HDS – Big Iron or Little Iron?

By | October 23, 2006

Just noticed this yesterday (Ive been away for a little while) has anybody else noticed the change of company logo/branding for HDS? 

The official line from the link on the HDS website is that due to “….an era of mega-competition…” the move is to “…more clearly reflect our alignment with the global presence and reputation of Hitachi, Ltd..”  Looks to me like the storm is raging in the storage vendor world and HDS is moving further under the wing of its big brother Hitachi Ltd

Well at least that’s how the information on the HDS website reads to me.

A while ago in in my post “Big Blue…..Big Borg! ” I blogged about how other “big iron” vendors were either already huge monoliths or were acquiring companies at a rate of “fifty to the dozen” and would soon become huge monoliths (I believe that EMC has acquired 23 companies in the last 2-3 years).  Then of course there was little old HDS who were deciding to “partner” with other companies rather than swallow them up and become a monolith like the rest.  I remember wondering at the time how HDS would survive???  So I guess it looks the top brass at HDS and Hitachi are avid readers of rupturedmonkey.com and got a little worried after reading my post and decided to bring HDS in a little closer to keep them competetive – errrr well may be Im going a little too far here Wink

I must confess, however, to wondering what this means for the future of HDS?  Is this simply a logo change or is it the start of something else?

Having worked for HDS, HP and IBM (the latter two as a contractor) as well as being a customer of each, I feel I have some feel as to the pros and cons of each of these so called “big iron” vendors.  In my honest opinion I have always preferred HDS over the other two because of the small feel to the company and the fact that it wasn’t as riddled with politics, red tape, inter-departmental cross charges …….. and all the other things that are part and parcel of being a massive organisation. 

Don’t get me wrong, HDS had many of these woes as well, just on a far smaller scale.  The nuts and bolts of it for me being that at HDS it was relatively easy to speak to the right person, be they an engineer, architect or manager…. All of which makes them, as a company, more enjoyable and easy to work for AND with.  Whereas at the other of the two companies it was often like pulling your own teeth out when trying to find the right person to speak to – not too different to calling your bank, getting the automated phone service and being presented with 20 different options none of  which suit your request, then sitting on hold for an age, finally getting through to someone only for them to tell you that you’ve come through to the wrong department and …….. as always, they cant transfer you and give you another number to call to start the process all over again.

I remember when Compaq were bought by HP, all of the PS guys and engineers of a particular Compaq partner who I knew complained that after the takeover/merger, whatever you want to call it, they all complained about how different things became.  You could no longer speak to a guy at the factory, or a firmware engineer about a problem you were experiencing.  Suddenly you were only allowed to call in to a call centre and open a ticket and then wait.

Of course the engineers et al were still the same (other than the those who were laid off as part of the merger), they were just suddenly hit with corporate red tape, structures and channels through which to speak with their customers…..  On that note I must also mention that although I preferred HDS to both HP and IBM, the engineers and people I worked with at all 3 companies were top notch, it was just the fact that HDS was far more nimble as an organisation. 

Of course being the smaller and more nimble also has its draw-backs – in Europe at least, there was a distinct lack of resources at times; people and testing labs spring to mind immediately.  HP and IBM usually had far more of these it just took you an age to find them, the people at least.  I also notice that there usually appear to be far more white papers and technical resources available  to the public from HP and IBM. 

I always think that the banter between the likes of HDS and HP staff is good – if you talk to HDS, they tell yo uthat "HP just rebadge OUR boxes, take the doors off and its one of OUR boxes behind the grill".  Then if you talk to HP guys, they tell you that "HDS are nothing more than a sales channel for Hitachi but without financial and professional services resources of a company like HP".  Always good for a laugh but a bit of truth in both comments I think.  In fact I have a couple of funny stories about these conversations that I will blog about some time – watch this space.

So is this rebranding move by HDS the start of the company being swallowed up in the mega-company that Hitachi is?  Will they become Will HDS lose their appeal of being the “little iron” of the “big iron” vendors out there?

Thoughts welcome.


6 thoughts on “HDS – Big Iron or Little Iron?

  1. Dimitri Chernyshov

    For twenty years I worked for little companies and I too felt they were more exciting, more nimble, more innovative and especially, were more able to provide personalized and truly ‘caring’ service to their customers. But since working for IBM over the last six years (I was part of an acquisition of one of those smaller companies), I’ve realized this slowing down, lack of innovation, and impersonal customer experience are simply something that happens when too many people are grouped together into these large organizations. It’s now happened with EMC, if HDS or any other storage company ever gets big enough it will happen there too.

    My take on this is . . . with small companies, as an individual you have nowhere to hide. If you’re not doing the job, it’s fairly evident fairly quickly. Consequently you either have to carry your load or quickly be ID’d as a slacker and let go at the first drop in profits.

    In big companies (or organizations of any type – government, military, the web) it’s fairly easy to hide out (lurk) and just slip by on the minimum effort required for quite a long time. Get a large enough group of people together in a profitable-enough market niche and the pace of the entire organization slows down. Within a year or two, the most frantic of entrepreneurs can’t help but relax a bit and finally feel like they’re not being chased. Been there. Felt that.

    I don’t know what the number is, but somewhere above a few hundred people, either more strict business processes have to be put into place (or someone ‘thinks’ those processes must be put into place) to . . . ensure repeatability? . . . reduce redundancy? . . . control costs? . . . motivate activity?

    It sure would be interesting to discover the largest organizations in the world with the least internal processes and compare them to our ‘monoliths’. Last week I was walking in Manhattan watching the city re-supply itself for another day and thought “there is no way you could run this city via top-down management”. I wonder if any organization (besides Lincoln Electric Company) has ever made a successful try at self-organization via a free-market model? How many process controls are too many?

    Years ago I read of some American company that splits off a new sub-company everytime they exceed about 250 employees. The idea is that with more people to work with than that number, any individual starts to feel like they’re out-of-the-loop (and I’d guess could start to ‘hide’ from their responsibilities). I wonder if they’re still in business.

  2. mackem

    Dimitri I think I agree with your points. Your comments reminded me that I also think that staff at smaller companies are generally more loyal and passionate about their company. When you work for a bigger company you often become more of just a number on the HR system and dont feel like your work makes a difference to the company.

  3. Dimitri Chernyshov

    Whether they say it or not, to some degree or another, everyone wants to “stick it to the man”. In my experience, even the people that seem to BE ‘the man’ want to stick it to him every now and then. It’s easy to fool ourselves that big companies are “the man”. 99.9% of IBMers will never meet Sam Palmisano, so it’s easy for us to consider him “the man”. But when the president of the company you work for eats lunch with you and talks to you a couple times a week, it’s a lot harder to “stick it to him”. It must have been the hundreds of thousands of years of living in little tribes that hard-wired us this way. Another one of those adaptations that probably isn’t so good for us anymore.

  4. Jeremiah Owyang


    Insightful as always, thanks for checking out hds.com. Yup we’re undergoing some improvements as always. Yes, quite a few people at HDS do read rupturedmonkey as well as other blogs, forums in the industry. Your opinion of course is important to us.

    Jeremiah, Community Manager, HDS

  5. Hubert Yoshida

    Hello Markem. Great discussion. the comments by Dimitri, reflects a lot of why I work at HDS. It is a smaller company, about 3,000. It is small enough for people to know each other, be accountable, and be recognized.

    Yes we are changing our branding to show the alignment that already exists between HDS and our parent company Hitachi. When most people hear Hitachi, they think of HDTV’s, construction machines or consumer goods. We would like them to think about data storage when they hear or see our branding. From a practical standpoint, it reduces our marketing costs by leveraging the corporate branding.

    No we do not aspire to be a large HDS monolith, or go on an acquisition binge. While Hitachi is one of the largest companies in the world, it operates as many smaller companies. As a small company we concentrate on our core competance, storage and data products and services. We draw on the R&D of Hitachi’s research labs for the base of our core compentence, and we leverage the competancies of others through collaboration to build and deliver solutions for our customers.

    Mark Lewis in his recent blog posts, has been referring to Friedman’s new book, “the World is Flat”. One of the rules that Friedman gives for corporate survival in a “Flat World” is to collaborate around your core competance, rather than seeking to own or acquire. That pretty much reflects our approach.

    We recognize that there are areas where we need to add headcount and new skills as the business of storage and data evolves, and we are doing so, but by and large we will stick to our business model. We would like to be a “Big Iron” while continuing to executing as a “Small Iron”

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