Looking back on last week’s Hitachi uVALUE, Tokyo and technology

Last week, I had the privilege to attend a special series of events in Tokyo on behalf of Hitachi and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS). There were two primary objectives: receive non-disclosure information about future material from HDS and to attend the Hitachi uVALUE convention celebrating Hitachi’s 100th anniversary. Going into this event, I didn’t exactly know what to expect. I had a suspicion that due to the fact that a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that was in place, this would end up being materially different than traditional blogger events such as the Gestalt IT and HP events I have attended previously. Here is the group of bloggers, with the requisite modesty applied:

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The Japan factor also indicated it would be different as well. The NDA aspect is really like the movie Fight Club, which has the following rules:

1. You don’t talk about fight club.
2. You don’t talk about fight club.

Before I go too far along, a reminder that this event is governed by my blogger disclosure. Our agenda was pretty straight forward, shown below:

Sunday: Travel to Japan, arriving Monday afternoon due to the length of the flight. We had a group dinner that night.

Tuesday: Visit HDS facilities in Japan for fight club (you know, the NDA stuff).

Wednesday: Discuss fight club stuff. Part of this day was free time for us, which was nice.

Thursday: Attend the Hitachi uVALUE Convention in central Tokyo.|

Friday: Returned home to the US.

Based on what I have seen in the past week as well as HDS’ initial Geek Day, I like the potential. The group of people we had access to are high up the chain, informed, aware of the competition and moving in the right direction. If there was a dark horse in storage, I think the saddle says HDS.

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One of the objectives I had going into the event is to discern the relationship between Hitachi Ltd. (Hitachi Japan if you will) and HDS. Given that there are a slew of OEM storage agreements between Oracle, HP, HDS and others; it can feel like you are playing seven steps to Kevin Bacon. One thing I found very interesting was that Hitachi’s storage networking group in Japan has a number of interesting relationships that do not exclusively feature HDS products. Thumbing through the catalog, you will see it is all in Japanese but some things will stick out pretty clearly. In the storage networking catalog, the Japanese market can resell NetApp storage to customers. In my opinion, this is FUD nirvana. This is what caught my eye in the catalog:

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Not only is the Hitachi Storage Networking business in Japanese market providing HDS products, but also offering competing products that fit the best need. And this is not only to put in front of products like the USP-V to virtualize competing products, but to perform native installations. This indicates to me that, at least for the Japanese market, there is not a directive that states that the service catalog can chose any storage product – as long as it is from HDS. For those who are not new to the larger Hitachi, this should not be a surprise. I consider myself somewhat new to HDS and more so to Hitachi, so it was definitely an eye-opener. When asked about this arrangement, Christophe Bertrandwho is Sr. Director of Product Marketing for Platforms at HDS dismissed it as the right of the Japanese Hitachi to deliver what the customer wants as a full service offering.

Global conglomerate

In a way, Hitachi is a lot like a former employer of mine that functions as a big, global household name. This can be an extreme advantage in some situations. In fact, during our visit to uVALUE; we had a chance to see HDS Senior Director of Product Strategy Michael Haypresent a topic that included materials on Hitachi’s global R&D.

Michael Hay is probably the most compelling personality at HDS that we have encountered. This guy is smart, really smart. During his session, I was expecting HDS is great this and HDS is great that but that was not the case. Michael delivered a great view into the R&D aspect of managing data. In fact, a few Hitachi products are already in place piloting next generation data strategies. One of them is GazoPa,which is a search engine of images. Different than a Google Images search that relies on metadata, GazoPa analyzes the image to perform the search. Hitachi’s research is also working to automatically tag content with metadata. Meta data is truly the key to managing our exploding data footprint. Add automation into the mix, and that is a solution.

What software?

One of the sessions during Thursday’s uVALUE we had the privilege to have a briefing with Shinjiro Iwata, Corporate Vice President and Executive Officer, Chief Executive Officer of Service & Global Business, Information & Telecommunications Systems Group for Hitachi Ltd. Iwata-San also has the distinction of being CEO of HDS from 2001 to 2006, so he was a good resource for the crowd of bloggers, analysts and international press.

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During the Q&A with Iwata-San, there were frequent mentions of software on behalf of HDS and the larger Hitachi organization. This is part of a changing perception that Hitachi is a hard-goods only company. Products like GazoPa and value-added software to storage are changing the face of Hitachi in my opinion. Traditional big business is focused on unit margin for goods going out the door. Hitachi sees the value proposition by positioning the software aspect of information technology offerings as a pillar of the global conglomerate. While sure, ensuring that there are goods going out the door is important; but there is more to it according to Hitachi.

Tokyo

Wow! What a city. This does mark my first trip to Asia. Japan has become of particular interest to me recently, as approximately 20% of my followers on Twitter are from Japan. This is thanks to Jason Hiner’s 100 Technology Experts list being translated to ZDNet’s Japan site. Jason is Editor in Chief of TechRepublic, one of the publications I am happy to be a contributor.

I thoroughly enjoyed Tokyo, in every category. The food was great, Hitachi was a great host. Tokyo was a wonderful city, and I felt very safe navigating the largest city in the world. In terms of a similar-sized city, I’ve frequented São Paulo and Mexico City a number of times; and I felt more comfortable going through Tokyo on my own. Considering I speak a functional Spanish and zero Japanese, that’s a testament to the city. Secretly, I’m actually quite jealous of Michael Hay, who is stationed long term in Odawara, Japan (just South of Tokyo) for three years as part of his mission with HDS.

I took a few pictures during the week, which are a public gallery in my Facebook profile. You can see the gallery here:

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Overall on the week

The week was a good way to get a deeper view into HDS, as well as a broader look at Hitachi and their vision to the future. The NDA material will be lifted at some point, so then I can talk about fight club. But, until then we’ll have to just wait. I do again express my appreciation to the HDS team to organize the event and be available for us.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Wait a min, you said zero Japanese….

    I saw you talking to people in Japan like you knew what you were saying in Japanese….not sure if you got what they were saying….

    This makes it a 50% success story…

    Reply

  2. Ah… True true…

    I don’t count “Back of tour book translations” as language competency 🙂

    Reply

  3. Posted by Carli Ghelfi on July 27, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Rick,

    It was great to have you on board for this trip as well! Glad we were able to share some Fight Club with you, provide more insight around the HDS/Hitachi relationship and get you in the door and face-to-face with some key Hitachi executives from ITSG. I look forward to checking out your photos too; mine should be posted tonight. 🙂

    Cheers,
    Carli Ghelfi
    HDS

    Reply

  4. […] main part of this experience was a trip to Japan in July, be sure to see my notes from after the trip. This trip and others like it are governed by my official blogger disclosure statement, so be sure […]

    Reply

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