Last year when I attended Hitachi’s conference, I spent some time thinking about how broad the Hitachi group of companies really was. After all, this group, which has existed for over 100 years, employees over 300,00 people worldwide and works in a huge variety of sectors, from power to industry, from finance to healthcare. At the show last year, I was interested to see how Hitachi kept these different organizations apart, but allowed them to collaborate (indeed, encouraged them) to find the relative synergies.

That said, sometimes finding synergies takes a little bit of a push, and I remarked that there were some obvious gaps that Hitachi could fill by bringing some different companies closer together. The company seems to be thinking the same way and is announcing at its Next event this week, the creation of Vantara, a new business entity that aims to leverage the broad portfolio and experience across the broader group.

Vantara unifies the separate operations of Hitachi Data Systems, Hitachi Insight Group, and Pentaho into a single integrated business in order to more rapidly react to market opportunities for data-driven solutions. Speaking about the announcement with a group of analysts before the keynote, Hitachi’s President and CEO, Toshiaki Higashihara spoke to the drivers behind this move:

Hitachi Vantara marks a monumental change for Hitachi as we continue to advance our unified corporate vision of Social Innovation. Hitachi has been helping customers harness the power of their data to support meaningful business action for years. Now as the world is being transformed by digital tools and processes, we are unifying our strongest digital solutions companies together as a new Hitachi company that delivers exponential business impact for our customers and the betterment of society. The formation of Hitachi Vantara underscores Hitachi’s commitment to collaborative creation with customers and partners, and being a true innovation partner for the era of IoT.

Jumping on everyone’s favorite train, IoT

Have no doubt, Hitachi has been doing IoT since long before it was known as such. Ever since IT has been a part of industrial processes and organizations, Hitachi companies have had a part in serving those organizations’ needs. But the rise of the cloud, new approaches towards data and the ubiquity of mobile connectivity has changed the game and whereas heavy and generally monolithic solutions were the name of the game in the past, today it is all about light, modular, composable and easily deployed technologies.

Hitachi is well aware that every vendor on the planet sees IoT as important – Amazon, Microsoft, Ericsson, GE, and others are all investing heavily in the area. As such there was the very real risk that Hitachi could be left behind in a space that it formerly owned.

Hitachi Vantara, therefore, is aimed at ameliorating this risk. The company will continue to provide infrastructure and analytics technologies that enterprises rely on for their mission-critical data in their data centers and importantly will deliver those solutions via new channels – in particular in the cloud and at the edge.

Vantara extends from the data center all the way to the edge

Hitachi has, for the longest time, delivered infrastructure, storage and compute solutions. Hitachi Data Systems is a bread and butter vendor in the space. The group, however, has broadened where it works – Lumada, Hitachi’s IoT platform, and Pentaho, the company it acquired to deliver products in the data integration and analytics space, both help it extend into more modern models.

This new company, therefore, combines the traditional Hitachi products, services, and focuses, with the newer stuff. The theory goes that the whole is more valuable than the sum of the parts.

MyPOV

Chatting with a friend when we first heard the announcement, we both reacted the same way: “this makes sense.” Clearly, having these components as standalone solutions has both slowed Hitachi’s rate of innovation and introduced risks in terms of other vendors disrupting their opportunity. This combination makes sense.

That said, success all depends on whether the culture of the organization, in particular, the parts that come from the more “legacy” components of the business, can change to move as fast as it needs to. I’d want to see a big dose of new thinking, courtesy of Lumada and Pentaho, introduced into Vantara to ensure that the company moves as fast as it’s promising too.

All in all, this makes sense, but the proof of the pudding will come in the months and years ahead.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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