Supermicro's Custom Storage Play

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Supermicro, the company most known as one of the top providers of servers and motherboards to the custom system market, is also on the way to becoming a major supplier of products to those looking to custom build storage devices.

Storage already accounts for over 10 percent of Supermicro's revenue and is one of its fastest-growing product lines, said Charles Liang, president, CEO and chairman of the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

Supermicro's goal is to be a first-to-market supplier of new storage technology in much the same way it has been for the server business, Liang said.

"Storage this year to us should be a very hot product line," he said.

For instance, he cited the company's upcoming availability of its SC937 storage appliance based on the specifications of the Storage Bridge Bay Working Group.

The Storage Bridge Bay specification provides the mechanical, electrical and low-level enclosure management requirements that lets any storage controller based on the SBB specification work within any SBB storage enclosure. Liang said that Supermicro's implementation of
SBB will allow two processors per storage node, compared to the uniprocessor specification of the SBB Working Group.

Supermicro is also selling its SC847, which it calls the "Double-Sided." The 4U rack-mount enclosure allows hot-swap hard drives to be inserted both from the front and the back, giving it a total capacity of 45 3.5-inch hard drives, Liang said.

Supermicro was also the first to introduce power supplies meeting the platinum-level specification of the 80 Plus organization, which specifies power supplies that offer 94 percent efficiency at 50 percent workloads, Liang said.

Such technologies allow Supermicro's custom system customers to build storage products to differentiate themselves from more mainstream storage suppliers such as EMC, NetApp, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Dell, said Don Clegg, vice president of marketing and business development for the vendor.

Supermicro uses the same channels to distribute its storage technology as it does its server products. On the distribution side, the company works with Tech Data, Ingram Micro, Synnex, ASI and others.

Supermicro also works with system builders who can integrate the products themselves or contract with Supermicro. In addition, Supermicro works direct with some corporations that need solutions
optimized to their applications.

System builders who work with Supermicro have found its storage business to be just as strong as its server business.

Bold Data Technology, Fremont, Calif., uses Supermicro for its server and storage business, said Andy Kretzer, director of sales and marketing.

"Supermicro has phenomenal products," Kretzer said. "They are the first out the door with new technologies. They'll often have server motherboards with new Intel chipsets before Intel does."

Reason, a Minneapolis-based system builder, uses Supermicro's products in its storage product line as well as for designing storage into its servers, such as adding NAS, Linux or Windows Storage Server-based storage in highperformance computing, said Dominic
Daninger, vice president of engineering for Reason.

"They have a good product line across the board," Daninger said. "We have to burn them in, but they're very good in the field. They're well-designed and offer good cooling implementations."

However, according to a number of system builders, Supermicro can be difficult to work with, and generates channel conflict with its customers.

One system builder, who asked to remain anonymous, said distributors
complain that Supermicro works direct with their system builder customers. Supermicro declined to respond about potential channel conflicts.

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