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Hewlett-Packard launches first external 6 Gbps Serial-Attached SCSI enclosures

Beth Pariseau

Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. will begin updating its external disk arrays to 6 Gbps Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) with the new HP StorageWorks D2000 series this fall.

Hewlett-Packard has pledged to upgrade its entire storage line to 6 Gbps small form factor (2.5-inch) Serial-Attached SCSI drives, and many expect the whole data storage industry to follow by offering 6-gig SAS as an alternative to Fibre Channel (FC) in enterprise data storage systems.

The StorageWorks D2000 is an update to the low end of the HP Modular Smart Array (MSA) line. The D2600, a 2U enclosure with support for up to 12 large form factor (3.5-inch) 450 GB 6 Gbps SAS and/or 1 TB 3 Gbps SATA drives, is an update to the 3 Gbps SAS and SATA MSA 60. The D2700, also a 2U enclosure with support for up to 25 small form factor 300 GB 6 Gbps SAS and/or 500 GB 3 Gbps SATA, is an update to the MSA 70.

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"We expect the MSA 60 and 70 to be around for quite some time," HP StorageWorks product manager Charles Vallhonrat said, indicating the two types of Serial-Attached SCSI enclosures would be supported side-by-side in the HP product line.

The D2000 systems are currently only qualified for direct attachment to ProLiant servers. HP has yet to add 6 Gbps support to larger networked MSA arrays that can be shared by multiple hosts.

Last December, HP officials said they planned to add small form factor SAS drives across the data storage product line, with MSA support expected in the first half of this year to be followed by EVA support in the second half of 2009.

Vallhonrat declined to update the HP SAS roadmap, and said he could not comment on future products. Qualification testing for LeftHand Networks and Opsware software has not been completed, he said.

HP is also expanding support for 6 Gbps SAS drives in its ProLiant servers. The HP ProLiant DL380, DL370, DL360, DL180, DL160, DL460c, ML370 and ML350 will support 10,000 RPM and 15,000 RPM small form factor SAS drives. All ProLiant models will also now support 7200 RPM 500 GB 6Gbps SAS disks.

IDC analyst Rick Villars said he expects 6 Gbps SAS to have its earliest appeal among customers considering standalone direct-attached infrastructures for demanding applications such as databases.

"I'm not saying everyone's going to go that way," he said. "But there are some deployments looking for the simplicity of SAS and the blade architecture."

Other analysts have pointed out that direct-attached Serial-Attached SCSI could blur the lines between true direct-attached storage (DAS) and networked storage because SAS is actually a fabric like Fibre Channel and can be shared under some circumstances among multiple hosts.

HP has been pushing direct-attached storage (DAS) as an enterprise data storage option. At this year's Storage Networking World in Orlando, Fla., HP said it planned to fold management of both DAS and networked storage under its Opsware data center orchestration software. In April, HP announced that its direct-attached SAS enclosures for BladeSystem could now be shared by multiple directly attached blades, and ported its LeftHand Networks iSCSI SAN software to the Blade System as well.

Ultimately, with vendors such as Seagate Technology and Adaptec Inc. pushing serial media (6 Gbps SAS and SATA) as the future of disk drives, Villars said he expects HP and its competitors to replace Fibre Channel drives with 6 Gbps SAS in networked devices.

SAS has been around since 2005, but the 6 Gbps SAS spec addressed space and scalability limitations that kept it out of larger networked arrays

"There's a lot of pent-up desire for SAS out there," Villars said. "Fibre Channel in the network is not dead, but in the next few years, I expect a full conversion across the industry to SAS backplanes inside boxes."


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