whith·er – Adverb/Ëˆ(h)wiTÍŸHÉ™r/
1. To what place or state: “whither are we bound?”.
VMworld always generates buzz, but news of a major push to change the basic access method for enterprise storage took many by surprise. Extending the work already done with VAAI and VASA, this new development takes VMware storage integration to a whole new level. But the one element of announcement caused alarm for many: VMware’s admission that they would be working with just five major enterprise storage companies to develop this technology. Missing along with the many exciting storage startups is Hitachi Data Systems (HDS), undoubtedly a major player in the industry.
HDS and VMware: Expertise and Partnership
Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) is perhaps not as well-known as storage giants EMC and NetApp and server leviathans, IBM, HP, and Dell. But HDS is a major player in the industry with a long history of innovation and expertise in storage and server virtualization.
HDS has lately driven innovation in virtualization of block storage (the VSP), object storage (HCP), midrange performance (AMS), and recently announced they would acquire enterprise NAS contender, BlueArc. Although not quite market leaders, HDS has a huge base of enterprise storage customers and a broad product line from midrange to massive scale.
HDS was right there with EMC and NetApp at VMware’s original announcement of VAAI, even as the mainstream products from IBM and HP lagged months behind. And HDS’ Chief Scientist, Clais Mikkelsen, assured me at their “Geek Day” earlier this year that his company was deeply involved in developing the VAAI specification with VMware. Indeed, VAAI was a major theme of the presentations back in March, with Virtualization Product Manager Michael Heffernan dazzling us with his knowledge of the subject.
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Wherefore Art Thou, HDS?
Now that all that has been said, consider how startling VMware’s omission of HDS was when outlining “VAAI 3.” This is a huge snub for such a major player in the industry with deep expertise and a long history of partnership with VMware. Contrast this to IBM and HP, who were notably absent in many earlier discussions of VAAI, and are still working to bring VAAI to all their platforms. Only HP’s LeftHand and (ironically) Hitachi-sourced XP/P9000 arrays included VAAI plugins from the start. HP’s 3PAR had VAAI too, but HP didn’t have that yet.
Many will likely blame EMC, claiming their influence on VMware (a child company) pushed HDS aside. This same line of reasoning was suggested regarding IBM and HP when VAAI version 1 appeared. But IBM and HP (not to mention NetApp and EMC’s new rival Dell) are at the table this time around, and EMC seems far more concerned by competition from them (not to mention new startups!)
So Where is HDS?
Perhaps this is all some sort of gigantic mistake. Maybe the VMware presenter simply failed to include HDS in his list. Or maybe HDS didn’t choose to get involved this time around, though I can’t fathom why. I put the question to HDS on Twitter over the weekend and hope to hear some sort of answer, though I fear that a convincing response might not come.
The only response I got from HDS was a tweet from Claus Mikkelsen stating that HDS and VMware “work all levels to deliver solutions” and that there was “more 2 come.”
What does this mean? I can think of a few possibilities:
- HDS is way beyond every other storage company, and the “VAAI Cabal” are themselves the odd ones out, trying to keep up with HDS’ “L33T” tech and VMware influence
- HDS was indeed omitted from the list and possibly the “cabal” and are busy working in the background to make sure they’re included in the future
Personally, the second possibility seems much more plausible.
Update: Some responses to this post:
If VMware aims to transform storage presentation, and is working with major storage vendors to make it happen, HDS ought to be part of it. Their history, technology, and market position earn them a spot in the “VAAI Cabal” and their omission was a bombshell to industry-watchers like me.
Then there is the other question: What about the startups? Innovation in enterprise storage is often driven by new companies, and VMware would be better served by working with the likes of Tintri, Nutanix, and Fusion-io than the same old major players. But this, as they say, is a topic for a different day.
Disclaimer: I’ve never done business with HDS, but they did fly me to the UK for their 2011 “Geek Day” along with a number of other independent bloggers. I have attended similar events sponsored by HP, IBM, and EMC. VMware, EMC, Dell, HP, and NetApp have sponsored Tech Field Day, and I am currently writing for an online community supported by IBM.