Pushing data to where value lives

With the business outlook uncertain, companies are doing what they can to ride out the waves of disruption. Unknown to most, this is something data storage companies have been doing all along with their product strategies.

With the business outlook cloudy with uncertainty, most companies are doing the best they can by being as flexible as possible and hope they’ll be able to ride out the waves of disruption. Unknown to most, this is something data storage companies have been doing all along with their product strategies.

Data storage companies like EMC and Hitachi Data Systems are pushing themselves to live on the edge of applications because that’s where the value is highest.

Alan Jones, Senior VP of Technology Services at EMC said that “it was the customer that brought us to the table and looking ahead, we are moving even closer to applications.”

The former CIO of AT&T joined EMC in early 2001 and now looks after a huge group of what he calls solution architects.

“Some of them are located at EMC’s incubation site which hosts paying customers’ real applications to achieve rapid implementation and scalability – two of our core strengths for information storage infrastructure,” he explained.

It is not very different with Hitachi Data Systems as a survey conducted by Find/SVP explore how customers like Bank of America value responsive services. "Our satisfaction with the support we get from Hitachi Data Systems is largely based on our relationship with their people," said Jack Broome, Senior Vice President, Bank of America.

"As with most large IT shops our ability to support business requirements calls for quick response from our vendors. Because Hitachi Data Systems knows us and our business they are able to meet our needs quickly," he added.

All the customers queried for the survey deploy storage from more than one vendor. Most of them have significant installations from at least three different vendors, and some from as many as six vendors, according to the survey results which was recently released.

"These days we're operating in a world of multi-vendor data centres," said Greg Cornfield, executive vice president and general manager, Hitachi Data Systems. "More than ever before customers are making day-to-day comparisons of our performance against that of our competitors.”

Up close to apps
In a demonstration at SuperComm 2001 for digital cinemas using EMC’s SRDF data replication software and Nortel Networks OPTera Smart OS and OPTera Smart Agent software platforms, the two companies moved giant, rich content files between two Symmetrix systems at a rate of gigabits per second. This would be applicable if a Los Angeles movie studio wants to distribute a digital feature from a Symmetrix in California to Symmetrix systems in theaters around the world, saving time and shipping costs.

Alan spends the majority of his time interfacing with partners like Nortel and other partners like i2 for supply chain management, Oracle for customer relationship management and SAP for electronic resource planning.

Drawing parallels to the mobile telecom marketplace, he sees companies in the telecom industry engaging in defensive play to keep their network services by offering co-location services and managed services “because there are still good margins by committing a service level that customer needs.” He believes that the best of the crop will compete with IBM Global Services.

The financial industry, EMC’s other cash cow, shares similar aspirations as the mobile operators in that they now have to offer new services in addition to just deposits and loans.

But Alan reckons that the mobile telecom industry will experience a higher demand for storage management, due to the explosion in call detail records and length. “Telcos are telling us that these records are growing by more than 100 percent year on year.”

While he views the recent thaw in the storage war as important to set standards for interoperability , this is largely implemented by his team of business support and operations support staff which work with telecom equipment manufacturers and independent software vendors to create open APIs.

Currently, the data storage giant has a successful operating alliance with i2 in supply chain management, Oracle in customer relationship management and SAP in electronic resource planning. Telecom billing systems like Portal and Arbor also uses EMC’s APIs.

However, such arrangements are somewhat lacking in the network side where servers are usually shipped with attached storage directly to the customer. As this group of customers – who are mostly network administrators that deal with Internet connections grow in importance – it won’t be long before EMC and Hitachi Data Systems would like to get acquainted with them.