Smaller drives nurture green IT

The world's first enterprise-class storage array to feature 2.5-inch drives reduces power consumption as well as footprint

Infortrendquietly marked a storage milestone last week, shipping the EonStor B12, the first enterprise-class array based on 2.5-inch drives. Combining power and reliability in a small size, the B12 could become the measuring stick for all storage arrays in its class, surpassing those that mount 3.5-inch drives in both efficiency and performance/space ratio.

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The B12 comes equipped with two SAS (serial attached SCSI) or FC (Fibre Channel) host ports, which should appeal to both SAN and DAS customers. Competitively priced starting at less than $5,000 for SAS, the B12 can pack 12 actuators in just 1U -- revolutionary, given that 3.5-inch drive systems would require twice as much space, if not more, to host the same number of drives. Except for a few blade systems, no other storage array packs so much power in so little space. The fact that the B12 drives produce less noise is gravy.

But if its small drives make you think the B12 can handle only light-duty operations, think again. Invest a little more, and you can purchase a B12 with four FC ports and dual RAID controllers, each connected to its 12 dual-ported SAS drives. If one controller stops working, data is still available via an alternate path.

To expand beyond the first rack unit, the EonStor can connect four more 1U modules with 12 SAS drives each. If large capacity is the primary objective, the array can be expanded with 2U or 3U modules mounting 3.5-inch SATA drives.

When it comes to sheer capacity, I will concede that the 3.5-inch drives still have an edge, but that gap is shrinking quickly, as Hitachi's recently announced breakthrough on 2.5-inch drives proves.

Keeping that in mind, it should be clear why the EonStor is an odds-on favorite to beat any same-class array with 3.5-inch drives: It delivers comparable performance using less energy and less space. It's that simple.

But don't take my word, read what Seagate had to say back in 2005: "For enterprises seeking to maintain current capacity and I/O performance levels while reducing storage's datacenter footprint, the cost benefits of 2.5-inch drives are remarkable, with up to 66 percent less rack space used and 45 percent lower power consumption."

While you fantasize about what you could do with that extra space and power, consider that Seagate's conclusions are based on SFF SAS drives spinning at 10,000 rpm and offering 36GB and 74GB of capacity. Today's results could be even better. Boasting 146GB of capacity and spinning at 15,000 rpm, small SAS drives are now on par with their larger cousins.

Moreover, higher (and still growing) energy costs give small drives even more appeal.

So why aren't more small-drive storage arrays being offered? For the same reason SUVs still mount gas-guzzling engines: Because we didn't ask vendors to do better.

Let's not make the same mistake with storage: Use the power of your budget to make those requests, and storage vendors will listen.

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