To buy or not to buy

By | April 23, 2007

Amid rumours Ive read regarding HP and Hitachi Japan apparently smoothing out previous licensing issues that had supposedly caused HP to be less competitive than HDS when selling Hitachi storage – Ive been thinking again about the advantages of specialisation versus doing a bit of everything. 

On the one side are the specialists.  These are the guys who direct all of their time talents and energy, or at least most of it, into being the very best at that what “they do”.  And with that often comes a reputation that can at times be a valuable asset.  I would list HDS and EMC as two examples of successful specialists (I know there are others and I know EMC have branched out a lot more these days).  If you mention these two names to anybody worth their salt in IT, they will tell you that these are the people you go to when you want expensive, I mean reliable, high-end disk storage. 

Then on the other side you have the guys who don’t specialise in any one area, they just kind of do a bit of everything.  I think it’s fair to say that HP and IBM could fit into this category.  If you ask somebody “what do HP do” you’d almost certainly get a large variation of answers with the usual “printers” and ”condiments” (including a particularly fine brown sauce if I say so myself).

In the past, this has often been reflected by the fact that most of the HP storage engineers Ive worked with were actually HP-UX or ServiceGuard specialists who dablled a little in XP storage.  All top guys and no doubt insanely good with HP-UX and ServiceGuard but just not quite your “mad” passionate storage person you would expect from HDS and EMC.  And we all know that “mad” is a fundamental part of being a top storage pro 😉 

So, why am I bringing this up again?  Well assuming that HP do get more competitive with the pricing of XP storage, what will be the advantages of buying from HDS rather than HP?  We all know that HP can offer a lot of bolt-on wares under the same badge, and if they have the same badge they must work well together – right!?!?  So Im wondering if its time for more HDS/Hitachi strategic acquisitions to bolster their portfolio.  I know Ive piped on about this in the past and normally I wouldn’t bother again were it not for the recent out of character acquisition of Archivas.  

At this moment in time a company that, in my opinion, should be on the acquisition radar is my old friend Commvault.  One of my reasons for thinking of Commvault is that Ive worked in a lot of environments with XP storage and very often HP have also sold and integrated Data Protector into the XP solution giving many environments with XP storage a common look and feel. 

On the other hand, sites with HDS storage tend to have a less common look and feel – you might find a bit of Commvault or a bit of Netbackup or Legato, all of which has often been recommended by HDS sales folks because of different partnerships etc.  All of which work (well, work as well as Data Protector), but to me doesn’t make as much sense as having your own product where you don’t have to rely partners who can change their friends as and when they feel. 

Now I have zero inside info, this is purely speculation.  Its just, as most will already know – HDS OEM Commvault Galaxy as Hitachi Data Protection Suite (HDPS), and I just happen to have been a Commvault user in the past and I know that it works very well on Windows (that’s the marketing name for Windoze to some of you folks out there) and like it or not Windows is a huge growth area in IT these days.  BTW you did read that last sentence right, I did say that it “works very well on Windows”……. seriously…….honestly…….this is not my poker face, this is what I look like when Im telling the truth 😉 

But as I mentioned above, I do think there are advantages to specialising.  I personally think that many of these companies who do not specialise cannot offer the same quality of service and specialisation as those who do.   So it can be a bit of a catch 22 situation.  What to do?  Well Im certainly no expert in running and merging businesses but I like what EMC did with VMware….  From what I heard (mainly from an instructor on an ESX VMware administration course a few years ago) EMC bought up VMware and for the most part just let them get on with what they were already doing so well.  With the long term plan to slowly and smoothly integrating them in with the rest of the business and product line. 

Of course there is also the added bonus that if you have bought your partners, you can sleep easy at night knowing that your competitors are not going to steal them from under your nose. 

So, my humble opinion – buy up Commvault and let them carry on the grand job they are doing and continue to slowly integrate the product with other HDS products such HPtM…….. 

Curious if anybody would have other companies and exiting partners in the crosshairs?


3 thoughts on “To buy or not to buy

  1. stephen2615

    I read with a very large grin on my face about the HP people doing storage. That is just so true, it is almost wierd. At a previous job, I found someone nosing around a XP 1024 and when I asked what he was doing, he said changing a disk. Three months later, he had done some training and now was the admin person for it. Mind you he still had no idea what he was doing and could not type in a WWN if his life depended on it. As HP was losing its HP-UX customers, he became the “pseudo” storage person. No switch experience and no idea about whether to use LUSE and should he use two ports….

    The reason we use CommVault is that it DOES work very well with Windows. But considering that HDS never seem to get their act together with decent software, I seriously doubt that they could do much with CommVault. If anyone should buy them, it should be Cisco. That way they could push Network Accelerated Serverless Backup into the SAN marketplace.

    I think HDS will never compete in the software market and this could eventually be their undoing. All the major hardware manufacturers want to be software vendors. The ones that achieve it are doing well. The ones that don’t are bound to have troubles. Take a look at SGI. A booming company in 1990 and almost non existent now. Sun are hoping to make money in software but…..

    HDS are never going to make it big selling HSSM.


  2. Nigel

    Hi Stephen – thanks for your comments.

    I would kind of hope that HDS would leave the Commvault guys alone other than to ask for their help integrating the tool with other HDS tools such as Protection Manager and HBSM…….. May be they could could pick up a few tips in writing good software as well.

    I do hear what your saying about Hitachi not quite getting it right with their software. I suppose in some ways its similar to why HP are not as good at storage – HDS are storage people trying to do software much the same as HP are printer and brown sauce people trying to do storage 😉

    From what I see and hear these days though, Hitachi seem to be trying to get their act otgether with their software. Im not sure how tings are in your corner of the world but in mine there has been a big push to bring the software development guys closer to the customers and the rest of the world – instead of them being sat in dark rooms with little contact with the real world. For instance there are people from the software development teams travelling around looking at real customer isntalls and seeing first hand where the products fall short and taking real life input and feeding it back to the people who write the stuff.

    I think some recent software releases have been big improvements but there is still a very long way to go.

  3. RacaSAN

    I guess that I heard that Microsoft owns a big chunk of CommVault and that this is behind the reason for such great integration with Windows OS and Apps as they have good realationships and clear communication between the development teams.

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