In the chaotic rush to deliver storage systems based on inexpensive serial ATA (SATA) hard drive technology, startups and established vendors alike have begun to flood the market with products and announcements that they'll support the cheap disks in existing systems. But one major systems vendor has been conspicuously absent from the fray.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Sun Microsystems Inc. has yet to announce new SATA products or support for SATA drives, but all signs point to an upcoming OEM deal that will have Dot Hill Systems Corp. building SATA-based subsystems for sale through Sun.
Sources tell SearchStorage.com that Dot Hill is in line to win Sun's SATA contract and that the deal will be announced in the coming months.
Last week, Dot Hill, Carlsbad, Calif., issued a press release that announced an expanded OEM partner agreement with Sun to include "new advanced technology storage products, to be designed and engineered by Dot Hill to Sun Microsystems' specifications" -- but it made no mention of what technologies might be involved in the deal.
In response to questions about the deal, Sun issued a statement saying, "We have a lot of suppliers and are committed to delivering the latest technologies, especially SATA. However, it is not our policy to publicly discuss future products."
Representatives for both companies would not comment in any detail on the pending deal or Dot Hill's cryptic press release. But when you take a step back, the deal makes sense.
Mike Karp, a senior analyst with Enterprise Management Associates, could not confirm that SATA technology was part of the extended partnership between Sun and Dot Hill, but he said, "Sun clearly needs a serial ATA answer. SATA is absolutely a prime-time player in enterprise IT. It snuck up on a lot of people, but now it's everywhere. Sun doesn't have anything that plays in SATA right now."
The deal comes into focus when you consider Sun's need for SATA systems with the fact of the company's existing OEM partnership with Dot Hill. In May 2002, Dot Hill signed an OEM deal to supply Sun with RAID arrays, which Sun has sold under the StorEdge 3000 brand. In return for the partnership, Sun was given a 4.7% equity stake in Dot Hill.
Serial ATA is a relatively new standard for connecting hard drives to computer systems. As its name implies, SATA is based on serial signaling technology, unlike current IDE hard drives, which use parallel signaling.
The lure of SATA is the price tag. When you consider that hard drives represent between 30% and 80% of the overall cost of storage systems and that SATA drives are one-third the cost of Fibre Channel disks, the economics become compelling.