September 2, 2021

Drive Carriers, The Unsung Heroes of the Datacenter

Hardware  •  IT Architecture  •  Uncategorized

There is a product in the enterprise datacenter market that is rarely talked about and quite frankly, is taken for granted. That is, until it puts the brakes on an entire server deployment. When that happens, everyone scrambles to get educated on exactly how this product works.

 

Today, we’re going to break down HPE’s current family of drive carriers and their nomenclature with the goal of allowing HPE partners to quickly identify hard drives that are compatible with their current systems and to identify the right carrier for any given project and deployment. 

 

Before we get into the details of the different carriers, let’s first start by defining what a drive carrier is and why they are so essential to the overall server solution. 

Industry Standards

The market for data storage devices has two major players: the OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) that produce the actual raw drives (think Samsung, Hynix, Western Digital, Toshiba) and then the server and storage manufacturers that build machines to utilize those drives (think HPE, Dell, SuperMicro).

 

The drive manufacturers have long ago agreed on two industry standard formats: SFF, a 2.5” wide form factor and LFF, a 3.5” wide form factor. At this point, all drives, regardless of manufacturer are produced with the exact same dimensions and location of interface ports.

 

Accordingly, the server manufacturers create machines that can accept two types of drives – SFF and LFF. But in order to allow the raw hard drive to install into a given machine…the server manufacturer must produce a specific hard drive carrier to enable quick and secure installation.

 

Common Carriers for HPE

Now, let’s identify the most common drive carriers on the market today, their abbreviations, and then take a look at which drive carriers are compatible with what generation systems. 

 

SC (Smart Carrier)

The most common carrier you’ll see is the SC (Smart Carrier). This carrier has been supported since Gen8 and is the default carrier for SFF drives. You’ll see anything from 15K spinning disk drives, SSD’s, and both SATA and SAS interfaces supported. Smart Carriers are easily identifiable by the red hot plug button on the far right as well as the status LEDs on the front. 

Smart Carrier

BC (Basic Carrier)

Similar to the Smart Carrier there is also a BC (Basic Carrier). The Smart Carrier and Basic Carriers share the same SFF form factor but the Basic Carriers do not have status LEDs and the hot plug button is no longer red. Importantly, Basic Carriers are the new standard for the Gen 10 Plus servers (and will likely be the carrier chosen for Gen11 servers once they are released). 

Basic Carrier

 

SCC (Smart Carrier Converter)

Next, you’ll find SCC (Smart Carrier Converter). This is a special use carrier…same idea as the Smart Carrier we already reviewed, but this option allows HPE to adapt SFF drives to fit LFF machines. By doing this, HPE is giving LFF machines a wider variety of hard drives by pulling from SFF variants. Choose a SCC drive when looking to install some SSD’s in your LFF servers! 

Smart Carrier Converter

 

LPC (Low Profile Converter)

On the topic of LFF carriers let’s take a look at LPC (Low Profile Converter). LPC is used in the SMB tower and rack solutions in the proliant series. Machines like the ML30 and DL160 LFF chassis with reduced space take advantage of the slender design. There are no smart features with these carriers and they are typically machine specific. 

Low Profile Converter

RW (Raw No Carrier)

Lastly, there is RW (Raw No Carrier). This is a Raw hard drive with no carrier as the description states. We’d show you a picture, but…well, you get the idea. These are very rare and only on specialize machines that do not allow for hot-swapping drives.  

 

The Right Fit

The carriers outlined above constitute all the major carriers to support the current line-up of HPE machines. There are a few special NVMe and M.2 drive carriers used in special circumstances, but those are few and far between.  Again, the purpose of these products are to ensure a perfect and secure fit for the commodity drives in the market to install into industry standard HPE machines. 

 

In the next edition, we’ll be reviewing the carriers for HPE’s line of SANs and storage arrays. 

 

If you have a particular question on this topic or simply want to confirm that you have the right carrier for a given deployment, feel free to reach out to quotes@b2xglobal.com.

 

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