2010 Gift Guide for Storage Geeks

If that someone special in your life has storage on their mind come the holidays, we may be able to help with gift ideas. With ideas ranging from the very affordable (free) to very expensive (skipping a few mortgage payments), we've combed the world of storage procurement so you don't have to.

Up to $100

This category seems to be the sweet spot for this holiday season. There are more Linux storage gift ideas in this category than any other and I had to cut things short to make sure I finished this article in time for Christmas!

The widest selection of ideas for this category are hard drives. Naked, unadulterated, hard drive storage capacity. There are lots of options so I will list them in a table below to make it easier to make your decision on what to buy me your loved ones this holiday season. I’m going to start with 2.5″ drives since these are dropping so rapidly in price.

Table 2 – Hard Drives in the $100 and under Category

Name Form Factor Capacity Speed Cache Interface Price
Seagate Momentus ST906403N1A1AS-RK 2.5″ 640GB 5,400 RPM 8MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $109.99
SAMSUNG SpinPoint MT2 HM100UI 2.5″ 1TB 5,400 RPM 8MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $106.17
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F4 HD204UI 3.5″ 2TB 5,400 RPM 32MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $99.99
Western Digital Caviar Green WD20EARS 3.5″ 2TB No Speed given but presumed to be 5,400 RPM 64MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $99.99
SAMSUNG Spinpoint F3R HE103SJ 3.5″ 1TB 7,200 RPM 32MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $99.99
Western Digital Caviar Black WD6402AAEX 3.5″ 640GB 7,200 RPM 64MB SATA 6.0 Gb/s $69.99
Western Digital Caviar Blue WD10EALX 3.5″ 1TB 7,200 RPM 32MB SATA 6.0 Gb/s $74.99
Western Digital VelociRaptor WD1500HLFS 3.5″ 150GB 10,000 RPM 16MB SATA 3.0 Gb/s $79.99

Notice that there is a wide range of capacities and/or performance.

The first two drives are 2.5″ drives that have fairly large capacities but are a little over the $100 limit (but not by much).

The next two drives are 2TB SATA drives. The first one, the Samsung, is a 5,400 rpm drive but is only $99.99! The second drive from Western Digital is a 2TB drive running at 5,400 rpm, but has a whopping 64MB cache for $99.99! Then there is a 1TB drive at 7,200 rpm for $99.99 (Samsung).

The next two drives both have the 6.0 Gbps SATA interface and are both from Western Digital. The first drive, the Caviar Black WD6402AAEX is a 640GB drive at 7,200 rpm with a monster 64MB cache for $69.99! The second drive, the Caviar Blue WD10EALX, is a 1TB drive at 7,200 rpm with a slightly smaller cache of 32MB for $74.99.

The last drive is a bit different. I looked for a really fast drive (higher rpm) with a price below $100 or as close as possible. The Western Digital Velociraptor WD150HLFS, is a 10,000 rpm drive with more conventional SATA 3.0 Gbps interface. It has a 150GB capacity but is much faster than the typical SATA drive and is under our $100 limit at $79.99.

In addition to hard drives, the “under $100″ category opens up all kinds of possibilities for SSD’s. There are lots of choices under $100 during this holiday season that range from a paltry capacity of 30GB that is still a decent drive to 64GB. But my personal favorite SSD at the moment are any drive that has a SandForce controller or an Intel controller.

The reason why I like the SandForce controller is that it has some cool features (one in particular). SSD’s based on this controller have real-time data compression (now that’s cool). Depending upon the “compressibility” of the data, you can greatly speed up write operations since less data has to be written.

The reason I like Intel controllers is that they are really, really fast – about the fastest controllers without data compression. Many of the Intel model SSD’s also have the TRIM command in their firmware, making them a better choice for later Linux kernels (later than 2.6.33) and certain Linux file systems (e.g. ext4 and btrfs) that can use the TRIM command for the benefit of performance and longevity (reduction of the write amplification factor).

In the sub-$100 category my favorite SSD is the 64GB SandForce drive at Microcenter. You have to pick it up in the store (I happen to live close to one and I’ve heard that St. Louis recently opened a MicroCenter) but if you have one close you can get a very fast SF-1222 based SSD with a massive 64GB of capacity (that’s massive for SSD’s in this price range) for only $99.99. It’s an MLC based SATA SSD (3.0 Gbps) but it combines the uber-cool SandForce controller with some potentially screaming performance with 64GB of capacity for $100. You can beat it. If you are near a MicroCenter store, run, don’t walk, but crawl if you have to, and buy one of these bad-boys. You definitely won’t regret it.

Other than drives there are also a couple of pretty cool holiday gifts in this price category for the storage loving Linux profesional on your holiday gift list. One of them is a drive cage that you can insert into those empty 5.25″ bays in the front of your desktop. The SNT SNT-SAC3051TL 5 x 3.5″ HDD in 3 x 5.25″ Bay SAS/SATA Trayless Backplane Hot Swap RAID Cage in Figure 13, gives you five 3.5″ drives in the space of three 5.25″ bays.

Figure 13: SNT-SAC3051TL RAID Cage

Since most desktop cases already have a huge number of open bays, this is a great way to get more drive space into your case. Some of the cool features of this unit are:

  • Two 50mm fans for extra cooling
  • Trayless design (you pop the drives in like floppy drives or tape cartridges
  • The drives are hot-swap

For a price of $78.99 this is one great rate RAID case.

The last gift idea in the $100 or under category is also a RAID Cage but with a slight twist that any deserving Linux storage person would love. The Addonics AE4RCS25NSA-A Storage Bay Adapter allows you to take an empty 5.25″ bay that you have in the front of your desktop case, and adapt it to use four 2.5″ drives! (see Figure 14 below).

Figure 14: Addonics AE4RCS25NSA-A Storage Bay Adapter

It doesn’t have a trayless design but being able to put four 2.5″ drives in a 5.25″ bay gives you a great deal of storage. The price, $60.24 is very reasonable for this type of RAID cage (plus the drives are hot-swappable!).

Up to $300

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