As a Windows IT pro, you need huge amounts of storage, but trying to meet those needs will squeeze your budget. Looking at advances in drive technology, you begin to wonder whether some of the entry-level and midrange solutions based on Serial ATA (SATA) hard drives can fill your needs. They seem to have decent performance and great capacities, at a price point that's impossible to beat, yet their performance isn't that of your existing Fibre Channel-attached storage systems and you aren't sure that you really want to introduce another connection methodology into your storage environment. So what are you going to do?

Last week, HP announced what it thinks is the perfect solution for you: Fibre Attached Technology Adapted (FATA) drives for HP's Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) family of storage products. The 400GB and 500GB FATA drives, developed for HP by Seagate Technology, deliver storage for EVA enclosures at roughly half the per-gigabyte cost of a regular Fibre Channel drive, meaning that customers who need to retain large amounts of data that's less-frequently accessed than their primary data sets can now add these FATA drives to their existing EVA enclosures. Adding the 500GB FATA drives provides a storage capacity of up to 120TB in existing StorageWorks EVA devices--up to the high-end EVA StorageWorks 8000.

Users will be able to manage the drives and migration of data between FATA and Fibre Channel storage by using HP StorageWorks File System Extender (FSE), which is part of HP's Information Lifecycle Management (ILM) solutions and allows both policy- and rules-based data management and migration. You can use the same FSE software to provide backup and recovery options for the data it manages.

The FATA drives use a high-availability, dual-port 2GB/sec Fibre Channel interface and support native Fibre Channel protocol data integrity, optimized command queuing, error handling, and Self-Monitoring, Analysis, and Reporting Technology (SMART) capabilities. HP expects to make the drives available to customers later this year as options for the StorageWorks EVA drive arrays. For complete details about the announcement, see HP announcement.

As HP was announcing the addition of FATA technology to its storage line, EMC was announcing its new storage server, the EMC Symmetrix DMX-3, which is designed to provide massive consolidation in a single system. (For more information, see EMC announcement). EMC also said that the DMX-3 will, in 2006, support what EMC calls low-cost Fibre Channel (LC-FC) drive technology, which is equivalent to HP's FATA. Like the HP equipment, the introduction of LC-FC will let EMC's Symmetrix DMX Series storage servers run both FC and LC-FC drives in the same enclosure, giving users the same ability to run, manage, and use both types of storage. This lets customers spend money on the drives they need and the storage type they require, without having to use multiple different storage servers.

As FATA and LC-FC drives become available in quantity, you can expect other vendors to start offering these technologies, especially in the entry-level market, which has been more accepting of SATA-based storage devices. The FATA option will let these vendors offer intermediate-level storage devices without forcing their customers to jump right into the Fibre Channel world, which can be a difficult sell into the exceptionally price-sensitive small-to-midsized business (SMB) marketplace.