How The BlueArc Acquisition Tightens HDS' Storage Strategy

On the one hand, the recent acquisition by HDS of BlueArc simply affirmed the symbiotic relationship that the two companies have. But in another sense, it represents tighter integration, such as for product development plans and resources allocated to their implementation, as a key piece of HDS' greater storage strategy. And understanding that strategy will hopefully shed some light on where the storage industry is going as a whole.

David Hill

October 3, 2011

4 Min Read
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On the one hand, the recent acquisition by Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) of BlueArc simply affirmed the symbiotic relationship that the two companies have. HDS is dependent upon BlueArc for its NAS products, and BlueArc, to a significant extent, is dependent upon HDS for its revenues. But in another sense, it represents tighter integration, such as for product development plans and resources allocated to their implementation, as a key piece of HDS' greater storage strategy. And understanding that strategy will hopefully shed some light on where the storage industry is going as a whole.

All IT vendors are involved in the great IT transformation that is taking place across information infrastructure, applications development and end user computing. The broad outline of where all this will lead is known: IT will become a true service. Moreover, storage will be key in this transformation due to its invaluable role as the home of data. Virtually everyone recognizes that the uncontained explosion of data that will continue during the next decade or more is one of the major driving factors of this transformation. Plus, business as usual cannot succeed due to its inability to extract the most value from data as information, severely impeding end users with high costs for information acquisition, storage and management.

But there are many roads on the journey to the promised land of IT as a service. Unfortunately, there are no completely clear maps of what to expect on each road. However, each vendor is trying to describe the journey. Understanding the different stories from not only HDS but from other key players in the IT industry--including (but not limited to) such companies as Cisco, Dell, EMC, HP, IBM, NetApp, and Oracle--is essential so that IT organizations can get a better sense of what is happening in the transformation and how they can deal with it. However, today our attention is on HDS.

HDS certainly has a story to tell, both internally to focus its own internal efforts as well as externally to differentiate itself for its customers, on the subject. The company willingly embraces the cloud technologies that lead directly to IT as a service, but it does not do so as private, public and hybrid clouds. That distinction is useful for where the cloud resides in an enterprise, but it does not describe what the cloud will contain and how to get to it. Instead, HDS describes three layers of the cloud that build on one another, all of them leveraging critical virtualization technologies:

  • 1. Infrastructure Cloud: This is the foundation layer and the home for data, storage, file, server and network virtualization. Key to what this layer provides is data center convergence, including integrated management. The end result can be called infrastructure or platform as a service (IaaS or PaaS).

  • 2. Content Cloud: Leveraging content virtualization, this layer’s capabilities include search, discovery and repurposing of content of every sort, with the end goal of enabling content-on-demand and archiving-as-a service.

  • 3. Information Cloud: HDS views this layer as one that integrates information virtualization with analytics to provide core customer benefits. This is the layer that deals with business intelligence and big data.

    HDS considers BlueArc to be a key link between the infrastructure and content clouds. Note that the company recognizes that its strengths lie in the infrastructure cloud, but that it also has to be able to provide products and services in the content and information cloud where it is currently not as strong. That recognition is frankly very refreshing. Too many vendors are in a state of denial about the depth of their current products for particular areas and the potential damage those shortcomings will do to their longer-term aspirations.

    In contrast, HDS realizes that it doesn’t have to do everything today--that there is time to develop products internally in some cases, to partner in other cases and to acquire selectively to fill out its product portfolio. HDS has acquired other companies in the past several years--for example, Parascale not that long ago and Archivas several years ago--and BlueArc is simply the latest. Obviously, HDS cannot reveal all its plans, but it would seem likely that it already has some good ideas about how it will flesh out key areas in its portfolio.

    The HDS acquisition of BlueArc was not surprising because the two companies have long had a close working relationship, and each needs what the other has to offer. The important thing is that it is another step in reaffirming the HDS storage strategy around a broad-based view of what virtualization can do and where it believes the cloud is headed. The end result is that HDS has a clear vision of the future and how it can continue to be successful there.

    HDS and BlueArc customers should be happy that the deal has been consummated. For example, HDS can add financial muscle to BlueArc that can help BlueArc flesh out its roadmap more quickly. Therefore, existing BlueArc customers know that they have not only investment protection, but that the BlueArc product set will continue to evolve to meet new business requirements.

    At the time of publication HDS is not a client of David Hill and the Mesabi Group.

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