Compared to the likes of other server makers like IBM, HP, Dell, and Sun, Hitachi may not be a household name in the North American market. But this week at the Intel Developer Forum (IDF), the North American division of the Japan-based company (Hitachi America) will be looking to drive its first x86 server stake into the American server ground when it launches its a Xeon-based server -- a blade server at that -- that it thinks is unique enough to trump the home field incumbents.
Under the brand BladeSymphony, the Hitachi blade servers' primary unique selling proposition is their o ability to carve themselves up into virtual machines each of which can support Windows Server 2003, Novell SuSE Linux, or Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This of course can be done with servers from IBM, HP, Sun, and Dell. But try doing it without the sort of virtualization software (hypervisors) that you'd normally have to buy from companies like VMware (a subsidiary of EMC), XenSource (a subsidiary of Citrix), Microsoft, Virtuozzo, SWsoft or others.
Instead, using a technology that Hitachi has branded as Virtage, the Japanese-based company has embedded its own hypervisor into its blade servers' firmware. The results say Steve Campbell and Paul Figliozzi, the two Hitachi executives that I interviewed in the attached podcast, is a server that is easier to virtualize, that doesn't have to deal with the thorny driver issues that software-based hypervisors do, and that Hitachi believes is a more reliable and scalable solution. You can hear the interview by pressing the play button on the podcast player above, downloading the MP3 audio (also available on the podcast player), or, if you're already subscribed to ZDNet's IT Matters series of podcasts (see how to subscribe), the audio should already be sitting on your computer's and/or MP3 player's hard drives.
The Xeon-based entry into the North American market isn't the first platform to showcase the Virtage technology. Over in Japan, Hitachi has been shipping Virtage on its Itanium-based (Montecito) blades. In Japan, where Hitachi has home field advantage, the company holds the top marketshare spot when it comes to blade servers. Hitachi does around $80 billion in global revenue annually, 20 percent of which is IT related. But to repeat that success here in the North American market where the incumbents already compete as though every 10th of a percent of marketshare can make or break the company, the company must be prepared to do battle.
Although the executives agreed that competing in the American market is like "a knife fight in a dark alley somwhere" (their words, not mine), they see the hardware-based virtualization (which runs at a layer above Intel's VT technology) as being the blade server's competitive advantage. That said, if you're looking for any AMD-based offerings from Hitachi, you may be waiting a while. The company's offerings are strictly Itanium and Xeon-based (blades of both flavors can fit in the same chassis) and it has no plans to make an AMD-based offering available any time soon.
Other coverage of Hitachi's news: