Delivering Value to Customers: More Than Just Hardware
by Michael Hay on Dec 13, 2010
Early in November, Ray Lucchesi from Silverton Consulting posted on his views about pure commodity hardware versus customized hardware within the storage industry. To recap his thesis in a sentence: where there is clear value and it can be solved with a platform including differentiated hardware, users aren’t shy about acquiring the solution, even if they pay a little more.
Now, I know that I’m a little late in responding to Ray’s post, but I have good reasons:
- Most importantly my wife and I just celebrated the birth of my first son Luke.
- I was just promoted both at RSD and HDS.
Reports of My Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated. I would characterize both events as reaching what I thought was the peak of a mountain only to realize it is a plateau and Everest is off in the distance. Those who are familiar with Zen would recognize this as the “gate-less gate.” Needless to say, there is a lifetime’s worth of efforts and works to tackle moving forward.
Anyway, back to the main discussion at hand. Ray’s views, and the comments to his post, mirror the discussions that I had with an EMEA technology reporter (let’s call him Mr. C), and the interchange went something like this.
- Mr. C – “How can Hitachi survive in a world where pure software on commodity hardware was going to rule the storage industry?” (as I sat across the table from him)
- Me staring at Mr. C’s iPad where he was merrily taking notes for the discussion – “Well Mr. C, with the trend in the industry being vertical integration, I think Hitachi can do more than survive but actually thrive. In fact, we are just like the company that is building their own packaging, designing their own batteries, building their own custom SoC, and maintains a curated App Store: Apple. You know the company who makes the product you are presently typing on.”
- Mr. C – “I would really hate to play squash with you.”
When people are faced with an undeniable fact, discussions often cease, as they did with this topic from Mr. C. To me, this opens an obvious question: if deploying value-based differentiated hardware is abundant in many technology segments, why are companies and industry veterans alike predicting its demise?
I would cast this as very polarizing logic coming from the vocal minority pumping up their software-only approach, because it is nearly all that they have. At Hitachi and many of the partners we work with, there are a lot of tools in our “bag of tricks.” As necessary, we can design and employ custom chassis, processors, controllers, microcode, and software. These are, of course, complemented with commodity components such as Intel processors, allowing us to make our bets on value. Basically, we can and do find the best possible tool for the job at hand making use of our culture and skills to provide our customers with realizable value.
Ray’s other major point that I want to talk about is speed. He is correct, usage of FPGAs and CPLDs in conjunction with general purpose CPUs and ASICs can yield offerings that come to market with brutal efficiency and speed. For example, today Hitachi sells HDT while competitors are fast left with a virtual product — the pun is intended. This is not the only occurrence, as a colleague of mine laments that a pure software play he championed when compared to a blended custom hardware and software offering had lower feature delivery velocity.
So in conclusion, a company who has a variety of skills and capabilities need not fall prey to a polarizing argument as a guide when delivering value to customers, and Hitachi is such a company.
**photo courtesy of Creative Commons