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Are Serial Attached SCSI Drives SF for Most Users?

the editor hard at work
Megabyte liked to jot down his thoughts
before editorial planning meetings.
by Zsolt Kerekes editor of STORAGEsearch - (November 22, 2005)
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Are Serial Attached SCSI disks relevant to most users? It's nice to read about them, and nice to know that they help speed up new servers. But the market for user add-on SAS drives is still probably years away.

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Megabyte found it difficult
adapting to the newer thinner
Serial SCSI connections.
It was a quiet day for storage news in the run up to the Thanksgiving so during a few idle moments I started thinking about where I might go during the forthcoming holidays.

Aurora and the Sands of Mars are both on my "must see one day" list - but I've heard they're cold and unfriendly. Shopping on Caprica was another option I'd considered, but things may warm up there soon as I've heard rumors that Cylon scout ships have been sighted in the area.

If all that sounds like science fiction, then apparently so too do a lot of the new hard disk products that we write about on STORAGEsearch sound like SF to many readers according to some reality checks I cashed recently.

Take the case of Serial Attached SCSI, a subject to which we dedicated its own page exactly 4 years ago!

After years of talking, developing standards, designing chips etc server manufacturers only started shipping servers with SAS interfaces a few months ago. To speed this laggardly market up, Seagate and Adaptec announced in October 2005 that they were offering half price SAS evaluation kits to encourage systems integrators to play with the technology.
So I asked Joe Mastrocola at Southbury, CT based disk supplier Data Storage Depot - how much interest was he seeing in the new SAS disks from the end user community?

He set me straight by explaining that he expected minimal end-user sales at the present time because users would typically order their new servers stuffed with the maximum capacity of the new SAS disks already integrated by the primary oem. It's usually a year or so later - when users are upgrading their servers out of a different budget pot - that they shop around for low price deals on add-in disks. That's a market he's been in for 20 years - so he's seen this pattern before with new technologies. His point is that although the news pages in publications like ours naturally tend to focus on the newest drives and technologies, the after market still ships a lot of parallel SCSI disk drives to meet the needs of customers who are still using servers from Sun, HP, IBM etc which may be two to five years old. That's the real world.
SAS disk duplicators for  server oems from ICS
Serial Attached SCSI - disk duplicators
from Intelligent Computer Solutions
Another specialized part of the disk market comes even later in the server lifetime when the original hardware starts to fail and disk drives need to be replaced.

Ian Turnbull at UK based Ultratec recently told me that's a market they do well in. As they hold stocks of hard to locate disk drives going back more than a decade - they are often used by data recovery and repair companies who need to source older drives.

He thought that some companies in the supply chain might be adding significant mark ups to his company's aggressive low prices. Ultratec sells new drives too and they are confident enough to publish all their disk prices online. Although they are based in Europe, Turnbull says they have supplied hard to get drives for many US organizations too including such well known ones as NASA.

So it looks like most disk resellers aren't yet in the SAS (or SF) part of the storage business, and are more involved day to day with what you could call the reality end of the market.

Going back to my original musings about where to go on Thanksgiving - I might just motor down to Privett, a sleepy village in Hampshire (England). It's only a 45 minute drive and I'm not scared by goblins.
...Later:- nearly a year after publishing this article, the hypothesis was confirmed (below)

Survey Shows that Only 14% of European VARs have Sold SAS

Bracknell, UK - September 18, 2006 - LSI Logic today disclosed results of a European survey to measure attitudes regarding Serial Attached SCSI.

144 VARs from across Europe were asked whether they believe SAS will become a more dominant technology. 91% answered 'yes'.

Only 14% stated that their customers have already ordered SAS solutions from them. 35% said that customers are not yet well informed about the benefits of SAS. ...LSI Logic profile, Serial Attached SCSI
Universal Solid State Disk USSD 200 from Solid Access Technologies with SAS, FC, SCSI or custom interfaces
Serial Attached SCSI solid state disks
from Solid Access Technologies
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