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HDS storage 'freezing' really a focus on future

There has been some noise in the storage space lately, based on the English translation of a Japanese IT website that said Hitachi Data Systems was “freezing” investment in its high-end storage products. Lost in this declaration is that HDS gets it that arrays alone aren’t the future of enterprise storage.

On June 1, the site IT Pro Nikkei published a report based on an HDS briefing that said the vendor would be “freezing the investment in the high-end model of the storage business.” That led media sites and competitors to speculate that perhaps HDS was going to let its high-end storage business languish and die.

HDS has been quick to deny it will exit the high-end storage market. But the strategy outlined in the IT Pro Nikkei story is not new or surprising. High-end enterprise disk arrays are far from a growth market in this age of flash, cloud, hyper-convergence and software-defined storage.

HDS CTO Hu Yoshida revealed the vendor’s new strategy in a January interview on our SearchStorage site with senior writer Carol Sliwa.

In that interview, Yoshida said, right out of the gate “The infrastructure market is not going to be a growth market. Instead of trying to compete on infrastructure, we’re going to have to compete on application enablement.” Translation: HDS’ new Lumada line for handling data from IoT sources, based on the Pentaho IoT data analytics technology HDS acquired in 2015, will play a major role in the company’s future.

Yoshida specifically calls out IoT as a vital component of the future of HDS. “We have an overall corporate strategy with Hitachi, called Social Innovation, where we are moving toward the Internet of Things (IoT), trying to build smart cities and provide more insights into data centers, telco [and] automotive,” he said.

IoT was also a big topic at the HDS Connect partner conference a year ago.

On his own blog, Hu’s Place, Yoshida this week clarified what “freezing” investment in high-end storage means for HDS. He wrote that hardware investments in the flagship high-end HDS hard disk drive arrays are no longer necessary due to the ability to use standard Intel processors and flash for performance, with storage features running in software.  HDS will shift research and development from its Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) hardware to Storage Virtualization Operating System (SVOS), flash and storage automation.

“There is no need to build separate hardware for midrange and enterprise customers,” Yohsida wrote. “They all have access to enterprise functionality and services like virtualization of external storage systems for consolidation and migration, high availability with Global-Active Device, and geo-replication with Universal Replicator.”

In April HDS added to SVOS what it apparently considers to be the last hardware  puzzle piece, building NAS functionality (or, as Yoshida described it “embedded file support in our block storage”) into its G series of hybrid flash  arrays.

So the upshot is, HDS will invest in making SVOS and VSP perform better for specific applications, like IoT data storage and analytics. That sounds much less like the sky is falling on HDS, and a lot more like a strategic investment in what it sees as the future in which application integration rather than storage features becomes the major differentiator between storage vendors.