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Dot Hill - circa 2015

Delivering innovative technology and global support, Dot Hill (NASDAQ: HILL) empowers the OEM community to bring unique storage solutions to market, quickly, easily and cost-effectively. Offering high performance and industry-leading uptime, Dot Hill's RAID technology is the foundation for best-in-class storage solutions offering enterprise-class security, availability and data protection. The company's products are in use today by the world's leading service and equipment providers, common carriers, advanced technology and telecommunications companies as well as government agencies. Dot Hill solutions are certified to meet rigorous industry standards and military specifications, as well as RoHS and WEEE international environmental standards. Headquartered in Carlsbad, Calif., Dot Hill has offices and/or representatives in China, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, United Kingdom and the United States. For more information, visit us at

see also:- Dot Hill - mentions on, Dot Hill's blog, storage history

Dot Hill's acquisition by Seagate didn't come as a surprise.

Here's what I said in this column 4 years before the acquisition announcement.

"Dot Hill's IP and patent portfolio could be leveraged in the future by SSD companies which use architectural design tricks which Dot Hill invented for hard drive arrays. Who's going to do that? Whoever ends up buying the company I guess."

Scroll down to see the full text.

Who's who in SSD? - Dot Hill

by Zsolt Kerekes, editor - October 2014

For Dot Hill the transition from being a vendor of enterprise hard drive based storage to being a pure play SSD vendor still hasn't happened yet. (And it doesn't look as though that transition is imminent.)

Instead - Dot Hill has incrementally improved its technologies in the auto-tiering market in recent years with its applications-oriented real-time tieiring.

If this was 2009 - rather than 2014 - then Dot Hill would undisputedly be the market leader with this technology offering.

But instead - today it's just one of more than a hundred systems companies - competing in the same space with similar sounding core architectures and software.

And the market space for caching and tiering SAN compatible HDD arrays (a category of product under attack from pure play flash and not likely to survive long) is being ever more finely sliced into more narrowly defined segments.

For even within the market for caching and tiering HDD based SAN storage using flash - there are at least 3 major different types of solutions which users have to choose from:-
  • caching and tiering from the server - for example - as done by SanDisk.
  • caching 3rd party already installed SAN HDD storage by inserting a network caching appliance on the SAN - for example CacheIO
  • caching hard drives which appear in the same storage box as the SSDs.

    This is the approach which Dot Hill takes.

    And so too - do countless other vendors - one of whom - Tegile - was the first vendor (specializing in this category of product) to have entered the Top SSD Companies list.
With so many different platforms now available in the SAN caching / tiering market - the kind of technology which only works in a single vendor's boxes (and which doesn't have a broad ecosystem of compatible hardware) requires luck or finely tuned marketing to find the right type of customers - no matter how clever the thinking and patents behind the raw algorithms

See also:- How will the hard drive market fare... in a solid state storage world?

editor's earlier comments:- March 2011 - Dot Hill started from the merging of 2 companies which were active in selling peripherals into the Sun SPARC compatible market in the 1990s - Box Hill and Artecon.

In the 2000 to 2010 decade Dot Hill designed and supplied many RAID platforms which have were oemed (badge engineered by many companies - including Sun Microsystems (now Oracle).

Now and again - just to remind its licensees about why they're still doing business - Dot Hill issues regular press releases about its RAID patent portfolio.

Looking to the future of the enterprise storage market - past success managing arrays of hard drives counts for nothing in the SSD market.

As I discussed in previous articles - the ability to design hardware based RAID controllers will soon become worthless or obsolete. Many vendors from that market have already begun their transitions into the SSD market - some via the intermediate route of SSD ASAPs.

Although Dot Hill currently offers 3rd party SSDs as options in its storage boxes - those vanilla offerings are not a route to future business success in the rackmount SSD market.

Can Dot Hill reengineer itself as a solid state storage company? I doubt if the company has the right instincts to do that - because doing it aggressively enough would create too many conflicts with its rotating storage product lines and also put it into direct competition with many of its existing oem customers. And anything which reduces the speed of decision making in the SSD business - almost guarantees failure to be world class.

If the company sticks to what it does well - in HDD arrays - it will have a future for many years. But it will be a future in a market which will one day fall off a cliff.

On the other hand there's always the possibility that Dot Hill's IP and patent portfolio could be leveraged in the future by SSD companies which use architectural design tricks which Dot Hill invented for hard drive arrays. Who's going to do that? Whoever ends up buying the company I guess.

Later:- in August 2015 - Seagate said would acquire Dot Hill Systems for $694 million.

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"Even large consumers of storage aren't bought off yet on the idea of the all-flash data center."
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Dot Hill acquisition could reposition Seagate as one of the leading standard platforms in the highly competitive legacy enterprise hybrid storage appliance market
Editor:- August 18, 2015 - Seagate today announced it will acquire Dot Hill Systems in an all-cash transaction valued at $9.75 per share, or a total of approximately $694 million.

Editor's comments:- this is a good strategic move for Seagate which now secures an enterprise market proven hybrid storage caching and tiering technology which can be used as a framework for hybrid appliances and cloud infrastructure.

The enterprise software stack and patent IP assets from Dot Hill will enable Seagate to credibly position its SSD caching technologies as second to none in mid range traditional legacy enterprise environments.

Dot Hill's marketing had been foundering around for a few years and the company was seemingly unable to get the kind of market attention it would have got if it were offering the same technology as a startup. Part of the problem was that - as an old time company from the dotcom era - which had relied on 3rd party companies oeming its products - Dot Hill had neglected to develop the same kind of marketing charisma and brand identity as many of the newer companies which it has been competing with.

As part of Seagate - Dot Hill 's caching technology could become a viable alternative platform for integrators who want to compete with newer vendors Tegile, Nimble, NexGen and hybrids from older vendors like HP and EMC.

Dot Hill was one of the companies whose presentations included such wishful thinking powerpoints.
"compared to EMC"
the unreal positioning of AFA startups

"In theory, storage tiering always delivers excellent results, improving the performance of all applications. This is not the case in practice, however.

The biggest challenge is identifying the Hot Data to move to the SSD tier because Hot Data can be fleeting, changing by the hour or even by the minute for each application.

This challenge is exacerbated in a SAN where every application being served has its own individual and fluid set of Hot Data."
Dot Hill - Real-Time Storage Tiering for Real-World Workloads (pdf)
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"...the SSD market will be bigger in revenue than the hard drive market ever was."
How will hard drives fare in an SSD world?

"One petabyte of enterprise SSD could replace 10 to 50 petabytes of raw HDD storage in the enterprise - and still enable all the apps to run faster."
meet Ken and the SSD software event horizon