In many ways, Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is emblematic of a storage industry that is grappling with the need to quickly make a transition to new business models. Why? The storage industry has suddenly become a convergence zone for many of computing’s major disruptive shifts:
- From physical to virtual
- From traditional IT to cloud IT
- From siloed data to Big Data and mobility
- From rotating storage media to solid state
- From proprietary hardware-centric solutions to software defined storage on commodity and open source
EMC has dealt with these potential disruptors by federating itself into three separate business units—all of which address these disruptions in different ways. But, what of the other pure-play storage vendors like HDS and NetApp? How are they coping?
HDS is now executing its second major transformation, driven by the disruptive shifts I’ve noted above. The first came years ago when HDS dropped its line of IBM plug-compatible mainframe systems from its product portfolio to focus instead on business-critical enterprise storage systems. The move turned out to be perfectly timed and HDS went on to become a dominant force in high-end enterprise storage platforms. And while Hitachi’s closest competitors in Japan—Fujitsu and NEC—have struggled to gain even a foothold in the US enterprise storage market, Hitachi has thrived thanks to its HDS subsidiary. However, merely continuing on this course would lead to stagnation and eventual decline for HDS. It’s time to execute another transformation. Here’s what it looks like.
To begin, HDS will leverage the multiple technology strengths of its Hitachi parent that is now addressing a diverse range of opportunities globally. These include electronic sensors (think Internet of Things here), devices for generating genomics data and other clinical systems, visualization for manufacturing quality control and security, and others. HDS will offer enterprise customers’ complete solutions—infrastructure and services—to get Big Data analytics projects out of the lab experiment phase and into production by combining Hitachi expertise with HDS IT systems know-how.
To address private cloud via the converged systems opportunity, HDS continues to advance its Universal Compute Platform (UCP) which gains increasing traction. UCP configurations can be optimized by the customer for Microsoft Private Cloud, Exchange, and SQL Server; SAP HANA, Oracle DB, and VMware vSphere.
Private and hybrid cloud storage for the mobile data phenomenon will be addressed with a scalable, object-based content storage platform that can be used for file synch and share applications, private and hybrid content clouds, and as a centralized repository for remote office file shares. HDS will also continue to introduce Flash-based and other solid state storage platforms while noting that 19 PB of flash was shipped during the last fiscal quarter.
Finally, for customers looking for a virtualized and software defined storage platform, HDS now offers a software only version of its Storage Virtualization Operating System SVOS–the foundation of its high-end virtualized storage systems.
While this is only the second major transformation HDS has faced in its 25-year history, this one is by far the more challenging. First, it has to convince its present and intensely loyal enterprise storage buyers that it won’t go off chasing buzzword butterflies in a way that distracts from their core concern—the availability and integrity of their critical business data living in HDS storage systems. Second, these intensely loyal storage buyers—as valuable as they are—can’t necessarily propel them into the places where they need to go to sell Converged Systems and Big Data solutions. That will require drawing up new go-to-market strategies, calling on different buyers, and more deeply penetrating their existing customers.