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EMC storage update cuts drive costs

The company announces an update to its midrange Clariion line that allows the storage gear to work with a cheaper type of hard drive.

EMC on Wednesday announced an update to its midrange Clariion line that allows the storage gear to work with a cheaper type of hard drive.

The Clariion line of products, which is also sold by Dell Computer, now can use the same ATA (advanced technology attachment) drives commonly found in computers and low-end servers.

ATA drives themselves cost only about a third or a quarter as much per megabyte of storage as the Fibre Channel drives currently used in Clariion, with the overall system costing as little as half as much by switching to ATA drives, said Jay Krone, director of Clariion product marketing for EMC. Fibre Channel is the standard used by high-end storage networks.

However, by using ATA drives vs. Fibre Channel, overall performance can be as much as 75 percent less, meaning that ATA drives are best suited to tasks in which cost is the main factor, such as backup. Also, the company says people can use ATA drives only from EMC, meaning companies can't save even more by finding the latest bargain.

"We are not going to allow a customer to take a drive they buy at CompUSA or a computer fair, because heaven only knows what will happen," Krone said, noting that the company does extensive testing of its drives before certifying them.

EMC doesn't expect customers to switch their existing Clariion systems to cheaper drives, but instead hopes that the company can move into new areas such as backup functions currently dominated by less costly tape drives. Krone said EMC has been planning the move to support ATA drives for more than a year.

Separately, EMC introduced a new software product, called SAN Copy, designed to transfer blocks of data between Clariion systems and EMC's high-end Symmetrix line, which uses a different operating system. EMC acquired the Clariion line when it bought Data General in August 1999.

"This capability is something our customers have been asking for since the day we bought Data General three-and-a-half years ago," Krone said.