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Adaptec jumps on 6 Gbps SAS storage with Aristos buy

Adaptec snaps up ASIC vendor Aristos Logic to try and get a leg up in the 6 Gbps RAID controller market, and may also use its R&D and IP to write to SSDs.

Two months after selling off its SnapServer NAS business to Overland Storage, Adaptec Inc. today signaled it is sticking to its storage-component knitting with a $41 million acquisition of ASIC maker Aristos Logic.

Adaptec officials say the acquisition will diversify Adaptec's RAID controller product line and help it catch up to current technology trends such as 6 Gbps SAS and SATA.

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Aristos makes RAID-on-chip ASICs that it sells to OEMs and system integrators. Only Sun/STK's FlexLine products are publicly announced as Aristos customers, and Adaptec declined to name any others. Aristos also sells software that lets its OEMs differentiate management features.

"Adaptec's revenues have declined somewhat on the OEM side, while the channel is ramping up," said Suresh Panikar, Adaptec director of worldwide marketing,

Adaptec reported results for the June quarter of $31.5 million, compared with $36.1 million a year ago, and is in the process of trying to reduce its operating expenses. Panikar said the sale of SnapServer lets Adaptec refocus on "enabling technologies" such as RAID controllers, iSCSI targets and HBAs.

Aristos will also allow the company to expand that focus to accommodate high-speed desktops, blade servers, and external enterprise-class storage enclosures in addition to Adaptec's current market for server-based RAID controllers and small to midsize storage systems, he said.

As for the specific technologies Aristos brings into the Adaptec fold, the one Adaptec seems most interested in is its 6 Gbps SAS/SATA technology. Adaptec already sells a Unified Serial controller that speaks both protocols and is anxious to get started on the next generation, which Panikar predicted will be hitting the market generally by the end of 2009 or early 2010. "The end result for end users will be better solutions from Adaptec and their OEMs, in growing segments of the storage space," he said.

TheInfoPro's managing director for storage, Robert L Stevenson said Aristos's engineering expertise and ASIC IP could help Adaptec develop controllers for solid-state drives (SSDs). "The RAID controller business is a hot area, in terms of how it adapts to SSD, Flash, and DDRAM technologies," he said. "There is a potential for…innovation…blurring the boundaries of interface."

Panikar stopped short of confirming this, but said "it's a possibility."

It's not clear yet how much of a market there will be for 6 Gbps SAS and SATA, according to Stevenson. TheInfoPro will be releasing its Wave 11 storage research in October, and Stevenson shared some of its early results from discussions with Fortune 1000 users about 6Gbps technology.

Those users said they plan to evaluate it when it's offered, but have concerns about other elements of the infrastructure support it – such as servers -- the ability to saturate a 6 Gbps pipe, and the pending arrival of faster protocols such as 8 Gbps FC and 10 Gigabit Ethernet coming to market sooner.

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