Western Digital Gives Serial ATA a Boost

Western Digital's recent announcement that it is entering the enterprise hard drive market with a Serial ATA (SATA) product could be the start of sizeable inroads into the storage market for the new interface technology.

Western Digital said the Enterprise Serial ATA (ESATA) hard drive, called WD Raptor, offers systems builders and storage vendors enterprise-class specifications, such as 1.2 million hours MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure), 10,000 RPM, 5.2 milliseconds (ms) average seek time, and a five-year warranty.

Serial ATA (SATA) is a new interface technology that Western Digital says offers storage providers and customers the reliability, availability, scalability and performance that enterprise environments need. Combined with a SATA interface, Western Digital said it designed a new, enterprise-class mechanical platform for the WD Raptor hard drive to meet the demands of the enterprise environment.

With its WD Raptor, Western Digital is applying its high-volume design and manufacturing principles, as well as the economies of scale from its ATA business, to an enterprise-class platform. The result is an ESATA hard drive that offers a significant cost advantage over SCSI devices, the company said.

SATA Enjoys Head Start over Serial Attached SCSI

Western Digital claims a two-year head start for SATA over Serial Attached SCSI, the SCSI Trade Association proposal to replace parallel SCSI. And unlike current parallel ATA and SCSI devices, serial ATA and Serial Attached SCSI devices will be interchangeable.

The result could be big inroads into enterprise storage for serial ATA, according to Steve Wilkins, Western Digital's director of marketing for enterprise products. Currently, Fibre Channel dominates the very high end, and parallel ATA is making some inroads in entry-level servers, but the bulk of the enterprise space is dominated by SCSI. The need for serial interfaces will change that, Wilkins said.

The WD Raptor is the first serial ATA enterprise class platform, Wilkins said, and has a 30% lower cost than SCSI.

"In a couple of years, I think we'll look back on this as the start of something big," Wilkins said.

Analysts Approve of SATA and Western Digital's Raptor Drive

Analysts agree that Western Digital may be onto something.

"Never before have enterprise storage vendors, systems builders and users been able to take advantage of the high-volume, low-cost benefits of ATA technology and the reliability and performance of an enterprise-class platform," said John Donovan, vice president of industry analyst firm TrendFOCUS. "TrendFOCUS estimates that ATA storage currently accounts for more than 10 percent of the enterprise market. SATA will replace a growing percentage of SCSI drives in the enterprise market. Combining SATA, 10,000 RPM and enterprise mechanics, Western Digital's WD Raptor will be a strong enterprise contender."

"They are closing the performance gap between ATA and FC/SCSI devices," said Tony Prigmore of Enterprise Storage Group.

In storage systems, hard drives typically represent the greatest cost. The WD Raptor hard drive enables storage vendors and systems builders to minimize their customers' storage hardware costs while not sacrificing reliability, data integrity or performance, Western Digital said.

SATA offers system-level benefits in the enterprise environment, such as point-to-point configuration, which utilizes the full bandwidth of each drive interface in a networked environment; scalability; hot-plug support for system design flexibility; and advanced error detection for data integrity.

"The WD Raptor ESATA drive represents a significant milestone for enterprise storage," said Barbara Murphy, vice president of marketing at 3ware, which offers SATA RAID (redundant array independent disk) controllers. "WD is delivering enterprise-class reliability and performance at a hugely attractive price point, enabling the economical deployment of RAID redundancy across the entire corporate data set."

Expected to begin shipping by the end of this month, the WD Raptor hard drive will sell for approximately 30% less than competing SCSI hard drives. Initially, the hard drive will be available in a 36 GB capacity. In addition to its 5.2 ms average seek time, 10,000 RPM, 1.2 million hours MTBF and five-year warranty, data throughput is 150 MB/second from the SATA interface. According to Western Digital, the performance roadmap for SATA extends up to 600 MB/second, ensuring a reliable standard for storage providers and customers in the years ahead.


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