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Dot Hill launches unified, virtual storage appliance to build channel

Dot Hill looks to change its OEM-only model by launching unified virtual storage appliances through the channel; appliances use technology acquired from Cloverleaf.

Dot Hill Systems Corp. today rolled out unified, virtual storage appliances based on technology from its acquisition of Cloverleaf Communications that will let it expand its distribution model beyond its set of storage OEM partners.

Dot Hill rebranded Cloverleaf's iSN (Intelligent Storage Networking) software as AssuredUVS (Unified Virtual Storage) and today began shipping AssuredUVS Standard and AssuredUVS Datacenter configurations. An AssuredUVS virtual storage appliance consists of controllers, storage and the Cloverleaf virtualization software. The Standard model comes with one or two controllers, while the Datacenter model scales from two to six controllers.

Dot Hill acquired Cloverleaf in January for $12 million.

The Cloverleaf software lets customers pool storage across systems; supports Fibre Channel, iSCSI and NAS protocols; and enables management and data protection features such as snapshots, thin provisioning, replication, asynchronous and synchronous mirroring, and data migration.

AssuredUVS Standard for SMBs starts at 50 TB and scales to 150 TB. The Datacenter virtual storage appliance scales from 250 TB to 6 PB. Pricing starts at $63,960 for Standard appliances with dual controllers. Asynchronous replication and NAS support are licensed separately.

Dot Hill's business model has been almost completely focused on OEMs. It is the supplier for part of Hewlett-Packard's MSA platform and has OEM deals with NetApp, Fujitsu and Raytheon. As part of an OEM deal announced in June, Xiotech uses UVS technology in its Emprise 9000 storagey system but no other OEM deals have been announced for the virtualization software.

"This is a transition for Dot Hill from selling hardware through OEMs to selling software and virtualization products through OEMs and the channel," Dot Hill Senior Director of Marketing Jim Jonez said.

Dot Hill still has a lot of work to do in building its channel, though. It lists only one channel partner for the AssuredUVS platform, UK-based distributor Hammer.

Enterprise Strategy Group analyst Mark Peters said Dot Hill improved its technology with the Cloverleaf acquisition but needs to build its channel to spread the word.

"There is a market for what Dot Hill has, but the market doesn't know about it because Dot Hill is hidden behind the OEMs," Peters said. "The challenge is people have never heard of them or just know them as the back-end storage for HP. The upside is [that] Dot Hill now can meet the requirements you need in this market for virtualized and unified storage. The downside is [that] no one knows that. Dot Hill needs to find a way to get its name out; it needs a new channel."

University of Pennsylvania uses virtualization for storage as a service

Dot Hill is also selling AssuredUVS directly to customers who bought software from Cloverleaf before the acquisition. Andrea Mazzucchi, senior IT leader and systems analyst at the Linguistics Consortium at the University of Pennsylvania, said his group began using iSN on an appliance in early 2009 to migrate data from legacy storage systems. He said he has ordered two 50 TB AssuredUVS appliances from Dot Hill and is considering adding another virtual storage appliance system for a disaster recovery site because his storage needs are rapidly expanding.

Mazzucchi said iSN let his group do a phased migration of about 150 TB of storage from legacy Sun and other storage systems. He said his group relied on grants and bought commodity storage in small increments instead of acquiring a large SAN.

"Replacing everything at once wasn't an option," he said. "We were looking for something to let us gradually introduce modern technology. With iSN, when I accumulate funds for different projects, there are no constraints as to what storage I put on the back end. I have the freedom to choose whatever storage I want."

He said iSN lets him move volumes across tiers and quickly provision storage. Because the Linguistics Consortium stores data for many group projects, the virtualization capabilities let it separate different teams' data and bill them separately.

"We can now deploy storage as a service," Mazzucchi said. "I can sell disk space to users. I charge them up front for a year, and after a year they can ask for archival tier or remain online if the project is still active. In the past with everybody swimming in the same pool, there was no clear division between different projects, and it was hard to tell a project manager what storage was for that project."

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