Sierra Logic builds a bridge

An alien family visiting Earth for the first time would probably be intrigued by the large number of different sects, groups, or associations we human beings come up with.

To fall back in topic, take for instance a well-defined segment of the tech market -- such as storage -- and try to list all the possible subsegments you can think of. I'll give you a few hints for storage: networked, direct-attached, file-oriented, block-based, online data, reference data, and so on.

I stopped there but the list could go on for a while as we explore different connectivity protocols, disk structures, and media technologies. Then there are the unique improvements that each vendor brings to those products, often setting a new category altogether (as if we needed more).

The point I am making is that so much variety and genial inventive gets injected into today's storage products that a shopper can be tempted to behave like the proverbial kid in a candy store.

Here's an example: The technological inspiration for this column comes from Sierra Logic, a company that announced last fall an FC (Fibre Channel) to SATA router, a technology that simplifies things for vendors using those more affordable drives with FC transport.

I toasted Sierra Logic in a previous column with the somewhat prophetic title "Building a SATA bridge." Prophetic because Sierra Logic has just announced a new device, the BR-2410 (the BR stands for "bridge") that makes it possible to mount single SATA drives into existing and unmodified arrays built to host FC drives.

How is the BR-2401 different from the previous product, the router? Think of a slim board that fits exactly the section of, and actually mounts on, a 3.5-inch disk drive. Those boards have FC connectors on one side and SATA ports on the other.

It's fair to say that the BR-2410 bridges the two technologies in style, featuring dual, active 4Gbps FC ports and second-generation SATA services, including 3Gbps speed and support for native command queue (the latter is another performance booster).

Interestingly enough, the BR-2401 can also remap the geometry of a SATA drive to mimic the larger physical sectors present in FC drives, with the remarkable benefit of preserving the data protection algorithms built into existing RAID controllers. Sierra Logic estimates that their bridge should add less than US$50 per drive to the cost of an array -- possibly less, depending on specific configurations.

In summary, the bridge should give array vendors exceptional flexibility in deploying different drive technologies without costly manufacturing changes. For customers, these new products should open less expensive storage capacity funneled through the familiar FC pipes.

For both customers and vendors, it's much like having your cake and eating it too, don't you agree? That alien family would probably be speechless.

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