Souping up storage
- By Dan Carney
- Mar 09, 2000
Most servers — PC servers included — play too important a role to risk data
loss or downtime because of a hard drive failure. Unlike most of the parts
inside modern computers, hard disk drives have moving parts and therefore
suffer failures more often than the semiconductor components.
The most common way to guard against data loss from a disk failure is
to use Redundant Array of Independent Disks storage. But adding a RAID controller
to a PC server could cost customers another $800 to $2,000, said Subo Guha,
director of product marketing for Dell Computer Corp.'s enterprise systems
group. By integrating it onto the systemboard, vendors can add RAID reliability
for only about $300 more, Guha said.
Once RAID is in place to protect the data, servers still need to support
replacement of defective disk drives while the server is running so that
agencies can continue to do business while the server is repaired. "All
of our servers have the hot-swap drives," said Alvin Mitchell, contract
manager for the Navy Facilities Engineering Command contract. "They come
in handy, because you can just pop them out and put the new ones in."
That means that the server stays up not only when the drive fails, but
also while it is being replaced. "You do get a performance hit because it
has to rebuild the data on the new hard drive," Mitchell said.
Those hard drives are usually SCSI devices, so SCSI controllers are
also typically standard equipment on entry-level servers. Gateway Inc.,
aims to set its products apart with support for the speedy new Ultra SCSI
160 specification, the fastest version yet, said Chris Schlieter, Gateway's
marketing manager for advanced servers. Because the new standard is backward-compatible
with the existing specification, customers will still be able to use older
disk arrays, he said.