Just this past week, HDS announced its new 'Hitachi Unified Storage' or HUS for short. That's HUS, not Hu's by the way- it's not that Hu Yoshida, HDS's long term CTO, is now having products named after him! I think...!?
Anyhow, if you missed the news, this is the result (or at least the progeny) of HDS looking at the likely recipe for success in storage, and then looking in its R+D kitchen and realizing that it had all the ingredients to make a truly impressive 'unified cake' (its regular HDS block expertise, plus file ability from the recent acquisition of long-term partner Blue Arc, and its HCP offering for the object storage flavor). It was also able to come up with the requisite 'icing on the top' by making it all managed as one under a single framework (Hitachi Command Suite).
Just to extend the cake analogy for a moment, each diner can pretty much get the flavor they want, and there can be nearly 3 peta-bites (geddit?!) to share. Enough with the food comparisons. HUS is pretty deep on features (a few things - dynamic tiering, better remote replication for instance - are still 'en route'), while of course the quality can be expected to be at the usual impressive Hitachi levels, the pricing is more aggressive than with the preceding AMS (which might help to mitigate the oft-expressed user perception that 'I'd love to buy HDS...I just can't afford it'), and there's still the option to virtualize other vendors' storage behind the VSP product.
So what are my unified thoughts, now that there's been time to digest the news?
- Lets face it, there's a logic and an intuitive appeal to unified storage - not to mention plenty of industry hype around it over recent years, especially as the concepts of convergence and virtualization take hold; ESG's research shows users agree and are indeed adopting the unified approach. So HDS is definitely in the right ballpark.
- Beyond the precise category, in general, users appreciate good quality, easily scalable, well featured storage at a decent price. Check.
- Something that HDS has had for a time, but that doesn't seem as well known as it should be, is the ability to search across multiple platforms and data types. This is good for enhancing the business value of corporate data as well as for compliance. And of course it is a perfect fit with HUS.
- If column inches and media noise are any guide, then 2012 looks to be the year of object storage. And HUS can play in that too of course. However, often the expected higher-end use for object storage is as the repository for long term data archive and re-use; whether the object capabilities of HUS are right-sized (in other words, big enough) for such a use-case - even in the mid-range - remains to be seen....but it might explain why HDS is being aggressive on price and why it has already flagged even higher capacities for the system.
- Assuming it's bullet-proof technically (and its pedigree would suggest so) and stays without a premium in terms of its street price (perfectly do-able if HDS wants to), then the main challenge will be from a g0-to-market perspective and not the product; while HDS is clearly perceived as a top-notch high-end supplier, it continues to need more visibility, consideration and channel presence before it can claim a true leadership position in the midrange market.
However, with all that said, HUS looks sufficiently flexible, orchestrated, and differentiated to enable HDS to make a real play, as long as it puts the requisite focus and marketing efforts behind it. It looks to have all the right ingredients - and, after all, who doesn't want to be able to have their cake (well Hitachi's actually!) and eat it too?
You can read Mark's other blog entries at The Business of Storage.