Are SUN to end Hitachi Data Systems OEM Relationship?

On January 26th just prior to the official announcement of Oracle’s takeover of SUN Microsystems, I confidently predicted in my article “SUN’s Oracle Merger” with regards to SUN’s storage portfolio that “One certainty is that the OEM partnership with HDS’ enterprise arrays will continue.” Perhaps it’s time to eat some humble pie. If current indications are anything to go by, it’s more than likely that the SUN agreement of reselling HDS Enterprise Storage may be coming to an abrupt end.

Oracle clearly have a different business approach to their customers than SUN Microsystems did, and that includes dealing with Hitachi Data Systems. Admittedly I‘ve never been a great fan of SUN’s storage systems, often finding them to be the epitome of a server company that builds storage i.e. a box with lots of disks and sparse in-built intelligence. But with the recent launch of the 7000 series (which still may come under scrutiny by NetApp considering it’s more than coincidental similarities) and the intelligent storage systems built by Larry Ellison’s other plaything Pillar Data Systems, their modular market is now pretty well covered. How Oracle/SUN could plan to cover the gap that will be left from a potential removal of the USPV / USPVM (ST9990V /ST9985V) could lie with the approach shown with the recent Exadata V2. Oracle databases that are directly attached to boxes chocked full of flash drives may well be the answer Oracle/ SUN will be offering to get themselves free from the entanglement of Enterprise storage vendors.

While there seems to be a game plan of some sort in the Oracle/SUN camp, if this supposition were to come true it will have major implications on Hitachi Data Systems and their next steps forward. Personally I’m happy if this will happen as it may at last be the kick up the ‘Back End Director’ that HDS need to finally start marketing and addressing a customer base, certainly within the EMEA region that is still oblivious to its existence. I’ve often shown my frustration at HDS and their inability and lack of drive to push forward their brand and products to consumers who have settled for inferior products from other vendors that were merely marketed better. Resting on the laurels that HP and SUN were rebadging and reselling their Enterprise Systems and doing all the hard work for them, the downside was that HDS’ cross bar architecture storage systems and virtualization technology were firmly placed in thousands of datacenters, unbeknownst to the IT Directors that bought them. Another issue was that unlike the SUN relationship in which only the colour of the doors and the SUN badge changed, HP buy HDS Enterprise Storage Systems and actually change the microcode making them more ‘HP’ than ‘HDS’. So a true untainted HDS USPV could now potentially only be purchased from Hitachi Data Systems themselves. This could be the beginning of a HDS revolution or a slow withering death of sales.

But I’m confident if the leadership at HDS takes the right steps and investment, this could finally be the key to a future market share they have been lacking in. There is no doubting the quality of the HDS Enterprise range from the still reliant cross bar architecture and vIrtualisation through the array USPV systems. Hence maintaining those sales and support deals with existent SUN customers may not be such a great overhaul especially with an updated USPV on the horizon. Where the real challenge lies is drawing customers to the equally good modular AMS and WMS range which are rarely found in Datacenters yet alone virtualized behind their own Enterprise Storage Systems. Also the HNAS range made by BlueArc are also a range to be reckoned with but are hardly making NetApp sales guys break a sweat as potential customers are often unaware of their existence. Plus all the latest initiatives which HDS have taken such as High Availability Manager, IT Operations Analyzer, or the Hitachi Content Archive platform HCP, as excellent as they are, are still not making the waves and marketing noise their credentials deserve.

So in a twist of fate, should the continuation of the SUN OEM relationship fall through, Hitachi Data Systems may be forced into being the marketing machine it up to now has shied away from in order to maintain and advance its presence in the industry. The positive thing is that the products are and always have been good enough – now it’s time for the marketing guys to promote it.