SAS Safeguards Investments across the Supply Chain

Author: Marty Czekalski
Maxtor Corporation

With Serial Attached SCSI–Everyone Wins
In this day and age, where technologies come and go, it’s unusual to find a case where change has benefits across the entire supply chain, from manufacturer to end user. All too often change is made to benefit only a small segment of this chain, to push the performance envelope, or just for the sake of change itself. With Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) there are benefits for everyone involved in bringing this technology to market. In this article we’ll explore the various aspects of one such benefit, investment protection.

Developers and OEMs have a large investment in their current products, development resources and technology base. Serial Attached SCSI enables them to leverage this technology base with little or no impact on the higher levels of functionality. Industry has made a large investment in existing operating system protocol stacks and controller firmware that is based on SCSI. SAS preserves this investment and carries forward the maturity and robustness necessary for reliable operation in enterprise environments.

Another beneficial factor is the opportunity for commonality in design and a reduction in the number of system Stock-Keeping Units (SKUs). The ability of Serial Attached SCSI to accept either SAS drives or Serial ATA (SATA) drives enables system designers to serve a broader range of price performance points with fewer unique design components. This capability allows for a maximized return on design and inventory resources with a minimum investment.

Resellers and Integrators will enjoy many of the same investment protection benefits that the OEMs will see. For example, the Serial Attached SCSI infrastructure’s ability to support both SAS and SATA drives enables the Reseller/Integrator to standardize on a few base configurations and platforms to serve both the value- and performance-oriented customer. This capability also allows Resellers and Integrators to utilize their existing tools, personnel and applications when configuring systems, reducing both training and test costs.

Maintenance Providers
The stocking of spare parts represents a significant investment for maintenance service providers. It’s an investment not only in the number of different parts that must be kept on hand, but also in the number of locations where stock is kept in order to meet guaranteed service times in contracts. By utilizing a common set of components for a wide range of systems, inventories are kept to a minimum while allowing for a maximum number of systems to be serviced.

IT Managers/End Users
Often forgotten in making a technology change is the benefit to the end user. In many cases changes in technology are made for the benefit of others in the distribution chain. This is not the case with Serial Attached SCSI. The common infrastructure supports both SAS and SATA devices, providing IT managers and end users unprecedented choice in the deployment of systems. When provisioning, an IT manager that selects systems with a SAS infrastructure can easily alter the mix of drive types depending on the application requirements, and can then revise that mix as applications change over time. If an application requires high performance transaction-oriented storage, a system can easily be configured to meet that need with enterprise-class 10,000 and 15,000 RPM drives.

If high-capacity value storage is needed for fixed content and reference data, or disk-to-disk-to-tape backup, then SAS-enabled systems can be configured with 7200 RPM SATA drives. IT managers and users no longer need to predict requirements in advance and buy systems that are only designed for one of these applications. Furthermore, as applications mature and change, systems can be readily redeployed in new requirements, and the hardware easily reused. Additionally, systems can be configured with both types of storage, saving space and power. These factors all add up to higher utilization and greater flexibility in deployment of assets in both actual purchased hardware and facilities.

Serial Attached SCSI was designed to take advantage of existing technologies, and enable better leveraging of assets than traditional device-level storage interconnects. In this era of increased pressure to do more with less, SAS is designed to protect IT investments across the supply chain in both the mainstream server and large enterprise storage markets.

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