Smaller is better

The most intriguing part of my job is the opportunity to preview new products and technologies early. The interesting thing about looking at products early is that any given one could turn out to an immediate success, need some fine-tuning, evolve into something entirely else, or fail. You never know.

Fujitsu's new 2.5-inch drive, the MHS2060AT, fits into the category of a technology evolving into something new — a promising SATA (serial ATA) variety. Its parallel ATA sibling is currently in laptops, offering 4200 rpms (rotations per minute), 60 GB capacity and 2 MB of cache — respectable performance numbers.

You won’t find the SATA version of this drive on the market yet. It is scheduled to start shipping just before year's end. Fujitsu says this is the first mobile drive with SATA connectors and that it will offer a faster model, spinning at 5400 rpm and with an 8MB cache, within the same timeframe.

Interested? Well, wait until you hear the real scoop: In cooperation with partners, Fujitsu will propose the MHS2060AT as the foundation of new compact and cost-effective storage systems that leverage the small SATA form factor, and moderate power and cooling requirements.

At this early stage, Fujitsu is not disclosing much about its partners. However, those new storage systems should serve a variety of applications, including video servers and video on demand.

According to Fujitsu, by combining multiple spindles in the same storage box, it should be able to rival, or possibly outperform, units with similar capacity mounting faster and more expensive SCSI drives.

I’ll buy that. A storage box mounting a SATA RAID controller with numerous ports, such as the 3Ware Escalade 8500, opens the data transfer throttle as never before for 2.5-inch SATA drives. Moreover, for some applications, the collective performance of, say, three or four SATA drives can effortlessly compensate for the shorter seek time and latency of faster moving devices.

Fujitsu has not disclosed a price for its tiny SATA drives either, but it’s reasonable to believe they will be priced just a notch above its 3.5-inch models, which, together with other cost savings typical of that format, should facilitate building very competitive storage units.

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