HDS succeeds by blazing its own path

Company's strategy to separate intelligent storage controller units from commodity media appears to have won market acceptance.

SANTA CLARA--Playing the game radically differently from its competitors in the storage field has finally paid off for Hitachi Data Systems, says the company's top executives.

Speaking at its Asia-Pacific press briefing held last week at HDS' headquarters, CEO Shinjiro Iwata attributed the company's stellar results in the third quarter of 2005 to sales of the TagmaStore storage systems.

Iwata said HDS has shipped over 1,700 controllers since it first launched the TagmaStore Universal Storage Platform in September 2004.

"We are gaining market share, there's a lot of traction, and I'm very happy today," Iwata said, adding that he expects reports by analysts for the fourth quarter in 2005 to be no less spectacular. The company is entering a quiet period ahead of its fiscal third-quarter earnings announcement in early February 2006, but a confident Iwata said "things look good" for the calendar-year quarter ended Dec. 31, 2005.

According to the latest report by U.S.-based research company Kaufman Brothers, Hitachi narrowly eclipsed EMC to take the No. 1 spot in the high-end RAID storage market in the third quarter of 2005.

The report showed that HDS' TagmaStore Lightning systems commanded 42 percent market share, followed by EMC Symmetrix systems with 41 percent and IBM's Shark and DS8000 storage systems with 18 percent. In the previous quarter, EMC held the top spot with 43 percent market share, followed by HDS and IBM with 33 percent and 24 percent respectively.

In terms of external disk storage market revenues in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, Gartner reported that HDS gained two places and superseded both Sun Microsystems and Dell to occupy the fourth position in revenue terms.

According to the research firm, HDS also earned the distinction of being the fastest growing vendor among the top storage players, and grew more than 19 percent in the third quarter compared to the second quarter of 2005.

More than a year ago, HDS decided to split its intelligent storage controllers from commodity disk media, and sold storage systems on the merit of intelligent storage controllers that it had innovated on, said Hu Yoshida, HDS' chief technology officer.

The first offerings that emerged from this decision was the high-end and midrange TagmaStores.

The TagmaStores carry networked storage controllers capable of performing storage virtualization not only on HDS disk systems within a storage area network (SAN), but on other vendors' systems, such as those belonging to EMC and IBM, as well.

"Networked controllers, and networked storage controllers together with supporting software, will become the strategic platform for application-aware storage," said John McArthur, group vice president and general manager at IDC's information infrastructure division.

"[In terms of storage virtualization], I don't know anyone else who can scale as far as Hitachi and across heterogeneous platforms. If that is a buying criterion, then Hitachi is the vendor which can provide this," McArthur added.

ZDNet Asia's Jeanne Lim reported from Santa Clara.