The Inquirer has a photo of one of Broadcom’s upcoming SAS (Serial Attached SCSI, basically SCSI over the SATA physical layer) cards. The interesting thing about this card is that it’s both a PCI-E and a PCI-X card–you can flip it over and plug it in either way.

Broadcom PCI-E/PCI-X combo card

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sort of thing done–there were ISA/MCA cards on the market for a while in the late 80s–but they’ve always been extremely rare. I doubt Broadcom will have this card on the market for very long, because it’s almost certainly cheaper to make two different models then one model with two different interfaces.

I’m really interested in seeing how SAS hardware is priced, because it could be extremely useful in low-end servers. Unlike old parallel SCSI, SAS is a point-to-point network–no daisy-chaining drives on a single cable. Unlike SATA, though, SAS is designed to support “fan-out” devices, so you can plug multiple drives into a single controller channel. Supposedly it’s possible to plug SATA drives into SAS controller; if it’s possible to plug SATA drives into a SAS fan-out enclosure, then we’d get the best of both worlds–the ability to buy big, cheap (but slow) SATA drives and the ability to hang a dozen or so drives off of a single server without needing a dozen different cables. I don’t know if any vendors will be aggressive enough with their pricing to make this cost-effective, though.