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I am currently looking a building a server, and am comparing hardware. In particular I have been looking at hard drives. It seems like hotswap hard drives are significantly more expensive than normal hard drives

  • A 500GB HDD is around $50-60 (here)
  • A comparable 500GB hotswap HDD is $250 (here).

I know the advantage of hotswap is that you can replace hard drives without turning off the machine, but I was surprised that the price difference is $200.

Is this just the way things are, or am I missing something?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

They charge this b/c they can. People who are worried about hot swapping tend to have a business need/reason behind that. Either from a risk or cost point of view but in many cases it's both.

Say it's 9am and a drive in a RAID 1 running the companies email server dies. Do you shut it down and replace the drive which now leaves 200 employee unable to finish going through their email in the morning. Do you wait until after business hours to do this hoping that the other drive doesn't die during the day? Also what happens when the remaining working drive spins down...will it spin back up and work or will it die too? All of these risks are avoided or at least reduced with hot swap equipment. And the vendors charge you for this.

Also when you have a failed drive and need to hot swap a drive is not the time you want to find out if it's going to work or not. So call the difference in price an insurance policy.

In the case of high end storage as MrDenny points out NetAPP and EMC drives are pretty much highway robbery...but these drives often have vendor specific firmware and have been put through a number of tests to make sure that the drive won't have an early death.

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An excellent point, EMC actually puts an extra chip on the drives for extra diagnostic info on it to help detect when a drive will fail (and so you can't buy a non-EMC drive and stick it in the unit). This just adds to the price. – mrdenny Jan 28 '10 at 3:54

The drive has to be able to survive not only being removed without a proper shutdown procedure, but being put into a machine while the power is on and spinning itself up correctly without any instructions from the server.

That and you'll pay it, so why not charge a butt load more.

Wait until you look at the costs for Enterprise SAN drive. You think hot swap is expensive? I'm paying about ~$1200 for an EMC 1TB SATA hard drive.

Another reason for the high price is the warranty that they comes with. Usually a hot swap drive (and an Enterprise drive) will come with a most easier to deal with warranty that a regular drive. If I but a regular drive and it blows I have to call Seagate, WD, etc to get a replacement. My Dell servers or EMC array blow a drive, I call Dell and a new drive is at my CoLo that day (sometimes before I am).

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+1 Our HP EVA4000 ate up 54x 300GB Fiber Channel disks at $1100 a pop. – jscott Jan 27 '10 at 23:53
@jscott: wow. "Storage is cheap. Enterprise storage? not so much" – Matt Simmons Jan 28 '10 at 3:17
That's nothing, You want Enterprise Flash disks, be ready to mortgage your house. They can run $10k and up for a 400 Gig disk, but damn are they fast. 30,000 IO per second per spindle. Put 10 of them in a RAID 10 and you've got one hell of a storage solution. – mrdenny Jan 28 '10 at 3:30
@mrdenny: Is there a term, in use, analogous to "spindle" for SSDs? :) Block-boxes? – jscott Jan 28 '10 at 3:43
As far as I know spindle is still the term. Obviously a crappy term as their are no moving parts, but do we really need another word for "thingy that stores stuff"? – mrdenny Jan 28 '10 at 3:51

Its possible Lenovo has designed their systems to ONLY work with those drives.

I know Dell sells their "Hotswap drives" with the same idea, buy Hotswap drives from dell and it costs $150 more.

I use standard SCSI drives for one of our image servers and it works perfectly fine. (hotswapping the drives and everything. Server doesn't like it, but its not supposed to ;p )

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Liability and reliability.

If the drive dies due to unplugging and plugging operations then the manufacturer needs to replace it and these actions inherently increase the probability of failure.

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I've run into issues where we had Desktop Edition WD drives that keep giving us headaches w/ our RAID card. Apparently the reason (From WD) is that the DE drives try harder to recover from errors than the Raid Edition Drives, and as such, timeout on commands from the RAID card. As newer desktop drives incorporate Power saving features, the frustrate RAID cards.

But besides that, I've never had an issue with Hot Swapping Cheap Off-the-shelf drives. As long as the controller supports it, and you've prepared the OS/Controller (Mark drive failed/offline/unmount block device if necessary), I don't think you'll ever have problems.

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