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When Mark Spears’ clients seek a new or upgraded data connection solution, he will typically offer them a choice of two options.

Either they accept the slower speeds and limited reliability of SCSI to connect their storage devices, or they accept the high cost of a Fibre Channel system.

Neither system is an obvious winner, especially for an SMB (small and midsize business) with limited resources; and neither is fully compatible with other solutions like SATA (Serial ATA).

Spears, who is vice president of business development and sales for Quail Technologies, a storage VAR based in Santa Clara, Calif., now offers his clients a new data storage option: “Wait a couple more months for SAS”—Serial Attached SCSI.

“SAS is everything SCSI is, with the performance of Fibre Channel and the cheapness of SATA,” Spears said. “It’s an answer to SMBs who have been stuck on a not-so-reliable technology.”

SAS is an open standard being pursued cooperatively by 15 vendors. Developers say SAS works off the technology of SCSI, but offers speed and performance similar to Fibre Channel and a price in between.

Read more about the development of SAS technology.

SAS uses point-to-point connections to link controllers to individual disks, which should allow for faster performance and better scalability than Parallel SCSI, where as many as 16 devices can reside on a single cable.

The technology is entering the market now, with certain vendors, such as Adaptec Inc., releasing components of the solution already, and full configurations expected to follow in late fall and early 2006, Adaptec said.

Vendors, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Seagate Technology Inc. and Maxtor Corp., are putting the finishing touches on their products, and the SCSI Trade Association is scheduled to host a SAS event Sep. 16-30 at the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory.

The impact of SAS, however, is already looming, Spears said.

“It has the potential to leave a very big footprint in the next two to three years,” Spears said. “It will fill a niche that has never been filled for SMBs.”

SAS’ signature quality, said Steve Rogers, technical marketing director at Adaptec, is likely to be its value.

“SAS is the missing link,” Rogers said. “Before, you could go top market or lower market … Before, VARs were polarized into one technology or the other or managed two different types of accounts. Now you can go in both directions and more simply and with less cost.”

Click here to read more about the likely impact of Serial Attached SCSI.

The full breadth of components won’t be available until late fall and early 2006, Adaptec said. The cost is expected to be under $20,000, Spears said, a savings on the $40,000 Fibre Channel technology can cost.

Devotees to the new technology also hail its compatibility and flexibility, which they call a major step forward for data storage connection.

SAS is designed to be fully compatible with SATA, enabling VARs and customers to integrate with current systems or to add on later when the bulk storage capacity of SATA becomes necessary.

SATA still offers better density, but is slower and presents performance problems, Rogers said.

“Now you can have both,” he said. “The new chassis will have the ability to configure both, and you can just plug in what you need. When you need higher storage capacity, it’s there; when you need higher transaction rate, it’s there.”

Future developments include SAS Expander boxes, Fibre Channel switches and Ethernet switches that will add further flexibility, Adaptec said.

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