HP Upgrades to Ultra3 SCSI

Hewlett-Packard Co. (www.hp.com) has sped up its storage device offerings by upgrading its line of RAID devices to Ultra3 SCSI from Ultra2.

Ultra3 is a faster flavor of SCSI, allowing administrators to improve the availability and performance of their storage environments. Ultra2 offers an eight-bit bus and a 40 MB per second transfer rate, but Ultra3 has a 16-bit bus and moves data at 160 MB per second. The Ultra3 standard offers greater performance.

HP created a suite of products for the new Ultra3 offerings. The NetRaid-4m controller connects servers to SCSI devices. It provides four channels and supports up to 12 devices per channel, and it reduces latency and data corruption by caching with 64 or 128 MB of RAM.

HP also designed Ultra3 disk drives specifically for its Netserver line, and designed a RAID cabinet, the LH6000, that holds up to 12 Ultra3 drives.

Pearl Chou, product manager at HP, suggests that performance is not the only thing at stake with the migration to Ultra3. "Ultra3 offers a lower total cost of ownership than Ultra2 devices," she says. In addition to the reduction in headaches with faster devices, Ultra3 offers management features to make RAID management simpler.

Ultra3 offers a feature known as Cyclic Redundancy Check. This feature periodically ensures that data from one volume is, in fact, replicated on another volume. The SCSI firmware makes sure the RAID is behaving the way it is supposed to.

A second feature offered with HP's Ultra3 line is domain validation. One benefit of domain validation is monitoring mounted devices and ensuring that the devices are physically connected. It also manages the performance features. If an Ultra3 device is connected to an Ultra2 controller, the feature makes sure the products know how to talk to each other.

These automated technologies can reduce the cost of ownership by preventing problems and reducing the amount of labor that administrators have to invest in maintaining their storage systems. In addition, the increased speed offers greater availability in multiuser environments: By reducing latency, the network can handle more users.

HP extends the value of its storage line by offering HP specific management software, TopTools. The software enables remote management of HP storage devices and integrates with OpenView, HP’s network management framework. TopTools also manages and monitors SAN performance on HP products.

As and extension to TopTools, RAID cabinets are bundled with the RAID management software NetRaid-4m. HP says the product allows for modifying RAID levels and striping, and offers an intuitive GUI interface. Both TopTools and NetRaid-4m run on NT machines.

HP introduced its storage division as an extension of its server and minicomputer line. "Storage is an important part of our server business," Chou says. With the growth of the Internet and the accompanying explosion of unstructured data -- such as e-mail, images, and multimedia -- fast, reliable storage is vital to both administrators and vendors.

"We’re behind the scenes of the always-on infrastructure," Chou says, referring to the 24x7 cycles of e-business and global enterprises. She believes any business venturing into the always-on market will benefit from fast, reliable storage, and the best SCSI money can buy guarantees speed and reliability.