HP's new FATA (Fibre Attached Technology Adapted) drives, co-developed with Seagate, will enable nearline and online storage to co-exist in the same array - something the company claims is an industry first. Other vendors need two separate arrays to provide online and nearline storage.

Although HP is not calling the drives FATA drives, the use of the term Fibre Attached Technology Adapted is sure to be shortened to its initials. The addition of another and rhyming acronym to PATA and SATA is bound to cause confusion.

HP users can combine existing Fibre Channel drives in the StorageWorks Enterprise Virtual Array (EVA) along with the new drives, since both use Fibre Channel as their interface.

HP says it is the first in the industry to offer customers the flexibility to segment reference data (such as archived e-mail) as well as mission-critical data (such as financial transactions) between lower-cost-per-gigabyte drives and high-performance drives within a single storage system based on application performance and availability requirements.

Bob Schultz, general manager of Network Storage Solutions, said: "The ability to offer tiered storage within a single storage system and enable simplified integration through support of industry standards lowers the price for SAN implementations - making them more attractive to a broader range of customers."

The FATA drives will cost roughly 50 percent less per gigabyte than conventional Fibre Channel drives, extending the value of SANs and making them more accessible to a broader segment of the market, he argued. HP's drives are designed to offer virtually seamless integration with customers' existing Fibre Channel infrastructure, avoiding any costly conversion to integrate lower cost drives Serial ATA drives.

Seagate Barracuda refresh anticipated
Fibre Attached Technology Adapted drives will offer capacity up to 250GB with a dual-port, 2Gbit/s, Fibre Channel interface. This is interesting since Seagate's current capacity top of the range is the Barracuda 7200 (7200rpm) offering 200GB in ATA or SATA form. Commenting on the HP announcement of a 250GB drive, Ian O'Leary, corporate communications manager for Seagate's EMEA organisation, said: "That's correct." HP has virtually announced a new Seagate drive for it.

This signals a likely refresh of Seagate's range as the higher areal density platters can be used right across it. Currently Seagate is at a disadvantage compared to Fujitsu and Hitachi who have announced 300GB and even 400GB enterprise drives.

The FATA drives possess many of the reliability characteristics of Fibre Channel drives. System resilience is enhanced with dual ported data paths all the way to the drives, self-monitoring, analysis and reporting technology (SMART) capability, optimized sequential addressing features, Fibre Channel protocol native data integrity and error event handling capability are also present. But the drives themselves are still basically ATA drives and hence not suited to an enterprise 24X7 duty cycle.

The HP StorageWorks EVA family with FATA drives is expected to be available in July. No detailed pricing information is available.

HP also announced a 128-port director switch and an IP Storage router.