System tolerates storage faults

A NEW fault tolerant disk storage system has arrived on the Hongkong market, and is expected to offer a much higher performance at a lower cost than other systems.

Because of the system's speed and memory capacity, it is being aimed primarily at the mid-range UNIX market, and the large PC network server market.

Developed by US firm Storage Computer Corporation, the RAID (redundant arrays of independent/inexpensive disks) 7 system is being distributed by a joint venture under the title Storcomp.

''Not only have we the sole distributorship in Hongkong and China for this system, but we're also the support centre for all of Asia,'' said managing director Mr Eddie Hwang, formerly with Data General north Asia.

''The system was launched in the US in November, and has already sold systems worth US$2 million,'' Mr Hwang said.

He added that analysts in the US expected Storage Computer to be floated on US exchanges within a year, because of its new technology.

The company said the performance of the new system would cut costs for users and improve disk access performance.

On its own benchmark tests, Storage Computer said that, in mid-range computer environments, a six-drive system gave 80 per cent of the top-of-the-range ''solid state'' drives, but at four per cent of the cost.

In the UNIX environment, to which the unit was more suited, the company said 200 to 400 per cent performance increases were found on certain applications.

Working as a server, performances were said to vary between being three and 10 times faster than competitors.

But why is the system faster than conventional disk drives and other RAID systems? Firstly, earlier RAID disk drives were aimed at increasing performance in niche computer areas. RAID 3, for example, outperformed RAID 5 systems in large read/write operations, but not in smaller ones.

The new disk system uses asynchronous technology, meaning the heads of the disks in the unit move in either direction, independently.

In other array units, the heads of the disks move at the same time in the same direction, so only one set of data can be either read or written simultaneously.

Its other feature is an in-built, real-time operating system, which controls how data is stored and forwarded. This improves the system's speed, and makes it simpler to install.

A basic eight-drive unit, giving eight gigabytes (GB) of storage, is expected to sell for about US$35,000. At the high end, RAID 7 gives 141 GB of storage, up to 256 megabytes (MB) of cache memory, and 12 interface channels.

The unit also uses the high-speed SCSI II interface standard, which again improves the input/output time and gives it compatibility with a large range of computer systems, such as Sun, IBM, Digital, HP, Unisys and others.