Hitachi unveils 4Gb Fiber Channel drives

Hitachi begin shipping in June its first drive that supports the new 4G bps (bits per second) Fiber Channel interface, it said Wednesday.

Hitachi Global Storage Technologies (HGST) will next month begin shipping its first drive that supports the new 4Gbps (bits per second) Fiber Channel interface standard.

The Ultrastar 15K147 drive, which HGST said is also the industry's first to support the interface, will be available in sample quantities to system vendors for testing from June, a senior advisor at HGST's product planning and strategy department, Sam Sawyer, said.

Mass production of the drive and a second model that supports Serial Attached small computer system interface (SCSI), or SAS, will begin in late July. HGST already offers a version of the Ultrastar 15K147 with Ultra320 SCSI interface and the two new drives share many of the same specifications. They will be available in three capacities: 147GB, 73GB and 36GB. Average seek time for the three capacity models will be respectively 3.7 milliseconds (ms), 3.6ms and 3.3ms.

The faster Fiber Channel drive was being announced just as the industry began a transition from current 1Gbps and 2Gbps Fiber Channel interfaces, president of disk drive market research firm Disk/Trend, Jim Porter, said.

He expects HGST's competitors will follow its lead with their own drives, all of which will be aimed at applications requiring the high-performance that can be delivered by a drive offering such fast seek times

"It's a minority of server applications but they are the ones that require high-performance," Porter said. "Any application where there is a bunching up of a lot of people at different workstations accessing the server at a given point in time."

He suggested as an example an airline system where check-in requests or flight booking requests are being made right up to the closing time of a flight. The faster interface was backwards compatible with hardware designed for current 1G bps and 2G bps Fiber Channel interfaces and this meant companies would be able to use existing drives in hardware designed for 4G bps Fiber Channel, he said.

HGST acknowledges there isn't a large amount of demand for drives based on the faster interface at present but Sawyer said by offering them now it would enable system builders to work with the technology before they offered products later this year.

The SAS model is expected to be used in storage cabinets and hardware such as blade servers. One of the biggest advantages of SAS is that it shares a common connector with Serial ATA drives and that makes it easy to mix and match higher performance SAS drives with higher capacity SATA drives in a single system.

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Martyn Williams

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