A recent article in The Register about Hitachi has been a source of interesting conversations today. Mainly those conversations have been initiated from our competitors’ sales teams to our stir up controversy with our customers. It's not a complaint, as I've been in this industry for a while and I know that's how the game works.
You see, the article in question (here) has a VERY provocative headline about how we are “freezing” high-end storage hardware investments which raised quite a few eyebrows. That’s right. “Freezing.”
To our competitors’ sales people who are pushing this conversation to customers, we say THANK YOU.
I’m THANKING them? Yes. Yes indeed.
Why would that be? Regardless of how overstated any “freeze” is (and it is overstated, more of a "shift" actually), Hitachi Data Systems is about so much more than big storage boxes and we love having yet another reason to go explain it to our customers. Our competition is providing a great excuse for us to have larger and more strategic conversations about how Hitachi can help enable digital transformation.
Oh by the way, while we’re there, we explain how far ahead we are in the high-end storage market, what advancements customers will see from us this year, and what they can expect in the flash-centric, software-defined and very “composable” world of the future. This is not a hard conversation, our high-end systems credibility is bulletproof and our portfolio all plays nicely together. (I'll touch on this some more in a bit...)
But often, that's not the most interesting conversation. Instead we engage customers in conversations about our strategy to help manage, govern, secure and analyze the waves of data that are coming at them. And we can do so with the credibility of being part of a company that not only understands the coming waves of IoT data, but one that is actually CREATING the things that make the data.
(And you, competition? What RFID chips did you help invent? Heck, we have already helped put them on bees? What medical, industrial, automotive, security, etc. things do you actually produce? But I digress...)
We can talk about how store that data, and how what once was an HDS product portfolio of a high-end storage platform and “other stuff” has been completely transformed. Our storage solutions have been transformed with a single operating system from our entry point to the mainframe for our core VSP offerings. That operating system was modified LONG AGO to optimize for flash storage media – and we build a specialized media module to create a performance consistency that most other vendors can only dream of.
We can talk about how we process that data with our Unified Compute Platform converged infrastructure solutions bring together visionary server technology and our proven storage solutions to form a business that's generating hundreds of millions of dollars for us with growth of twice that of the market rate - because our openness, reliability and automation provide significant and QUANTIFIABLY BETTER benefits. Our solutions for SAP, VMware, Microsoft, Oracle and increasingly OpenStack often sit atop these converged solutions to provide simplified, future-ready infrastructure.
We can talk about how we help govern and mobilize data with our leading portfolio of object storage solutions. Together they form a unique set solutions that are modernizing remote offices, removing backups, replacing overgrown file systems and adding critical meta-data capabilities to prepare for the deluge of machine-to-machine data that is to come. File synch and share solutions that offer massive productivity gains without the worries of public cloud data leakage complete the puzzle.
For data analytics, our new scale-out solutions offer ways to combine the scalability of a immense, easily accessible file system and the simplicity of hyper-converged infrastructure into one active data lake. Pentaho, either as a stand-alone offering of pre-loaded on that hyper-converged solution, transforms the data from production systems, data lakes and archives and provides a single view into your digital assets.
These are the kinds of solutions our customers are asking for in support of their digital transformations. And these are the conversations we are so excited to be having.
So thank you, dear competitors, for providing such a wonderful entry point to talk to our customers about our larger value proposition, and reconfirm our leadership in high-end storage - a market where neither Dell's VMAX (really?), NetApp's filers (seriously?), flash start-ups (long way to go) nor a shrinking IBM storage group (look out below!) are convincing as proper high-end alternatives.
You’ve done us a great service in accelerating our conversations around what really matters: helping power our customers’ digital transformation.
OK, I know what comes next: “He didn’t address the issue! See!! No high-end future.”
First, let’s just drop all pretense and say the things that need to be said. We are THE high-end storage leader. We ARE shifting investments. But, we are NOT going anywhere.
We are the defacto, established and largely undisputed high-end storage array systems leader. You don’t just walk away from that, it’s not even logical.
You will see new innovation from Hitachi in the high-end later this year. It will include some new hardware, that makes the fastest enterprise storage system even faster. But most of the coolness will be in software – of course. We already have Active Flash tiering that moves data in real-time, native active/active storage metro-clustering (no appliances needed), scalable replication and much, much more. We will improve our QoS and data efficiency capabilities even further this year, so stay tuned.
Second, yes, we are absolutely shifting investments over the long term. For years our strategy has been to build the best hardware on earth using custom components. Our current strategy is to build the best hardware on earth using custom components only where that custom componentry is needed or particularly value-added.
What our smaller VSP G Series systems have proven, is that we’ve successfully made the move to less (if any) custom hardware being required to provide maximum performance in our VSP controllers running SVOS. Now we’ll focus hardware customization on where it really matters… flash (like in our high-performance, auto-compressing Flash Modules), file systems (where our File Modules power VSP file access with FPGA efficiency) and unique applications like offloading database operations onto all-flash systems for enormous analytics capabilities (more on that to come…)
So our VSP G1000 customers can be comfortable with their decisions. Yes, we have new hardware coming - and you will be able to get the value from it. Yes, have new software coming - and you will be able to get the value from that too. And yes, we’ll always have your back when you need the best possible storage infrastructure available.
I’ll leave you with this… if you were the executive running Hitachi and deciding where to place your bets to best service your customers in the future, would you want us spending our R&D budget on new, custom ASICs for high-end-only hardware or on flash storage innovation, software-defined versions of our systems, hyper-converged scale-out leadership and unique, value-add specialized hardware that revolutionize things like data analytics?
I know my answer.