The week before last, HDS held its "Influencer Summit"—while one has to love the clarity of the name (talking to a room and web populated by various industry watchers), what soon became obvious was that the "influencer" was HDS itself, more than the audience! I’m writing a while after the event for a couple of reasons—one is that in the meantime, I was at a Dell event (more on that, including some video, next week); and second, more importantly, is the fact that occasionally I want to ensure I am not “BUI” (“Blogging Under the Influence”) and so the passage of a little time is a good thing.
In this case, my retrospective view has remained pretty much in line with the Kool Aid in the room at the time. One always wonders what the strategic directions for certain vendors are….and HDS has now laid its mid-to-longer range intentions out very clearly. What makes it interesting—and differentiated—is that it is categorically not just about doing the same thing more and better than it has to date.
In essence, it’s about HDS embracing and optimizing the fact that it is a part of the "greater ($118BN revenues) Hitachi." In clear terms, Jack Domme laid out what the HDS part of the conglomerate means by "Innovate with Information"; and, put simply, it’s another "I" word: "integrate." HDS is seeking to be a part of the glue that brings together many of Hitachi’s vertical capabilities into overall solutions. Whether it’s "big data" per se (for many verticals, and it’s an IT-centric view) or, more precisely, whether it’s about "Big Hybrid Train Systems" or "Big Proton Beam Therapy Solutions" or "Big Power Plants" etc etc, HDS will be seeking to be an integral part of these overall "Big Hitachi" offerings. Put differently, this is not about how a storage or IT vendor serves a vertical market….instead, Hitachi IS supplying the whole vertical solution—from massive Earth moving machinery to the VM’s that run the soils QA and the e-mail systems; from the face-recognition software and camera systems to the cloud links and big data/analytics that work with cloud infrastructures to enhance safety and security on a global, integrated scale. It’s not about an IT stack (however complete and wonderful) sold into a vertical….it’s about "big" Hitachi serving/selling an entire vertical (business) "stack."
There were no specific products, but it didn’t play like dream-ware either. I’m not sufficiently "up" on Japanese business semantics to know whether Hitachi strictly counts as one of the "sogo shosha" (which roughly means "general trading companies," a style of all-encompassing business endeavor), but it certainly has a wide reach and broad capabilities. The fact that HDS (and indeed many Hitachi subsidiaries) has—until now—operated as an independent body can be played as ensuring focus, but—in an ever-more-integrated world—can also be seen as sub-optimization of assets and capabilities. Few organizations—and even fewer that would be regarded at HDS’s storage and IT competitors today—can play in this kind of league. Conceptually, therefore, it makes great business sense.
Naturally, HDS didn’t waste a good opportunity to share examples of the more expected and pragmatic good news one expects at these sorts of events: Even today, the HDS revenue run-rate is over $4BN and roughly half of that is from software and services; it has shipped some 22,000 virtualized storage management systems and can be found in 75% of the Fortune 100 and 79% of the Global 100.
All impressive stuff to be sure….but the "influence" that hasn’t worn off for me in the last week or two is about the future strategic direction of the company. Of course, any directional change like this takes time and has risks—HDS certainly doesn’t want to alienate any of its "good-old-plain-old-great-quality" storage buyers as this move happens (even $100BN companies have limits on their resources!), nor should it adopt too narrow of a vision of what constitutes big data (doing so could cut its corporate nose to spite its face).
But, on balance and as long as HDS can walk something of a business-tightrope for a few years, this looks like a play that has merit and it feels to have a decent chance of success. Who knew Kool Aid could be so intoxicating!