RAID Drives Due for Desktops

PC makers want to meld RAID and Serial ATA for speedier desktops.

PC makers are looking to bring serverlike functionality to their desktops by adding integrated RAID-configured hard drive and Serial ATA hard drive options.

The addition of RAID, which lets two hard drives work as one, and Serial ATA will boost speed and performance of the desktops while offering greater storage and reliability, said the PC makers.

Gateway Inc., MPC Computers LLC, Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM are each planning to take advantage of Intel Corp.s release this week of its 875PE chip set, which offers integrated RAID capabilities and an 800MHz front-side bus. The vendors plan to add RAID-configured Serial ATA hard drives to systems this year, and most will come equipped with an Intel 3GHz Pentium 4 processor.

Dell Computer Corp., of Round Rock, Texas, this week will roll out the Dimension 8300 PC, which will include Intels new chip set but will not offer integrated RAID. Because Dell has seen little demand for Serial ATA RAID capabilities it will only offer it later this year as options via cards rather than integrated on the motherboard, a spokesman said.

Gateway 700XL

Gateway, of Poway, Calif., this week will offer RAID-configured hard drives in its 700XL desktop (pictured), which is popular with consumers and some smaller businesses, and will offer similar features in a business PC, the E-6100, starting June 6.

Dual hard drives, when working together, will offer 320GB to 500GB of total capacity. The system will be available immediately with the RAID capabilities and with Serial ATA hard drives May 16, starting at $3,499.

For its part, MPC will begin outfitting its enterprise ClientPro PCs and consumer Millennia desktops next month. Officials of the Nampa, Idaho, company said they have been offering Serial ATA hard drives with RAID capabilities in the consumer Millennia 910i since last year and that demand has exceeded expectations.

It is unclear how much demand for these devices will come from the enterprise. One IT manager questioned the benefit to the enterprise of RAID-configured hard drives. "It would be a nice thing to have in there, but I dont know if I would spend a whole lot of money for it," said Dan Carney, senior director of operations at Wildfire Communications Inc. "Its something thats very useful in the server environment, but I dont know if we need all that for PCs."

Data on enterprise desktops usually is backed up onto tape or servers, and therefore PCs dont typically undergo the same stresses that servers do, said Carney, whose Waltham, Mass., company uses PCs from Gateway, HP and Dell, among others.

HP and IBM, like Dell, are taking a slow approach to RAID and Serial ATA on PCs. HP officials, in Palo Alto, Calif., said they will start offering RAID capabilities in consumer desktops this summer and commercial PCs later this year.

IBM officials said the Armonk, N.Y., company will soon begin offering Serial ATA and RAID options in some desktops, but there has been little user demand for the features. There isnt enough of a performance boost in Serial ATA over ATA-100 to justify paying more for it, and PCs get adequate backup through means other than RAID, they said.

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