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Keeping FTTU local

Readers comment on telcos, municipalities, and SATA feature sets.

The article “Fiber: on its way to you” describes the Fiber to the User (FTTU) opportunity from the perspective of telcos. I hope you will soon run a follow-up article telling the story from the perspective of municipalities. Telcos would have you believe that FTTU-based services would be too expensive. But in Grant County, Wash., you can get 1Mbps Internet service over the muni-FTTU network for $25 per month, and 10Mbps service for $50 per month. Phone services start at $21 per month. The network serves over 4,000 homes and passes over 9,000 homes. If your municipality isn’t already working on a plan to offer FTTU and you aren’t at city hall trying to talk them into it, then you deserve what you’ll get from telcos, whether that turns out to be nothing at all, or FTTU at monopolistic prices. — Jeff Hoel, Palo Alto, Calif.

I completely agree with your general conclusion, that SATA is evolutionary now, potentially groundbreaking in the next few years (“Are hard drives getting faster?”). This is just what the Serial ATA Working Group says, too–SATA will bring more speed and more benefits as (1) supporting architecture matures, and (2) new native SATA feature sets are added and speed boosts are implemented.

My one major concern is your conclusion about Maxtor SATA versus Seagate SATA. To say “Maxtor has an edge in its current SATA drive design” is a very broad conclusion based on little evidence.

First, you said the specs of the Barracuda ATA V and the Maxtor DM9 are “similar,” which is incorrectÑthe DM9 is a newer drive by a full generation, with 80GB per disc and all the other performance advancements that come with that. The Barracuda ATA V is a previous-generation product with 60GB per disc. Seagate’s equivalent to the DM9 is the Barracuda 7200 7, with 80GB per disc, which began shipping simultaneous to the DM9.

However, I realize you’re only trying to compare the relative difference between the PATA and the SATA versions. Well, measurable performance differences between PATA and SATA drives depend to a huge extent on the motherboard and SATA controller used, other components in the system, the vintage of the SATA firmware drivers used, and the benchmark tests used.

Specifically, regarding controllers, some are more advanced in their code than others, and some utilize the advantages of native SATA better than others (and Seagate’s drives are the only native SATA drives on the market). And on the benchmarks, for example, low-level tests like IOMeter, DiskTools,etc. that measure pure seek or read/write activity, are purposely designed to ignore the effect of data handling on performance, to prevent it from being measuredÑbut in fact better data handling is precisely where you’ll see the benefit of SATA over PATA, so you have to use high-level, applications-based testing to see it.

As anecdotal support that Seagate’s native SATA technology is preferred, note that Intel has chosen to use exclusively Seagate SATA drives in its own demonstration systems, and that almost all performance PC vendors are choosing Seagate SATA drives over the competition.

Kevin Wasielewski of leading game PC maker Alienware said: “Seagate’s exclusive native SATA technology allows us to deliver a new level of storage performance. Our customers are choosing Seagate SATA drives and adding them to their Alienware system configurations to take advantage of the increase in data throughput.” — John Paulsen, Manager, Corporate Communications, Seagate Technology

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