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Enterprise Computing: Are You Happy With A Sole Supplier?

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On more than one occasion I’ve discussed the idea of putting 2.5″ drives into mainstream storage arrays and asked the question why they’ve not been widely adopted.  Probably the most common response has been to justify their non-adoption by quoting the lack of multiple suppliers for the technology.  

Look in your storage arrays today and you’ll see typically that 3.5″ drives are supplied by either Seagate or HGST (formerly IBM).  Vendors will claim that having two suppliers let’s them cope with demand, mix and match suppliers for cost reductions and change suppliers if one or other is found to be supplying faulty hardware.  All reasonable, but this argument seems to have been forgotten as we discuss solid state drives (SSDs).

All the major array vendors (EMC, Hitachi, IBM, HP) are using SSDs from STEC with no apparent second supplier.  They’re also being used by smaller vendors (e.g. Compellent and Dell).  There seems to be no mention of the concentration of risk being placed by the entire storage industry on a single supplier – who could hit all manner of production problems at any time – with no alternative product to put in its place.  

Incidentally, if 2.5″ drives haven’t been adopted because of the sole vendor issue, then why aren’t they being seen in enterprise storage arrays?

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
  • http://blog.fosketts.net Stephen Foskett

    I don’t buy the “sole supplier” argument. There are actually MORE suppliers of enterprise-class 2.5″ drives than 3.5″ units now! Hitachi has the Ultrastar, Seagate has the Savvio, WD has the Velociraptor, and Fujitsu (now Toshiba) has the MBx2 series. Even if one ignores the latter two, that’s still the same suppliers everyone uses for 3.5″ drives.

    I think 2.5″ is just waiting to happen. We’ll see it.


  • Pete Steege

    Hi Chris,

    While 2.5″ drives have yet to make much of a dent in storage arrays, they have become the defacto standard for servers. Check out HP’s server lineup as an example.

    The limiting factor for 2.5″ drives in storage arrays has mostly been capacity per drive. The industry is just now at the inflection point, with 300GB 10K drives available. Even more interesting I think are the 500GB 2.5″ 7200 rpm SAS/SATA drives coming out, like Seagate’s Constellation. Expect to see rapid growth in 2.5″ storage system adoption.

    On the SSD side, I think we’re seeing early adopter behavior at this point. As you know, Seagate has announced plans to be an alternative for vendors later this year. The single supplier question will be moot by then.

  • http://www.x-or.co.uk Prem

    Just wanted to share my story…One of my customers recently bought a sun blade 6000 with may 2.5″ SAS drives. He later decided to use the drives in shared storage array. I have been looking for storage array that will take 2.5″ SAS drives and have not had much joy with any of the decent vendors…any suggestions?

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  • Chris Evans

    Pete, good point, 2.5″ in servers. I’ve got a Constellation SAS drive under test (I’ve also a few 15K 2.5″ drives too) – had it for a couple of months. That’s why I keep banging on about them – I think they’re great. I just wish the array vendors would get on with it and deploy them widely!


  • Chris Evans


    The Sun 7000 Series (Amber Road/USS) supports 2.5″ drives.


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