FATA Drives Fill Hole Between ATA And Fibre Channel For Low-Cost Storage

HP this week is unveiling new hybrid hard drives that combine Fibre Channel and ATA technologies. Dubbed Fibre Attached Technology Adapted, or FATA, the new drives are aimed at dropping the cost of Fibre Channel SANs.

HP expects to be the first OEM to offer FATA hard drives starting in July with its EVA storage arrays, after which it could be another six to 12 months before competitors have access to the drives. Seagate developed and will be manufacturing the drives.

The FATA drives use an ATA drive mechanism, which means they have the performance and capacity characteristics of a standard ATA drive. However, they feature a Fibre Channel connector, allowing them to be used wherever conventional Fibre Channel drives are currently connected, explained Kyle Fitze, director of marketing for HP's Online Storage Division.

The result, said Fitze, is that end users who might be tempted to mix Fibre Channel and ATA hard drives on a SAN can now base both their primary and their secondary storage on Fibre Channel technologies. "[FATA] drives offer a 50 percent or greater savings at the same capacity compared to Fibre Channel drives," he said. "Plus, customers can use their existing storage infrastructure, frames and so on."

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Rich Baldwin, president and CEO of Nth Generation Computing, a San Diego-based HP solution provider, called the FATA concept phenomenal.

"It's a lower-cost, higher-capacity Fibre Channel drive that plugs into all existing [HP] EVA arrays," Baldwin said. "They can go into a separate disk pool from standard Fibre Channel drives because of the different performance and duty cycles."

FATA drives are the low-cost storage devices the market has been looking for as customers implement information life-cycle management projects where the most heavily accessed is stored on the most expensive, high-performance drives and less frequently accessed data is stored on less expensive drives, said Baldwin.

"With [a vendor like] EMC, you need an expensive shelf to put ATA drives in Clariion arrays," he said. "With HP, you can use the existing infrastructure."

While Fitze said that FATA drives will initially be available in capacities of up to 250 Gbytes, Baldwin said he expects that to jump to 500 Gbytes by year-end. Pricing was not available.

In addition to the FATA hard drives, HP also unveiled a 128-port Fibre Channel SAN director and a new IP storage router than can connect SANs to each other over IP WANs via the Fibre Channel over IP (FCIP) protocol. The router, which is manufactured by Cisco Systems, also supports connection of Fibre Channel SANs to IP networks via iSCSI.