Dot Hill Sees Big Future for Small Hard Drives

Dot Hill Systems (NASDAQ: HILL) believes that 2.5-inch hard disk drives (HDD) will be the future of high-performance data storage, and the company is rolling out new storage systems to prove it.

Dot Hill, which boasts Sun Microsystems (NASDAQ: SUNW), NetApp (NASDAQ: NTAP) and HP (NYSE: HPQ) as OEM partners, has unveiled what it claims are the first 2U Fibre Channel and SAS RAID storage systems supporting the small form factor HDDs and solid state drives (SSDs).

Small form factor drives are already widely used in servers, but enterprise-class storage users have been slow to make the switch because of performance and capacity demands. But Dot Hill product manager Scott McClure said he sees the switchover beginning later this year.

The sweet spot in the 2.5-inch form factor, he said, are 300GB 10K RPM drives: the new systems can fit two of them in the same space as one 3.5-inch 15K RPM drive and get better performance and capacity in the process. The drives also offer a “noticeable power savings,” he said. 72GB 15K 2.5-inch drives are also catching on with performance-oriented users.

The days of 3.5-inch SAS drives are numbered, McClure said — and the days of Fibre Channel drives are all but over.

“We’re basically done with FC drives,” he said. “It’s a great topology, but a very expensive drive attach.”

For capacity, though, McClure sees SATA drive users sticking with the 3.5-inch format for the foreseeable future; 2.5-inch SATA drives will have a tough time catching them in capacity.

Like the rest of the industry, Dot Hill also sees solid state drives as a “tier zero” for applications requiring the highest performance, with 2.5-inch SAS and 3.5-inch SATA filling out the next two tiers. For now, Dot Hill plans to use Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) SSDs (see Intel Sees Gold in Solid State Storage).

Dot Hill isn’t specifying which hard drive vendors it’s using, but Fujitsu, Seagate (NYSE: STX) and Hitachi Global Storage Technologies are the main enterprise drive vendors.

The new Dot Hill offerings are the 2722 Fibre Channel (4Gb FC) and 2522 Serial Attached SCSI (3Gb SAS) arrays, with fully redundant controllers. Options include Dot Hill’s AssuredSnap snapshot and AssuredCopy volume copy data protection software modules. In addition, a 2U, 24-bay 2122 SAS JBOD unit is also available for expansion of the arrays.

The arrays support a variety of SAS, SATA and SSD drive options, and can expand to pack in 28.8 to 79.2 TB, with performance of as much as 230,000 (IOPS). The new arrays also boast power savings and an easier management interface.

HP is offering the 2522 as the MSA2000. McClure said he doesn’t expect Sun to offer the arrays because of its open storage strategy focusing on the ZFS file system and JBODs.

Pricing starts under $16,000 for a 3.5TB SAS drive system.

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Paul Shread
Paul Shread
eSecurity Editor Paul Shread has covered nearly every aspect of enterprise technology in his 20+ years in IT journalism, including an award-winning series on software-defined data centers. He wrote a column on small business technology for, and covered financial markets for 10 years, from the dot-com boom and bust to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. He holds a market analyst certification.

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