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Executive vision: Dot Hill targets storage's sweet spot

In this third in a series of interviews with the CEOs of major storage companies attending the Merrill Lynch Storage Technology Conference in Santa Barbara this week, searchStorage talks to Jim Lambert, chief executive officer of Dot Hill Systems Corp. The Carlsbad, Calif.-based company is a provider of open systems data storage and storage area network (SAN) solutions. Dot Hill recently moved away from building legacy systems to concentrate in the SAN environment�specifically Fibre Channel SAN solutions. Last week, Dot Hill announced the release of its Fibre Channel SANnet 7000 series, which the company says features server-attached RAID controllers that can support up to 160 disks each and has usable disk space of 5.8T Byte per controller pair with 10,0000-RPM 73G Byte drives. While his company boasts a solid customer base, Lambert has recognized the need to take a more proactive approach toward making Dot Hill a more visible player in the heavily concentrated world of storage.

In a market this competitive, where name recognition can be everything, isn't getting your name out there now going to be a challenge?
It's not easy. But I think by aggressively working to make sure we're talking to people on a continual basis, attending trade shows partnering with well-known names such as Brocade and Veritas�their name helps pull us in. In fact, you just recently announced another deal with Veritas. Can you explain the details?
It means our customers now have access to their data on demand. Our products support Veritas Cluster server and we've received server qualification from Veritas. Your company has suffered from a serious identity crisis. What steps have you taken to make the Dot Hill name well known?
We knew we had an issue with name recognition. We hired [storage marketing veteran] Dick Search to head up our marketing efforts. He comes with a wealth of marketing and high-tech background. We've doubled our marketing staff and increased our marketing budget. Dick put together a very comprehensive plan that we're now implementing. He's started to get the name out there�to date we've had 30 interviews with industry analysts. We hadn't done that before. We need to explain to users the products we have and our position in the marketplace. You've announced that you're leaving the legacy business. Why?
We decided we wanted to focus all our energies on the sweet spot of the market. That's providing a solution for a SAN, storage over IP, etc. At the end of the day, customers don't care what the technology is. They just want the capability. What markets do you target?
About 50% of our business is within the telecommunication industry. That's not just the telephone company. That also includes ISPs, ASPs, SSPs, telco initiatives, and Internet data centers. The other 50% is banking and finance and government�industries that require seriously rugged systems. Where survivability of a system is critical. Is that how you're going to compete with major storage vendors?
That, yes, but we also have a number of other differentiators with our products�features and services others don't have that. But that's not necessarily where the battle will be fought�on products alone. Our problem is that we don't get invited often enough to the party. We do very well with our customers. We have a high success rate. But, because our name is not as well known as say EMC, IBM and Sun, it's almost like things are stacked up against us. Again, this all goes back to a marketing issue. One of those product differentiators you mentioned was that your products can scale performance. A lot of companies say that. Why is yours different?
Yes, that's true. A lot of companies say that. But, there's a couple of things that they don't have. For one, we have open architecture, which we mentioned earlier. It's because we have consistent architecture that we can scale in performance, size or both�while not having to bring the system down�we can go from 73 Gigabytes to 58 Terabytes as far as capacity is concerned. We also have NEBs (Network Equipment Standards) level three certification, which is hugely important in the storage-networking world. This is a very difficult certification to pass. You'll see some companies say that they're NEBs compliant�that's not the same thing. It means they could pass the rigorous certification requirements. You differentiate your company from others by touting your open architecture. Why does open architecture matter to users?
We follow industry standards. Otherwise, you're in a totally different market. We're not tied down to one platform. I think a lot of other companies are struggling to deal with proprietary support limitations.

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