serial SCSI standard uses a point-to-point connection for each drive in an array, designed to be more scalable than the master/slave architecture employed by the parallel SCSI technology prevalent now, Reinsel said. With parallel interfaces, a single controller must be shared by all the drives on a bus.

The 2.5-inch drives that HP plans to use also can be mixed with lower-cost Serial Advanced Technology Attachment drives inside storage systems, said Mike Chenery, vice president of advanced engineering at Fujitsu Computer Products. Combining the two kinds of drives would enable users to do backups of their transactional data within the same box.

The drives are hot-swappable and have dual ports for redundancy, and they will be sold in 36GB and 73GB models.

However, 2.5-in. drives have a long way to go to overtake their 3.5-inch SCSI counterparts as the top storage technology for corporate servers and disc subsystems. Reinsel said 3.5-inch SCSI drives account for 78% of the enterprise-class disc drive market, with the remainder taken by Fibre Channel technology.

Reinsel predicted that 2.5-inch serial SCSI drives should grab about 2% of the market next year, with that share growing to 10% by 2006.

"The advantage of 2.5-inch drives most immediately will be in the internal server storage market," he said. "It'll be a fairly gradual thing. You have a huge installed base of 3.5-inch slots out there."

Lucas Mearian writes for Computerworld

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