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Hitachi Acquire BlueArc (At Last)

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I don’t talk about company acquisitions too often but I can’t let the purchase of BlueArc by HDS pass me by without adding my opinion.  First of all, for those of you who don’t know, BlueArc sells NAS hardware which has been resold by HDS for some years under the HNAS brand.  The hardware comes stand-alone or can act as a gateway to HDS disk, such as the AMS series.  Initially BlueArc positioned themselves at the high end of the NAS market, based on their dedicated FGPA processors, which offloaded some of the hard NAS processing work, but eventually moved to offering lower spec devices.

HDS/Hitachi I believe were an investor in BlueArc, now they’ve acquired them.  I think this is a good move for both companies for a number of reasons.  Firstly, it marks the continuing change in HDS’ strategy, which now includes acquiring companies, albeit companies that they have an existing relationship with.  This approach may seem cautious but perhaps it’s a good thing to take time to understand the people, technology and culture, although HDS could have made their move earlier.  Second, I believe BlueArc suffers in a market where (large enterprise) customers expect longevity.  Committing to a new platform that suddenly has little or no development could be a costly mistake.  There’s also the issue of global support and maintenance to consider too.  Being part of Hitachi will give customers more reassurance.

Some time ago, I put the following diagram together as part of work for a customer.  it was meant to show how the Hitachi technology can operate on a number of layers, from the physical hardware upwards.  Although I have no specific inside knowledge, I expect Hitachi will converge the physical layer into a single device at some stage.  Chris Mellor’s article hinted at this (although I expect this slide is no longer accurate) and developments in their technology imply this too.  The AMS2XXX range certainly became more USP-like in its last release.

Operating a single hardware platform makes sense as HDS can abstract the hardware from the logical view using tools like HTSM and UVM.  Presentation is then through native FC/FCoE or using gateway products to provide NAS and object connectivity.  VSP represents a much more scalable architecture than the USP was, one of the key features being the abstraction of the front and back-end processors from the physical interfaces.  This scalability easily supports multi-protocol shared environments.

Other vendors have gone down the route of doing scale-out through multiple interconnected nodes.  I think this is a good approach and it could be argued that Hitachi have taken another way and gone for single monolithic arrays.  I don’t believe this is the case as the VSP is already a cluster of two nodes and from the PCIe backplane architecture can presumably scale to more nodes as required.  They are however more closely coupled than other implementations.  If Hitachi delivers on the potential promise of HAM, then clustering/nodes can be implemented and the single monolithic array isn’t an issue.  Now that Hitachi own BlueArc, they can integrate the functionality to ensure any NAS presentation can be mapped back to any storage array, with seamless migration.

So in summary, the future looks good, I’m looking forward to seeing how Hitachi capitalise on their new investment.

Disclaimer: I’ve been engaged with HDS as a blogger, including trips to Japan and the US.  I have worked for HDS UK delivering consultancy to their clients.

About Chris M Evans

Chris M Evans has worked in the technology industry since 1987, starting as a systems programmer on the IBM mainframe platform, while retaining an interest in storage. After working abroad, he co-founded an Internet-based music distribution company during the .com era, returning to consultancy in the new millennium. In 2009 Chris co-founded Langton Blue Ltd (www.langtonblue.com), a boutique consultancy firm focused on delivering business benefit through efficient technology deployments. Chris writes a popular blog at http://blog.architecting.it, attends many conferences and invitation-only events and can be found providing regular industry contributions through Twitter (@chrismevans) and other social media outlets.
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