Although the technology is supposed to work, and sometimes it works well, its a bad idea.
Let me elaborate:
- SAS drives are generally subjected to more rigorous quality controls. This is the main reason why they cost more. (That and the market will pay more.)
- SAS to SATA conversion technologies involve a significant level of protocol conversion. While the electricals may be the same, the protocols are quite different.
- Such conversion technology is generally done in hardware, where only the hardware manufacturer has a chance of debugging problems when they occur.
- Some of these hardware implementations remove debugging information that would be present in the SATA packet, and just supply "generic" undebuggable data in the SCSI (SAS) error return.
- The conversion technology creates another potential point of failure.
- Some of these hardware implementations won't be upgradeable, or at least not easily upgradeable, with software.
- SATA drives won't have a SCSI GUID (ATA specs don't require it), and so the fabricated GUID (created by the SAS converter) may be different when you move the drive to a different chassis, potentially breaking things that rely on having a stable GUID for the drive.
Don't get me wrong. For many uses, SATA drives are great. They're great when you need low cost storage, and when you are connecting to a system that is purely SATA (such as to an AHCI controller), there is no reason to be concerned.
But building a system that relies upon complex protocol conversion in hardware, just adds another level of complexity. And complexity is evil. (KISS).
So if you want enterprise SAS storage, then go ahead and spring for the extra cost of drives that are natively SAS. Goofing around with the hybrid SAS/SATA options is just penny wise, and pound foolish.
But hey, its your data. I just know that I won't be putting my trusted data in a configuration that is effectively undebuggable.
(Note: the above is my own personal opinion, and should not be construed as an official statement from Nexenta.)
Aug 30, 2010: Update: At a significant account, I can say that we (meaning Nexenta) have verified that SAS/SATA expanders combined with high loads of ZFS activity have proven conclusively to be highly toxic. So, if you're designing an enterprise storage solution, please consider using SAS all the way to the disk drives, and just skip those cheaper SATA options. You may think SATA looks like a bargain, but when your array goes offline during ZFS scrub or resilver operations because the expander is choking on cache sync commands, you'll really wish you had spent the extra cash up front. Really.