Sun Set for SATA Day?

It's prepping Serial ATA arrays and may ink OEM deal with Dot Hill or Infortrend, says RBC

September 30, 2003

2 Min Read
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Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) is preparing a family of lower-cost Serial ATA-based storage arrays, and the short list of potential suppliers for the new products includes Dot Hill Systems Corp. (Nasdaq: HILL) and Infortrend Technology Inc., according to Wall Street research firm RBC Capital Markets.

Jim Comstock, director of strategy in Sun's network storage division, declined to comment specifically on the company's plans in this area. But he did say Sun expects to deliver SATA-based systems at some point in the future.

"There were things that were inhibiting [Serial ATA's] adoption... the stability is coming along," Comstock says. "Cost is very important today, and the performance tradeoffs are being driven by the need to keep more data online."

Serial ATA is a disk interface technology that is designed to provide high-reliability characteristics akin to more expensive Fibre Channel drives, but at a much lower cost. Hard drive manufacturers like Western Digital Corp. (NYSE: WDC) and other component suppliers have started shipping SATA drives and components, but so far no major systems vendor has announced plans for an enterprise storage system that uses SATA drives (see Western Digital Hatches Raptor, Marvell Charges Up SATA, and StorCase Makes Case for SATA).

RBC today initiated coverage of Dot Hill with a rating of Sector Perform. RBC notes that Sun's existing OEM relationship with Dot Hill has been the major reason behind the latter's turnaround in the past year (see Dot Hill: Not Ill Anymore).However, RBC says Sun's expected entry into the market for Serial ATA disk arrays -- "in the very near future" -- presents uncertainty for Dot Hill, because Sun hasn't made a decision yet about which supplier it will use.

"This program is likely to produce a material impact on Dot Hill's shares as a win would increase estimates, and a loss could pressure valuation due to the revenue concentration profile at Sun," the firm says in its research note.

RBC says "it appears that Sun has narrowed the list to a handful of vendors, and we believe the short list includes Dot Hill, but also Infortrend, whose RAID intellectual property is used by Dot Hill for its current solutions that are OEM'd to Sun."

A representatives for Dot Hill declined to comment on the RBC note. An Infortrend spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Todd Spangler, US Editor, Byte and Switch

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