For the most part, the deployment of ATA RAID units has been limited to the realm of overclockers and small businesses with extremely low budgets, but times are changing. With shrinking IT budgets and with advances in inexpensive Advanced Technology Attachment drive technology, ATA RAID devices enterprise time may be coming. (ATA is the connector interface for IDE drives—standard drives found in virtually all desktop machines and some low-end workstations.)
While I doubt that high-end shops will ever stray from enterprise-class Fibre Channel and SCSI implementations as their primary form of data storage, inexpensive ATA devices can be used as high-speed tape replacements to provide backup services.
One new product that addresses this market comes from Nexsan Technologies (www.nexsan.com). The InfiniSAN D2D (for Disk to Disk) backup system uses Nexsan-developed firmware and code to create a backup system with true hot-swap abilities and the complete redundancy that are usually found only in SCSI and Fibre Channel RAID units.
Using these inexpensive drives, Nexsan can provide backup services at a low cost—roughly 1.7 cents per megabyte—in a small, rack-mountable profile that has a starting capacity of 500GB.
The included software allows for windowless backups, and because the system is disk-based, file restoration jobs can be done faster than tape backup restorations can be completed. As a disk-based scheme, D2D also provides instant random access to data. Tape backup, on the other hand, requires either a human or a robotic library to load a tape first.
I would recommend the InfiniSAN D2D for some workgroups and midsize companies, but multiple tape backups stored at multiple storage sites will be important now and in the foreseeable future as tapes can be archived for several years (a requirement for many companies and government offices).
With the growing emphasis on disaster recovery and business continuity, inexpensive ATA RAID arrays may eventually find a home as data-mirroring storage targets for sites on tight budgets.
As ATA drives increase in speed and capacity, they will become more than just storage for desktops and workstations.