Performance, Interface Flexibility and Encryption in Mid-range Array

In a recent Storage Switzerland write up, “Is Real-time Tiering the Next Big Thing in Storage?”, we explored Dot Hill’s AssuredSAN Pro 5000 disk array systems and their interesting data tiering technology. Dot Hill is a disk array manufacturer that’s been primarily an OEM supplier to many well-known server vendors, building an installed base of 600,000+ systems over the past 29 years. Now they are increasing their attention in specific end-user vertical markets like Media and Entertainment, Telecom, Big Data Analytics, Digital Imaging, and the Energy sector.

Dot Hill’s most recent product is the AssuredSAN 4004. These arrays are optimized for high performance applications with 16Gb Fibre Channel (FC), 10Gb iSCSI and 12Gb SAS connectivity. In use cases targeted for this product such as streaming video, High Performance Computing (HPC), Oil and Gas, etc, SAS enables direct attached (DAS) configurations where storage is dedicated to one or a small cluster of servers. It also supports SAS switches, offering a cost-effective shared storage alternative to FC SANs in certain environments.

According to Dot Hill, the message for this new product is “more”. It has more performance, more flexibility and more features than their previous generation product (the 4000 series) – and more than what other mid-market storage systems are offering.


The AssuredSAN 4004 leverages a standard 2U chassis form-factor with each providing up to 48TB of raw capacity. Using its maximum of seven expansion modules the 4004 system can be connected in a scale-up configuration to provide 384TB of total raw storage capacity. Performance for the systems is also impressive at 6400 MB/s reads, 5300 MB/s writes and 100,000 IOPS (650,000 IOPS from cache).


Modules can support either 12 x 3.5” disk drives or 24 x 2.5” disk drives or SSDs. With high drive count (up to 192 per system) and high capacity options (up to 4TB 3.5” drives), the 4004 array enables users to build configurations that match whatever workloads they have, or will have.

The dual controller system also supports three different client interfaces of 8 x 12Gb/s SAS, 8 x 16Gb/s Fibre Channel (FC) or 8 x 10Gb/s iSCSI. It also supports a ‘hybrid’ configuration of 4 x iSCSI and 4 x FC. Most importantly these interfaces can be changed out as the needs of the environment evolve. For example, a data center can start with SAS today for high performance and low cost and then switch to fibre channel for increased scalability.


The AssuredSAN 4004 encrypts data at the disk drive itself, with keys maintained in the array controller. This full drive encryption allows drives to be pulled out of the array without any concern for data exposure, since the key is not on the drive. Also, there’s no performance impact to the encryption process since it happens in hardware on the drive instead of in software on the array controller or the client.


Like all Dot Hill systems, the 4004 series is designed with enterprise-grade components and no single points of failure. As a long-time disk array manufacturer (the company has over 125,000 systems under maintenance contracts), Dot Hill can use real-world data to compile their reliability specs. By collecting information from systems in the field they can get an extremely accurate picture of how their products are operating in customer environments. This data can then be used to create reliability numbers that are based on real-world uptime, not on a statistical model as many newer vendors do.

Storage Swiss Take

Even with all the hype around software-based storage solutions and commodity components, hardware does matter. Companies still need reliable, cost-effective shared storage arrays to support their exploding data sets, be it big data, big virtualization or anything else that seems to be getting bigger. By combining three decades of experience building disk arrays (this is their 9th generation RAID technology) with some innovative features like full drive encryption and 12Gb SAS connectivity, Dot Hill has created a very interesting line of storage systems. When you compare their performance, feature set and cost with what’s available on the market, these products are well worth consideration.

Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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One comment on “Performance, Interface Flexibility and Encryption in Mid-range Array
  1. […] similar example of this shared DAS concept is with LSI partner Dot Hill. Their AssuredSAN 4004 allows four servers to redundantly direct connect to the same array using 12Gb SAS. This way a […]

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