It’s an exciting time to be in IT. The amount of new technology that is shaking up the status quo is truly astounding.
Hyper-converged. Scale out. Software-defined. Hadoop. ServerSan. Flash.
Advances in these areas, and many others, are going to provide (and in some cases are already providing) real value for many environments. And make no mistake, Hitachi Data Systems will be participating in this market disruption in a big way.
In fact, it’s been interesting to hear some chatter in recent press and analyst articles about some of our upcoming projects, since internal programs are usually kept secret. The Register is always good for breaking such news, and while the specifics or positioning might be a bit sketchy in this particular piece, the overall sentiment is right and – as usual – it get kudos for picking up on these things.
Shebly Seyrafi, a well-known/respected IT analyst at financial firm FBN Securities also had some interesting commentary about future (though more traditional) product cycles he expects from us after speaking with our management team. His recent note talked about (in his words), “two upcoming key product cycles” that he thinks should bode well for our 2015.
I'll stay quiet on those, but we are rightly excited about what the future looks like as it pertains to new technology and deployment options and our role in helping push the envelope. But both Mr. Seyrafi’s note and some recent Gartner analysis have me thinking about an entirely different market space that we compete in.
No, it doesn’t come with the Kardashian-like break-the-internet headline generation of “the next big thing” technologies mentioned earlier, but it turns out to be quite a big thing indeed.
Yes, the often taken-for-granted corner of the storage world: mission critical, high-end storage.
The industry’s dirty little secret is that high-end storage is still a near must-have foundational element for most critical IT deployments. And it’s will likely remain so for the foreseeable future.
Interpreting this as me (and thus Hitachi) having my head in the sand, is the wrong way to read it.
We have every intention of helping disrupt the storage status quo where it makes sense. Look at our software-only object storage systems that are available today. Our backup free ROBO solutions. Our plans for EVO:RAIL. Those future products The Register has been guessing at. Etc.
However, despite all the exciting new and future options for IT, with very few exceptions the world’s critical systems run on high-end storage. And for good reason. It’s proven. It’s resilient. It performs. It can excel at doing many things at once.
In various recent meetings with customers and our sales teams, multiple stories kept reinforcing this theme for me. Two noteworthy examples were large, household-name online companies with very robust, interesting and headline-worthy IT infrastructure practices. Many types of systems are deployed in these environments (one had over 150,000 catalogued in its management systems) some of which were very much cutting-edge.
But in both cases, the real-time, critical and revenue generating systems sat upon multiple (Hitachi) high-end storage systems, many of them filled with (Hitachi) flash.
These, and other, customers know what they depend on and why.
Will that part of the infrastructure make the headlines? Nah. It’s considered yesterday’s news. Who doesn’t prefer to talk about the very cool all flash array market? It’s a fun space to track for analysts and argue about as vendors. For goodness sake, look how many blogs I have done on flash!
But looking at Gartner (and other analysts’) data, it’s clear that the high-end storage market revenue last quarter exceeded what most analysts predict the AFA market will do in all of 2015. Yeah. Whether the numbers in this quickly changing space are exactly right or not, the point is, let’s not lose sight of the value customers place on high-end systems because we are all excited about what is new.
So all that said, why would I choose to revisit this tried-and-true, but somewhat less exciting space? And, why now?
Well, Mr. Seyrafi’s note got me started. In it, he said:
“[HDS] gained share in the high-end as its VSP G1000 (which came out in April) was more fully ramped (80% of high-end volume and 50% of high-end revenue) and sales of the VSP (not the G1000) were also quite good. High-end sales were helped by the July release of Global Active Device capabilities (which allows for better disaster recovery and failover).”
The reality is that there are few credible competitors in the high-end, and yes, we also believe we took share from them. The Gartner report I mentioned earlier gives some pretty clear hints as to why.
You see, Gartner published its “Critical Capabilities for General-Purpose, High-End Storage Arrays” last week. We at HDS were eagerly awaiting this document, because in the last version (published in March 2014) the Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform received the highest Overall Score for Product Rating on Critical Capabilities, as well as the highest product scores for the Overall Use Case and each of the other use cases that were evaluated.
Since that last document was published in March 2013 (or one month BEFORE our newest, significantly upgraded high-end system, the Virtual Storage Platform G1000, was released) we had pretty high expectations for how we would fair in 2014.
Our expectations were right.
For the second consecutive year, Hitachi technology was positioned extremely well. Including the highest overall score for product rating and the highest overall score for every analyzed use-case, including consolidation, OLTP, virtualization and VDI, analytics and cloud.
**Note, that Gartner would be quick to point out that your INDIVIDUAL needs need to be checked against individual features to know what product is best for you. And they are right. As such, THIS LINK would take you to the entire document so you can better match your needs with the available systems.
**Also note, that in doing that, you may well find why the Hitachi Unified Storage VM, a system that in our view straddles high-end and mid-tier design, has become quite popular, despite a mid-pack finish in scores in this analysis. As an example, the HUS VM’s lowest rated specific capability score was for “scalability” – and when competing in the same class as a VSP G1000, then it certainly is less scalable. But, is it for YOU?
**And lastly note, while we think that Gartner does a solid job at these documents, we’d still argue certain points we think are off (including some on that HUS VM I just mentioned, and even for the VSP G1000!) as would every other vendor. But unless someone has a better option, these are the most robust comparisons we know of, though other vendors are trying to get there.
OK, with all that done, recall that I said “Hitachi technology was positioned very well” because our VSP G1000 had identical ratings to the HP XP7. For customers who want the best, it’ll be their decision if Hitachi technology from Hitachi or from HP makes more sense, and which vendor’s strategy and full portfolio aligns best with their direction for managing, virtualizing and protecting information.
The vendors that had lower ratings varied by area of analysis or use-case but were always looking up at Hitachi in the top spot.
OK, now the important question… SO WHAT?
But, that dirty little secret remains: high-end storage remains an important, trusted piece of a mission critical IT infrastructure and continues being deployed more than talked about.
It shouldn't be a secret that high-end systems are no longer a must-have for pure performance reasons, though high-end system per-array performance remains unmatched by the newcomers. Today, it’s more about consolidation. It’s about quality of service. It’s about functionality, including native data services like active/active replication that we call our global-active device function.
So I guess we can expose one other dirty little secret about the high-end storage hardware systems. It’s mostly not about the hardware at all. For all the success our VSP G1000 is seeing in the market, it owes a great deal of gratitude to its lesser known, but increasingly important software, the Hitachi Storage Virtualization Operating System.
Either way, one thing should no longer be a secret: where to go when you need the best of the best in high-end storage hardware and software capabilities.
We'll be here, ready to understand what you need to do to support your business and do our best to demonstrate how our technology can help you.