HDS and Hitachi

A while ago I posted an article demystifying the relationship between HP and Hitachi – in particular the Engineering Agreement that HP have in relation to the StorageWorks XP line of arrays.  So…. as a follow-on I thought I’d do something similar, this time on the relationship between HDS and Hitachi.

To help with this I spoke with Roberto Basilio at HDS.  Roberto heads up Product Management for Platforms and knows a thing or two about how HDS fits into the larger Hitachi organisation.  Oh and he knows plenty about the HDS product line-up too!

Urgh? HDS and Hitachi are the same company right?

Actually, they’re not!

Starting from the beginning…… Any press release or official company announcement from HDS is tagged with the following “Hitachi Data Systems Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd (NYSE: HIT) and the only provider of…So, that’s that, clear as….. mud!  Well, that’s probably unfair, but with all of the FUD and underhand comments that get spouted from the competition, one could be forgiven for thinking that HDS is some b@$tard child that Hitachi, Ltd is ashamed to own.  Others would have you believe that HDS as a mere sales division with absolutely zero influence on product development and futures.  While none of which are true, they do a pretty good job of confusing some people.

Subsidiary Family

One of the first impressions I got from speaking with Roberto was that he is not a fan of the term subsidiary.  He feels that HDS are an integral part of the larger worldwide Hitachi IT products group – a valued member of the larger tightly-knit Hitachi family.

A couple of examples of the closeness and intimacy of the relationship include the following -

1.  Minoru Kosuge, current Chairman of the Board of HDS, has previously served as division president of RSD (RAID Storage Division at Hitachi, Ltd) where he headed the development of the Universal Storage Platform (USP).

2.  Yoshinori Okami, current Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at HDS, has previously served as President of the Disk Array Systems division of Hitachi, Ltd.

According to Roberto, senior management folks moving around within the greater Hitachi IT products divisions is commonplace.

Personally I’d be willing to bet that HP, as tight as HP’s relationship is with Hitachi, Ltd is, are not as tight as with Hitachi Ltd as that.  HDS are family!

I should point out that Roberto was quick to acknowledge the value of the Hitachi and HP relationship and was in no way derogatory toward HP.  He even pointed out that Hitachi, Ltd also resell some HP products….

We’ve got more than you!

In the HP and Hitachi article, I quoted James R. Wilson, HP StorageWorks XP Disk Array PRoduct Manager “Hitachi has 6-8 engineers on site in California to work with HP's engineering teams on a continual basis…”.  On that topic, Roberto was able to confirm what I already knew – the number of Hitachi Ltd engineering type staff on site at HDS corporate offices far exceeds the 6-8 at HP! 

Roberto also confirmed that HDS staff are regularly over in Japan and that he himself had recently been over in Japan.

We designed that

Something that some of the competition would like to believe is that HDS have no involvement in product development and futures.  They would have you believe that the reason HDS don’t talk futures is because they don’t know futures.  They would have you believe that the first HDS knows of a new product is when it arrives in a large box from Japan with a note on the side saying “Unpack carefully, take photos, upload to web, start selling tomorrow”.  From what Roberto tells me, this is a long loooong way from the truth.

Taking the USP family as an example…. While it is true that the hardware development is done in Japan, HDS have been directly responsible for the design of some of the most important and well known USP features including the following -

  • Hitachi Universal Volume Manager - Controller-based external array virtualization
  • Hitachi Dynamic Provisioning - Thin Provisioning, wide striping…..
  • Hitachi High Availability Manager – USP V Clustering

To be clear, while the above were developed by RSD in Japan, the design and requirements were lead by HDS in the US.  According to Roberto, USP V clustering was 100% driven by HDS.

Other examples of products under the remit of HDS in the US are -

  • Hitachi Storage Command Suite (oh how I wish they would stop renaming things every other week)
  • HCP (formerly HCAP). 

HCP is 100% owned and developed by HDS.

Speaking with Roberto I quickly got the picture that there is a lot of collaboration, knowledge and staff sharing between the two.  It certainly doesn’t seem like HDS are a mere sales division or disowned child!

SANRISE Universal Storage Platform

One final point.  While it is true that HDS do not sell in Japan, HDS are now responsible for worldwide marketing of the USP and AMS family of products.  What this means is that while Hitachi Ltd sell in Japan, due to cultural reasons (fair enough), they now sell disk arrays under the same marketing names as HDS.  So whether you buy your DKC610I from Hitachi in Japan or HDS anywhere else in the world, it will be called the Hitachi Universal Storage Platform V.

Previously Hitachi Ltd had marketed the RAID400, RAID500… family of arrays SANRISE 9900 etc while HDS had marketed them under the names Lightning 9900, Universal Storage Platform etc.  While there is very little in a name, the competition occasionally touted this as an example of the two companies apparently not speaking with each other ;-)  I guess we can put that one to bed now!

As well as worldwide product marketing, HDS are also responsible for worldwide product management and product requirements.  That’s a fair amount of trust and responsibility in my book.

When I asked Roberto if there were ever collaboration meetings between Hitachi Ltd, HDS AND HP…. he hesitated, laughed and left me feeling that indirectly there might be :-D

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