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Lower-cost drives hit storage market

Silicon Graphics Inc. unveils data storage systems that use Serial Advanced Technology Attachment disk drives, which offer lower performance but also a lower cost.

Silicon Graphics Inc. on Tuesday unveiled data storage systems using Serial Advanced Technology Attachment disk drives, which offer lower performance than high-end drives--but also a lower cost.

The SGI products, which use the relatively new SATA technology, give companies a middle ground between high-end systems with disk drives that use the Fibre Channel interface and low-cost but slower tape systems, said Gabriel Broner, general manager of SGI's Storage and Software Group. "They get performance that is appropriate to their needs and cost that is appropriate to their needs," Broner said. "Before, they could go to (high-performance) disk or tape. There was nothing in-between."

SGI's new systems are dubbed the TP9300S and the TP9500S. Initial shipments of the products are scheduled for mid-December, with entry configurations starting below $40,000, according to the company.

The announcement is in keeping with the storage industry's push toward "information lifecycle management," with which an organization's data is stored on various devices according to its value over time. Data critical to a business this week, for example, may deserve a spot on an expensive, high-end device, but later on could be moved to a less costly machine. Other storage companies that are going after data lifecycle management dollars include Hewlett-Packard and EMC.

SATA is an emerging interface for connecting disk drives to computers. The interface has its roots in ATA, the technology that's used to plug hard drives into desktop computers. But SATA has higher-end capabilities, and a specification to double its data transfer rate to 3 gigabits per second is due soon.

SGI said its new SATA storage systems were developed by LSI Logic Storage Systems, a subsidiary of LSI Logic.

Known for its high-end graphics-oriented computers, SGI has been struggling to halt a revenue skid. The company has axed 1,000 jobs this year, or about a quarter of its work force. SGI is pinning some of its hopes for a turnaround on storage products. In September, the company launched a storage initiative.