Fast, Big, Affordable or Reliable – It depends on your priorities

Any color you want, as long as it is black

While I’ve been living under a rock, I failed to see how quickly the enterprise computing world has added so many different hard-drive technologies to their standard list of options. At one time there was a single drive style you could choose to use in a just couple of capacities –  SCSI. That was it. To paraphrase Henry Ford in reference to the always-black Model T, you can have your hard drive in any technology you want… as long as it is SCSI.

Technology grows over time

I spent a decade selling SCSI storage solutions with pride under the assumption nothing could be better. The capacities kept getting bigger, and the bus speed kept getting faster. I was living in a blissfully simple world where there were so few choices, it was easy to find the best option for any given application.

Since those days the server world has moved to SAS and added SATA as an option for storage devices, and a new hybrid of the two, Nearline SAS, was introduced by the Tier-1 players. Now we have Solid State Drives to contend with when making a decision on what to put in our enterprise class solutions. 


So how do we choose which is best for the application we are working on today? In order to help my sales teams reach faster and easier answers when narrowing down the search for the most ideal solution, I created a very simplistic chart where I boiled down the general differences between each hard drive technology Dell offers on servers and lined them up on charts (see figure 1). While hardly the end-all tool for the perfect match, it is a quick tool to narrow down the solution a bit.

Dell Enterprise Hard Drive Chart

Quick! Which is fastest?

The chart above answers some basic questions:

  • Which is fastest? Well SSD of course. But it is also the most expensive.
  • Which offers the highest capacity? SATA and NL-SAS do; if you can live with lower reliability.
  • Where is the price performance sweet spot? Generally with 10K/rpm SAS drives.

This is the market today. I am certain everything I wrote above will be obsolete in a year.

Do you find the general guidance shared above helpful? Where do you see the market moving?

About the Author: Franklin Flint