FC-SATA is an Emulex-developed technology created to natively connect Serial ATA (SATA) disk drives into enterprise storage systems that use Fibre Channel-embedded infrastructures. Array vendors can leverage their existing Fibre Channel investments to lower costs by adding cost-effective, near-line (SATA) storage to new or legacy systems.

It means a Fibre Channel-connected array could have both FC and SATA drives in the same enclosure, perhaps the same shelf. This means that a single array could provide two tiers of storage: FC for the access-critical data; and SATA for the capacity-centric or nearline data. Naturally different speed/capacity combinations in the FC or the SATA area could add additional storage tiers.

HP has developed its proprietary FATA concept, based on Seagate technology. However this has not seen wide adoption. Asked to position FATA and FC-SATA, Bob Brencic, Emulex' director of switch marketing, said: "Basically, FATA drives are less expensive Fibre Channel drives - lower performance, not as robust as traditional Fibre Channel drives etc., but still Fibre Channel drives leveraging the Fibre Channel transport protocol."

"FC-SATA is a technology - one being embraced by the ANSI T11 committee and major hard drive manufacturers - that allows inexpensive SATA drives, which have now become very popular for use in less mission-critical and performance-oriented storage environments, to co-exist and be used in Fibre Channel drive arrays. FC-SATA technology allows the protocols (Fibre Channel and SATA) to communicate with each other in the same drive array."

"With FC-SATA, a storage solution provider has an instantaneous way of delivering a "tiered storage solution" in a single drive array (Fibre Channel drives for high performance, mission critical, often accessed stored data, and inexpensive SATA drives for email archiving and other less mission critical applications). SATA drives are a more recent phenomenon, so these solution providers don't have to re-design their existing Fibre Channel drive arrays to allow use of cheap SATA drives."

"They can simply use a mix of Fibre Channel and SATA drives in their existing Fibre Channel array designs. This saves (product) providers money and time (no need to redesign their arrays) and lets them deliver a tiered storage (product) to their customers that is very cost-effective."£

The first draft of ANSI T11 FC-SATA standard has just been issued and there will be several demonstrations of FC-SATA working at SNW in the USA in April.

Disk manufacturers/suppliers Fujitsu Computer Products of America and Hitachi GST have both joined the FC-SATA consortium along with Finisar, a testing company. This means all the major HDD vendors are in the consortium.

Arun Taneja, founder of Taneja Group, said: “The support of all of the major hard disk vendors only increases the momentum behind the standard and ensures that, upon ratification, the standard will see adoption. And with the recent publishing of the standard's first draft, the ratification process is well under way.”