Hitachi Data Systems beefs up software business

The storage vendor hopes archiving and content management tools will help stave off competition from rival EMC

Storage hardware vendor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has announced two partnership agreements with software companies barely a week after rival EMC acquired content management company Documentum.

The first of the announcements on Monday will see HDS offer content management specialist IXOS's archiving and content management tools to its customers including software to retain an unalterable archive of email and instant messages to comply with US regulations such as Sarbannes-Oxley and Basel II.

HDS also claims companies can cut the eight hours wasted every month per employee from having to administer email by effectively building "unlimited mailboxes" using its Message Archive for E-Mail tool powered by IXOS-eCONserver software.

"What we are effectively offering is an unlimited mailbox," said Tony Reid, HDS director of enterprise solutions. "If you have an unlimited mailbox you reduce all the time spent on housekeeping email."

IDC forecasts that the total number of emails sent daily worldwide will grow from around 9.7 billion in 2000 to an estimated 35 billion by 2005. HDS claims the growth in unstructured content -- including email, instant messages, and images -- will soon outstrip the requirements for traditional data.

The company also announced an extension to its HiCommand software management suite through a partnership with storage management firm AppIQ, including software to manage heterogenous storage area networks.

These latest software announcement and partnerships are part of an industry-wide trend among storage hardware vendors, as hardware revenue growth slows or even stalls, to try and take a larger slice of the lucrative margins available in the storage software market.

HDS's Reid cited analyst figures that claim curently 80 percent of storage infrastructure purchases are hardware and the remainder software but this ratio will reverse in five years' time. The company's chief executive Shinjiro Iwata said the eventual aim is to grow the software and services portion of the business to account for 40 percent of revenues.

HDS's is pushing the idea of "data lifecycle management" in a similar way to rival EMC's efforts to create a strategy -- through its acquisition of Documentum -- that includes products to manage content throughout its entire lifecycle in a business from the Web front end to archiving.

But the company, which originally specialised in mainframe storage, could face an uphill battle moving into the software market. As analyst Gartner concluded in a recent report: "Hitachi Data System's high end storage products are strong, but it shows weakness in software and services."

The company plans to make further announcements later this year including its strategy around ISCSI technology to manage the flow of storage data over IP networks.