Size Matters

Last week I attended HDS's Influencer Summit - which is kind of a silly name, but I suppose appropriate. It's where a company hosts those who are supposed market influencers - analysts, bloggers, etc. What's interesting is that it didn't include traditional media, who I think still have legitimate influence. Different issue.

First, on the HDS event itself, bravo. A company like HDS never gets the kudos it deserves, because of its historical conservatism. Old bastards such as myself cling to the idea of the old HDS - one who very boringly puts up consistently good numbers by selling consistently high quality kit (in consistently boring grey tones) to consistently large enterprises. Not a "bad" thing to be known as, but not even remotely close to the HDS of today.

Did you know HDS, who has had over 12 record quarters IN A ROW (and is growing faster than any other large player in the space - 20% y/y in the Americas, for example), sells only HALF of its stuff to large enterprises? The rest is small enterprise and midmarket. I didn't know, or didn't pay attention the last time they told me that. Their channel accounts for a huge percentage of revenue - also something I elected to forget.

Thus, these events are a good idea - to remind us "influencers" - legitimate or not - about what's real within a company - and to change the perception of what isn't. In that quest, I thought HDS did a great job. They need to keep doing it, lest my ADD infested mind wander off to past perceptions again, but the path is set. I also liked the fact that they had all their mucky mucks there, the entire time. No "in and out" talks. They seemed to actually care about what was going on.

Anyway, what the HDS presentations made me realize is that size really does matter. Not so much the size of the company as the size of the portfolio, at least today. HDS is part of Hitachi LTD, which just so happens to be a $118B tech powerhouse. How does that help? Well, for example, HDS built the train system in London used for the Olympics. What's the relevance? The train system uses some serious bad ass technology - like the ability to do instant analysis on data inputs from a zillion sensors in real-time. They did facial recognition system for the billion people getting on/off the trains looking for bad guys. Their trains themselves are highly automated - using thousands of sensors feeding millions of inputs a second into a real BIG DATA system keeping the trains running on time, not crashing, adjusting for weight, temperature, external conditions, etc.

The point is that when a disk subsystem maker normally talks about how great their big data story is, I yawn. HDS, in this example, brought some credibility to the story. If they can do real time analysis and automated decision making based on machine generated data (which is PILES larger than any man made data), then how can they not be smart when it comes to me making a goofy marketing query against a fairly static (albeit large) data set that has no real time significance?

Point two, of many: HDS has a huge $8B or so consumer electronics business. With the "consumerization of IT" happening at a mind blowing pace, how can that not be helpful? They understand consumerization because they are a huge player. If you only build data center switches, consumerization is a foreign as, well, Kanji.

Hitachi, at its core, develops technology. That technology is then applied to use cases, ranging from escalators to content stores, and everything in between. It's pretty amazing when you think about it.

So, in summary, HDS made me change the way I think about holistic technology implementations and the advantages a big company can have. IBM certainly has it too - but after that the list really gets short. Maybe Fujitsu or NEC. You seeing a pattern here? The big Japanese tech companies are built from a foundation of technology, which is then applied to market use cases. Most US tech companies do the exact opposite - they build products based on market use cases and develop technology to improve those outcomes. Subtle but different.

Thus, in the age of the "stack" in IT, most are building a consolidated use case model, but few can bring to bear technologies that are very far reaching. Those that can have an inherent leg up on those who can't. Those who can't may be better marketers and thus more effective in certain use cases, but for overall economic value that spans outside of that specific use case, it seems a more global technology base has a higher likelihood of longer term success.

Topics: IT Infrastructure