Storage UPDATE--Serial Attached SCSI Standard--April 26, 2004
Windows Scripting Solutions
New Features of Windows Server 2003 Active Directory
- Serial Attached SCSI Standard Moves Forward
2. News and Views
- New Serial ATA Milestones
- Storage Management Software Market Improving
- Do AIT Drives Need Cleaning?
4. New and Improved
- Backup to Portable Disks
- IP SAN Software Supports Increased Capacity, Scalability
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!
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==== 1. Commentary ====
by Elliot King, [email protected]
Serial Attached SCSI Standard Moves Forward
The history of computing is littered with efforts by different consortia to set standards and interoperability protocols that failed for one reason or another. Not infrequently, the process for setting a standard is delayed and the window of opportunity for a specific technology is missed. In other cases, the standard doesn't work as anticipated. And sometimes, major players just don't adhere to a specific standard, opting instead to let the market make a de facto decision. Consequently, announcements from trade associations and other groups heralding initiatives to establish new standards in this space or that are often justifiably greeted with skepticism or a big yawn.
But sometimes the industry standards process works. The effort to establish a standard for Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) interfaces that also incorporates Serial ATA (SATA) hard disk drives appears to be moving along right on schedule and might actually come to fruition.
More than 2 years ago, the SCSI Trade Association (STA) launched an effort to establish standards for the next generation of the SCSI technology. In January 2003, the STA announced that it would work with the Serial ATA II Working Group, an industry consortium promoting the SATA interface, to enable system-level compatibility with SATA hard disk drives. This spring, in what its leaders are calling a major milestone, the STA conducted its first plugfest for vendors to demonstrate multivendor interoperability of their products using SAS. As Harry Mason, president of STA and director of industry marketing at LSI Logic, told me, the plugfest took place almost exactly on schedule. "It was planned for February 2004 and began on March 1," he said.
SAS promises to provide several benefits over parallel SCSI, which, through several iterations, has been a dominant storage protocol for nearly 20 years. Because the cables and connectors for a serial protocol can be smaller than those for a parallel protocol, manufacturers can develop disk drives that have smaller form factors and can increase the number of devices in each bay of a storage array. As a result, vendors will be able to increase the storage density of arrays.
Moreover, serial cables can run much farther than parallel cables. And the SAS standards will allow for 128 devices to be connected to a single bus, as opposed to the 15 devices that can be connected to a parallel bus. In practice, observers noted, parallel technology didn't provide sufficient throughput to make connecting even 15 devices to a single bus practical.
But perhaps the biggest benefit SAS might offer is the interoperability with SATA. Since the two are plug compatible and use the same commands to move data on and off disks, storage administrators will be able to mix and match devices in their storage subsystems according to whatever criteria they choose. Moreover, as systems and the data on them age and lose value, administrators will have a wide range of options for hard disk size, form factor, and cost.
SAS was finalized at the end of last year, and since January, a slew of companies have announced products that incorporate the new standard. According to Mason, the plugfest was notable for several reasons. Sixteen companies participated, and all vendors that wanted to join in had to come with real products to test. "There were no voyeurs. This was not an event to watch," he said.
Participants included disk-drive, controller, test-equipment, cable, connector, and systems suppliers and such high-profile companies as Adaptec, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, HP, Maxtor, and Seagate Technology. The technical focus was on initiator and target devices, and the plugfest included tests in a wide range of areas, including the physical layer, cables, backplanes, and rate matching, as well as testing SATA devices and SAS expanders on an ad hoc basis.
However, the plugfest wasn't aimed at testing compliance. Indeed, Mason noted, compliance can be tricky for organizations such as the STA to manage. Instead, he suggested, major OEMs, such as HP and IBM, would be in a better position to ultimately decide whether technology is in compliance with the standard.
Several other plugfests are scheduled during the year. Based on the results of the March event, products should be available in third or fourth quarter 2004 and begin making their way into end users' storage infrastructure by first quarter 2005. When they do, companies will have a more efficient way to provision their storage resources across the enterprise from the most demanding to the lowest priority applications.
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==== 2. News and Views ====
by Keith Furman, [email protected]
New Serial ATA Milestones
As the Serial ATA Working Group has continued to work on improving the Serial ATA (SATA) protocol, it has announced related milestones. At the Intel Developer Forum in Barcelona, Spain, last week, the group announced that it has doubled the signaling speed for SATA and has developed a new cable and connector solution.
The specification for the second-generation SATA signaling speed is complete. The completion of the specification will start a ratification process that's expected to last 30 days. Second-generation SATA speeds will reach 3Gbps (3000MBps), which is double the speed of first-generation SATA. According to the working group, new products that support the 3Gbps signaling speeds have already been announced, and vendors will be able to market those products as 3Gbps Serial ATA products after the ratification process is complete.
Although the second-generation SATA specification won't require new cables and connectors, the working group announced a new alternative to the current cables and connectors. The working group has completed a "Volume 2" of the cables and connectors specification and has begun the ratification process. The specification adds new options, including easier connections between internal host ports and internal devices or short backplanes; a cable and connector solution for external devices, and an external multilane data-center cable and connector solution for connecting SATA channels between devices in a data center. Products based on the new cable and connector specification are expected to appear by the end of the year.
Storage Management Software Market Improving
The storage management software market has jumped back after a decline, according to research firm Gartner. In a new report, the firm says worldwide sales for storage management software increased 7.9 percent in 2003 to $5 billion. The increase is welcome news to an industry that saw sales decline 5.8 percent, to $4.6 billion, in 2002 based on slow IT spending. The good times are expected to continue, according to Carolyn DiCenzo, Gartner analyst and vice president, who forecasts similar growth this year.
Storage giant EMC ranked first in sales in 2003 with revenue of $1.4 billion and 28.3 percent of the storage management software market. EMC's numbers include sales from its LEGATO Software division, which the company acquired last year. Coming in second is VERITAS Software, with revenues of $935 million and an 18.7 percent market share. In third place is IBM, which had sales of $650 million and a 13 percent market share. Rounding out the top five are HP, with a 5.6 percent market share, and Computer Associates (CA), close on HP's heels with a 5.3 percent share.
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==== 3. Resource ====
Do AIT Drives Need Cleaning?
Brian has worked with DLT and DAT drives, but never before with AIT drives. Although the drive manufacturer (Sony) says that its drives never need to be cleaned, the company sells cleaning tapes. Brian can't get a straight answer from Sony about whether he needs to clean the drive, but he's used it for almost a year, and errors are showing up on backups. He doesn't want to buy a cleaning tape unless it will make a difference. If you can help, please click the URL below.
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==== 4. New and Improved ====
by Renee Munshi, [email protected]
Backup to Portable Disks
Olixir Technologies announced the launch of Mobile DataVault FastRestore SE, a backup and recovery system based on Olixir's rugged, portable Mobile DataVault 3DX hard disks. Designed as a faster, more reliable alternative to midrange tape backup systems, Mobile DataVault FastRestore SE has a small USB 2.0 and Firewire-capable chassis. The chassis supports 180GB and 250GB removable hard disks that offer sustained data transfer rates of 40Mbps and bursts of as much as 480Mbps. Mobile DataVault FastRestore SE is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux platforms and starts at $3,199.
IP SAN Software Supports Increased Capacity, Scalability
Intransa announced StorControl 1.2, which supports as many as four storage controllers and six disk enclosures in one IP Storage Area Network (SAN). StorControl provides additional levels of RAID support, and the product's Internet Storage Name Service (iSNS) support provides automated discovery, management, and configuration of Intransa Internet SCSI (iSCSI) devices. http://www.intransa.com
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