SAS vs. Fibre, Seagate’s SSD dilemna, and Sun’s “Freakin’ Laser Beams”

SAS vs. Fibre

One thing I hear about constantly (within the hallowed halls of EMC and elsewhere), is the general “inferiority” of SAS drives vs. Fibre. This usually comes complete with a somewhat stale argument that because SAS is a natural extension of SATA, it is therefore a “consumer” drive and not “good enough” for the Commercial or Enterprise disk space.


What most people fail to realize is the following:
a.) The platters, drive motors, heads, etc. are the same. If people actually spent the time looking into these products (vs. cutting at them with a wide swath of generalized foolishness), they’d actually see that the same mechanical “bits” make up both the “enterprise” class fibre and SAS drives. Looking at the Seagate Cheetah 15k.5 drive line, we see that they’re offered in SCA-40 (Fibre), SAS, SCA-80 (u320), and 68pin interfaces. The spec sheet shows that outside of differing transfer rates (and, lower power draws at load/idle than Fibre), both the SCSI and SAS drives are the same.
b.) The primary differentiators are the PCBs, ASICS, Physical Connectors to the “host” system, and Transfer Rates. Flipping the drives over, you’ll obviously note the differences in PCBs, onboard ASICs, and physical connectors. That’s a wash as it has little to nothing to do with reliability. So, what you’re left with is the transfer rate conundrum. Honestly, given how particularly bad customers are at actually filling a 4 gigabit per second pipe with data (esp. in the commercial side of the house), a 1 gigabit per second difference (roughly 100mb/s) is minimal. Oh, for the record, our STEC SSDs will only have a 2gb/s connection to the Symmetrix, last I heard. 😉

I think those two points about cover it. 😉 MTBF, etc. are the exact same, btw, so, don’t expect any differences from hardware longevity.

Seagate and SSDs: WE SUE YOU!

Engadget is one of my favourite reads during the day and consequently, I need to blog about articles located there more often. That being said, I almost fell out of my seat this morning when I read one of the latest postings: “Seagate warns it might sue SSD makers for patent infringement.” Yippee. In my opinion, this is more of the same “sue happy” nitwitery (is that a word?) that happens every single time Apple decides to release a new “product.” Some Rip van Winkle patent hound comes out of years of slumber and states “I patented the EXACT same technology using specious language and vague intimations of what I thought could work” much to the chagrin of everyone around. Now, in the case of Seagate and Western Digital, I believe that they’re just looking to diversify their holdings in the emerging SSD market. Remember, at the price per gigabyte/terabyte mark, spinning disk is still the king and will be for quite some time. However, in terms of power draw and raw IOPs, you can’t beat them. In any case, file this whole article under the “we want in (and the money wouldn’t be a bad thing either)” category. 😉

EDIT: (4/10/08 @ 1103pm EST) New entry added above on the Seagate vs. STEC lawsuit

Sun: We’re going optical (with LASER BEAMS!!!!)

Next on the hitlist is the re-emergence of Optical interconnects between processors as noted by Sun (and it’s recent DARPA grant). Great news for Sun, really, but IBM has already been doing this for some time. Optical interconnects ARE the wave of the future for processor interconnects, etc. especially as quantum computing (and it’s massive data loads) are concerned. Definitely something to pay attention to. Who knows? Maybe EMC will use optical transmission in its Symmetrix line between the blades. 😉 A boy can hope.

That’s all for now.



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4 Responses to SAS vs. Fibre, Seagate’s SSD dilemna, and Sun’s “Freakin’ Laser Beams”

  1. Gary Davis says:

    Dave, I will start by commenting that I much enjoy your musings about data storage and am a regular reader. Having said that I would like to comment on “Seagate’s SSD dilemma”. I do not think that Seagate’s Watkins is demonstrating “sue happy nitwitery” in the comment he made. He is right to point out that Seagate has a very deep portfolio of IP and he even mentioned that Western Digital does as well. He is also right to point out that Seagate will defend their IP. Anything less would be a breech of his responsibilities to shareholders. I believe SSD’s have a large future, but the designers must take into consideration prior art like any other segment. Failing that would be unfair practice and a disservice to end users. I vote for an orderly, competitive market by default.

  2. flickerdown says:


    thanks for the kind words. To respond directly, I’m basing my response to Seagate on the fact that with the emergence of any sort of “new” technology, there always seems to be the requisite “well, you infringed on my patent” comments from the peanut gallery. I’d cite Rambus vs. the DRAM syndicate as an example, but, they were a bit more devious about the whole deal. You could, of course, refer to this phenomena as the “Apple Syndrome” seeing as how this is really noticable when Apple decides to release a new product; a whole bunch of “I did this first” suits are filed and, well, summarily dismissed.

    Further, I REALLY dislike the tendency for corporate entities to “sue first, talk later.” It seems that the first words out of ANYONE’S mouth are “Well, we are exploring our legal options.” I’m a strong believer of patent aging, a process that is already instituted in Pharmacology today. You have XX years for primary patent holding and subsequently, your core patent is allowed to be actioned on by competitors. This, in my opinion, would breed a more fully developed and challenging storage scape where innovation could be more readily fostered.

    What do you think? (I swear I’m repeating myself somewhere in these previous paragraphs…call it early morning fog or whatever. 😉 )



  3. Gary Davis says:

    Hi Dave, I agree in general that there are far too many frivolous suits within the tech industry. However, I haven’t been one to follow the crowd in terms of the general outcry on this issue. My view is that while the bulge in torte law is a problem, it doesn’t rank hign on my list of “gee ain’t it awful”s. As repugnant as the practice seems, if you are the one responsible for protecting IP (the proverbial family jewels) then I believe it is a duty to do so within all means possible, including using juris prudence. It may seem unseemly (can I say that?) but while perhaps imperfect, it is nonetheless a better system(s) to have patent laws, patent bureaus, and a legal system that provides for redress. Since I live and work in SE Asia I see a great deal of IP theft and know what anarchy in this regard can do to diligent developers. Now to turn to Seagate in particular. I guess I should confess that I know this would not be a case of frivolity designed to slow down a competitor. There is more than a grain of truth to the notion that Seagate, HGST, and Western Digital have amassed very solid portfolios of IP surrounding storage and how it interacts in a system environment not unlike your own company. I recommend that you and your readers keep an eye on this. Frankly, many observers believe that the moat around disk drive cos. business is the capital required to replicate what they do. Without dimishing this factor, I believe the primary defense for today’s leading HDD cos. is, in fact, IP which cannot be replicated without risk of infirngement. This is one of the reasons that I believe Hitachi GST will survive just fine in the long run. While perhaps making a mistep or two integrating the IBM/HDD acquisition, they have an IP portfolio and on-going R&D that is buying them the time to correct course. By the way, no harm, no foul here. It is quite easy to be drawn into the critical review of IP/patent law and the frequency of suits that occur, Trust me, Seatgate likely finds themselves on the defensive side of that one more often than on the offensive side. Watkins being Watkins, I have no doubt that he would be equally critical of excessive torte law. Incidentally, I agree 100% with patent aging and as an investor in the pharmaceutical industry I follow the pipeline of new meds and the expiration issues of matured meds closely in that space. I could also agree with the same as applied to tech, which I believe exists…yes? One other slightly off topic thing: I really liked the word “nitwitery” whether it appears in Merriam Webster or not. I do believe I’ve engaged in the practice a time or two and if it isn’t listed it should be. Keep up your engaging posts.
    P.S. Contact me by email (which I believe I entered in order to post) and I’ll put you on my news summary distribution list. It’s free (truly – no ads, no lists sold, no impingements on privacy) and basically attempts to provide links to meaningful HDD and datastorage issues as published on the web. Your post here is featured in today’s issue.

  4. […] sues STEC Previously, I had written about how Seagate was mulling over the idea of suing SSD manufacturers based on the perceived notion that they had violated their (Seagate’s) closely held patents on […]

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