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Dot Hill plots iSCSI, RAID 6 and midrange SANs

Money-losing vendor chases new OEM business with plans for IP SANS, better data protection and new midrange system.

Dot Hill Corp., which makes storage systems sold by OEM partners, is adding an iSCSI storage area network (SAN) and RAID 6 capabilities over the next few months with a new midrange system and beefed up data protection software to follow next year.

The moves come as the financially struggling vendor tries to solidify its place among entry-level system OEMs and make a move up into the midrange. Dot Hill executives laid out their roadmap this week during an analyst day in New York.

First up, Dot Hill will announce its first IP SAN at Storage Networking World (SNW) later this month -- an iSCSI version of the 2730 Fibre Channel system that Dot Hill brought out last year. CEO Dana Kammersgard said Dot Hill will also have a new midrange system, code-named Krypton, early next year. "It's fundamentally built on the same architecture [as the 2730] but allows us to move to the midrange," Kammersgard said, of the system that will officially be known as the 5730.

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Dot Hill did not give product details of the 5730, but it almost certainly will scale higher than the entry-level 2730. That system holds 12 drives and up to 42 terabytes (TB) with an expansion shelf and comes in two or four controller configurations.

Kammersgard said Dot Hill will also have a firmware upgrade to support RAID 6 that lets users rebuild two failed drives simultaneously.

Dot Hill has been adding OEM customers to go with its long-time partner Sun Microsystems Inc. and newer partner Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp). Dot Hill disk enclosures are used for Sun's StorageTek 3000 low-end system and NetApp's new SAS-based FAS2000 systems. This year, ONStor Inc., Sepaton Inc., Promark Technology, Hammer plc and Maximum Throughput Inc. started shipping or signed deals to ship systems from Dot Hill.

Phil Davis, executive vice president of worldwide field operations, said Dot Hill plans to offer replication software to go with the snapshot application it added last year. He said Dot Hill will support remote replication and mirroring next year, even on its low-end systems. "Those are big holes among entry-level competitors," he said.

Dot Hill is looking to expand beyond its historic entry level space into the midrange where the market is bigger and there is less competition among vendors that supply OEM products. It's unlikely that Dot Hill will be able to land major deals with the likes of EMC, IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) but can help smaller vendors compete with the large companies.

"Dot Hill can say, 'Here's a turnkey thing, we've tested it, supported it and we've done all the things we've done well,' said analyst Tony Asaro of the Enterprise Strategy group.

Asaro said LSI Corp.'s Engenio OEM relationship with IBM shows how the smaller vendors can outdo their larger partners. IBM's biggest selling midrange SAN system remains the DS4000 supplied by Engenio, despite the rollout of the IBM-manufactured DS6000. "There's no IBM intellectual property in the DS4000," Asaro said. "The DS6000 has IBM IP in there, and end users wanted nothing to do with it."

Dot Hill also pledged timely support of 8 Gbit Fibre Channel, 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) and 6 Gbit SAS systems when the technologies and market are ready for them.

Dot Hill will need a strong product line to reverse its financial slump. At analyst day, the vendor revealed its third-quarter revenue will be lower than expected. It said revenue would be between $43 million and $46 million, down to its previous guidance of $50 million to $54 million and down from $54.8 million in the same quarter last year. Dot Hill attributed the downfall to NetApp shipping the FAS2020 and 2050 systems later than expected.

Dot Hill said it expected its losses to be less than expected, giving new guidance of a loss of 6 cents to 11 cents per share compared to previous forecast of a loss of 9 cents and 14 cents per share. Still, it looks like the Carlsbad, Calif., vendor's seventh straight quarter of losing money.

"We understand this is not a not for profit business," Kammersgard said.

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