Windows IT Pro Storage UPDATE--eSATA Raises the Price-Performance Bar--August 29, 2005

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1. Commentary
- eSATA Raises the Price-Performance Bar for External Drives

2. From the Community
- Hotfix Resolves Storport Problems in Windows 2003
- Take the Windows IT Pro Salary Survey!
- Windows IT Pro Innovators Contest Deadline Extended to September 1!

3. New and Improved
- Rocstor Releases High-Performance External Hard Drives
- StoneFly Networks Debuts StoneFly ValueSAN
- Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

4. Windows IT Pro Resources

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==== 1. Commentary: eSATA Raises the Price-Performance Bar for External Drives ====
by David Chernicoff, [email protected]

My columns about various external storage technologies have generated a lot of reader response. It seems that there's still an unfilled need at the entry and departmental levels for inexpensive, easy-to-use, reliable storage that can grow with the needs of the user base. The easy availability of USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 (aka FireWire) attached devices has addressed much of the market need, but a significant percentage of readers who have contacted me seek solutions that provide better performance and greater capacities than the current external storage technologies provide.

Although some of these readers have been willing to adopt external SCSI enclosures and others have gone to entry-level NAS and SAN systems, the majority are looking for something they can attach to a special-purpose desktop (such as an image-editing or video workstation) or a departmental or entry-level server. They're willing to spend more than the cost of current USB and IEEE 1394 enclosures, but they don't want to make the jump all the way to the cost of SCSI.

For these users, the answer might just be found in the form of External SATA (eSATA) devices. eSATA is an extension of the Serial ATA (SATA) standard to external devices and is designed to compete directly with USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 storage devices. eSATA's biggest advantage is that it provides full SATA bandwidth (currently 1.5Gbps, but soon to be 3Gbps) versus the 480Mbps of USB 2.0 and 400Mbps of IEEE 1394. Because eSATA uses standard SATA drive technology, the planned increases in performance to the SATA standard, such as the soon-to-be-released 3Gbps drives, mean that the external-drive performance will continue to grow along the growth path to 6Gbps as outlined in the Serial ATA International Organization's (SATA-IO's) SATA storage roadmap. (See http://sata-io.org for the standards and growth plans of the SATA standards body.) Additionally, the eSATA standard specifies a default hot-swap capability, which isn't found in USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 devices.

Although the apparent performance improvement of eSATA over USB 2.0 and IEEE 1394 external drives is more than 300 percent, even the SATA-IO tests show that the improvement isn't quite as large as it seems. At best, the burst transfer rate can be triple the competing standards, taking advantage of the raw interface speed. However, in more common read and write tests using 64K blocks, performance improvements range from 30 percent (in read tests) to 100 percent (in write tests). This testing was done with drives that have the current 1.5Gbps interface; Seagate Technology announced last week that it will be ship its Barracuda 7200.9 3Gbps SATA drive, which will be eSATA enabled, before the end of the year. Given double the raw interface performance, the actual performance benefit to end users, especially when compared with existing external storage technologies, will be significant.

Cabling for eSATA allows lengths of up to 2 meters, designed specifically to let computers sit on the floor and enclosures sit on the desktop. Motherboards with eSATA connectors are starting to appear. For older systems, host bus adapters (HBAs) are available to provide additional SATA ports with external eSATA connectors, or alternatively you can use simple brackets and connectors to allow internal SATA ports to be routed externally. HBAs will also let current SATA-equipped computers support the new 3Gbps drives as they become available.

Various vendors currently offer eSATA enclosures that provide capacities up to 2TB with the current-generation eSATA drives. (When buying eSATA products, make sure that this type of enclosure meets the eSATA standard and isn't one of the proprietary devices that appeared before the eSATA standard was finalized.) Prices for fully configured eSATA products hover around the $3000 range, which makes eSATA a difficult combination to beat in terms of price and performance.

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==== 2. From the Community ====

Hotfix Resolves Storport Problems in Windows 2003

When you use the Microsoft Storport driver for a host bus adapter (HBA) removable storage device in Windows Server 2003, you might experience problems such as Stop error messages and failed writes to the device. To learn more about the problems and how to obtain the hotfix that corrects them, go to http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=903081.

Take the Windows IT Pro Salary Survey!

We need your help! Windows IT Pro is launching its second Windows IT Pro Industry Salary Survey, and we want to find out all about you and what makes you a satisfied IT pro. When you complete the survey (about 10 minutes of your time), you'll be entered in a drawing for one of two $300 American Express gift certificates. Look for the survey results--and how you stack up against your peers--in our December issue. To take the survey, go to https://websurveyor.net/wsb.dll/12237/WindowsSalSurvey05.htm

Windows IT Pro Innovators Contest Deadline Extended to September 1!

There's still time to submit an entry in the Windows IT Pro Innovators Contest! If you're a Windows IT pro who has used your technical know-how to devise a creative, innovative solution to a business problem, you could qualify to win a Windows IT Pro Innovators Award. Grand Prizes include one conference pass, airfare, and hotel for Exchange and Windows Connections in San Diego in late October 2005, one VIP subscription to Windows IT Pro, and more! Click here to enter!
http://www.windowsitpro.com/AWARDS/innovators_2005.cfm

==== 3. New and Improved ====
by Anne Grubb, [email protected]

Rocstor Releases High-Performance External Hard Drives

Storage provider Rocstor has announced the availability of a new line of 3.5-inch external hard drives, the ROCPRO 800 AV, geared especially to meeting the storage needs of audio and video professionals. The ROCPRO 800 AV provides high-speed transfer rates, large storage capacities (120GB to 400GB), and a hot plug-and-play capability. The product also supports standard 9-pin FireWire 800 connectivity and automatic configuration. For more information about the ROCPRO 800 AV, contact the vendor on the Web:
http://www.rocstor.com

StoneFly Networks Debuts StoneFly ValueSAN

Capitalizing on the growing popularity of iSCSI storage systems in the small-to-midsized business (SMB) market, StoneFly Networks has announced StoneFly ValueSAN, a new IP SAN product that's geared toward SMBs. ValueSAN starts at less than $10,000 and is based on the StoneFly Storage Concentrator i3000 for IP-based block-level provisioning, centralized storage management, and monitoring of logical storage volumes. ValueSAN scales to 19.2TB of storage in a single node and includes StoneFly Reflection, which enables local and campus synchronous mirroring, and snapshot capabilities to expedite data recovery. For more information about the product, contact the vendor on the Web:
http://www.stonefly.com

Tell Us About a Hot Product and Get a T-Shirt!

Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Tell us about the product, and we'll send you a T-shirt if we write about the product in a future Windows IT Pro What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions with information about how the product has helped you to [email protected]

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Check out these links to a wealth of Windows IT Pro resources: white papers, eBooks, Web seminars, conferences, and other events.

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http://www.windowsitpro.com/roadshows/sqlserverusa/index.cfm?code=0831emailannc

Consolidate Your SQL Server Infrastructure

Shared data clustering is the breakthrough consolidation solution for Microsoft Windows servers. In this free Web seminar, learn how shared data clustering technology can reduce capital expenditures by at least 50 percent, improve management efficiency, reduce operational expense, ensure high availability across all SQL Server instances, and more! Find out how you can reduce the overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for SQL Server cluster deployments by as much as 60 percent over three years! Sign up today!
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Defending against Internet criminals, spyware, and phishing and addressing the points of risk that Internet-enabled applications expose your organization to can seem like an epic battle with Medusa. So how do you take control of these valuable resources? In this free Web seminar, you'll get the tools you need to help you analyze the impact that Internet-based threats have on your organization and tools to aid you in the construction of Acceptable-Use Policies (AUPs).
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Get Ready for SQL Server 2005 Roadshow in Europe

Back By Popular Demand - Get the facts about migrating to SQL Server 2005! SQL Server experts will present real-world information about administration, development, and business intelligence to help you implement a best-practices migration to SQL Server 2005 and improve your database-computing environment. Receive a one-year membership to PASS and one-year subscription to SQL Server Magazine. Register now!
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Discover SQL Server 2005 for the Enterprise. Are you prepared?

In this free, half-day event, you'll learn how the top new features of SQL Server 2005 will help you create and manage large-scale, mission-critical, enterprise database applications--making your job easier. Find out how to leverage SQL Server 2005's new capabilities to best support your business initiatives. Register today!
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All high-availability solutions are not created equal - how does yours measure up?

In this free Web seminar, you'll get the tools you need to ensure that your systems aren't going down. You'll discover the various categories of high-availability and disaster recovery solutions available and the pros and cons of each. You'll learn what solutions help you take preemptive, corrective action without resorting to a full system failover, or in extreme cases, that perform a non-disruptive, automatic switchover to a secondary server.
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