As the Asia Pacific head of the technology at HDS, De Luca is responsible for developing insight into the customer needs and business directions in the region, and combining it with the economic and technological trends to develop innovations that can meet customer needs. In an interaction with Shubhendu Parth, he talked about the impact of changing computing era and heterogeneous device environment on how data is managed, retrieved and analysed. Excerpts:
With the world moving towards everything ‘smart’ and ‘digital’, managing data is becoming more and more challenging task. What is your take on the trend?
We see an increasing wave of digitisation across industries, businesses and governments. According to a survey by Unisphere Research, the demand for database services as well as associated data volumes is growing at an annual average rate of 20 percent. Other factors such as substantial testing requirements and outdated management techniques are all contributing to a cost escalation and slow IT response.
As information sources diversify, the volume of structured and unstructured data has increased phenomenally. Add to this is more of machine data – from sensors, satellites etc – and it is evident that managing these huge data volumes will be the challenge of the future. This is where the trend shifts towards a greater focus on efficient data management as compared to storage hardware per-se. Today, we have predictable reliable technology at a fairly reasonable price, and most new storage solutions are focused on improving operational and cost efficiency. But, these solutions don’t manage the data (or content) other than to deliver on overall system performance or QoS (quality of service) based on a particular LUN (logical unit number is used to identify a logical unit, which is a device addressed by the storage area network protocols) or volume.
With our definite focus on content and data management, HDS is becoming a bigger and more engaging company. Our focus is aligned towards social innovation rather than pure-play storage. Our inorganic growth strategy is aligned towards diversifying our solutions portfolio while leveraging the unique strengths and synergies of Hitachi Ltd.
Where do you think is the storage and data management technology headed, particularly in the government and public sector space?
Smart cities are coming of age right before our eyes. To act swiftly in the face of community events and crises, public sector officials and government need data compiled, correlated and delivered as actionable information in real time, right at their fingertips. Data collected in real-time from the many connected systems in these smart cities will play a key role in improving public safety in the cities.
So what is the biggest technology problem that HDS is trying to solve?
Through our social innovation strategy, we are developing solutions that can deliver improved commercial as well as social outcomes for verticals such as automotive, power, railway systems, water management and consumer durables. From addressing the rapidly aging population to the future scarcity of water and other natural resources, our social innovation solutions and services go far beyond the data center to reach people’s daily lives. In fact, our social innovation initiative and solutions portfolio aims to address critical business and societal challenges – including population growth and urbanisation, aging public infrastructures, rising healthcare costs and public safety concerns.
Computing and data storage have evolved – from mainframe to ‘PC- client’ model to web-based architecture, SaaS, PaaS and virtualisation that has led to creation of containers for isolating applications. Where do you see the technology in 10-years from today?
With its roots grounded during the mainframe era, HDS has been an innovator in the data center for the past 35 years introducing the world’s fastest IBM-compatible mainframes in the 80’s, entering the networked storage in 2000 with industry-leading switched architecture and virtualisation, since 2010 delivering converged infrastructure with unique logical partitioning and symmetric multiplexing technology to x86 platforms. But HDS is more than a hardware company, it has grown organically as well as through acquisition of companies like Archivas, Parascale, BlueArc, Cofio and Sepaton to become a an end-to-end information solutions company today.
As we look to the future, HDS will increasingly become a major player in vertically integrated technology solutions in public safety, healthcare, connected cars and energy. The recent acquisition of analytics company Pentaho provides us a foundation for building solutions around Internet of Things (IoT) in these industries. The Panatscene acquisition, in particular, will help us deliver the end to end solutions on this front.
Talking about the acquisitions, how has it helped the company?
In order to bolster its social innovation and analytics portfolio, HDS has made several acquisitions over the past year including Avrio, oXya, Pantascene and Pentaho. With these acquisitions, HDS is uniquely positioned to deliver the best-in-class social innovation solutions to address both business and society challenges. While the Pentaho acquisition will help us to further capitalise on IoT market opportunities, the oXya acquisition will expand our cloud services portfolio beyond IaaS (infrastructure as a service) to application-as-a-service, where we have high customer demand.
HDS acquired Pantascene and Avrio in September 2014, and they formed a new public safety group within HDS whose mission is to make safer, smarter and more efficient cities. Core Pantascene and Avrio technologies are combined with Hitachi IT systems and service capabilities to form comprehensive solutions that increase public safety.
Hitachi recently announced launch of its visualisation predictive crime analytics (PCA) solution. How does it work?
Predictive crime analytics (PCA) is the first tool of its kind to use real-time social media and internet data feeds together with unique, sophisticated analytics to gather intelligent insight and enhance public safety through the delivery of highly accurate crime predictions. The PCA blends real-time event data captured from public safety systems and sensors with historical and contextual crime data from record management systems, social media and other sources.
The PCA solution’s powerful spatial and temporal prediction algorithms help law enforcement and first responder teams assign threat levels for every city block. The algorithms can also be used to create threat level predictions to accurately forecast where crimes are likely to occur or additional resources are likely to be needed. PCA is unique in that it provides users with a better understanding of the underlying risk factors that generate or mitigate crime. It is the first predictive policing tool that uses natural language processing for topic intensity modeling using social media networks together with other public and private data feeds in real time to deliver highly accurate crime predictions.
What has been the learning from the research collaboration agreement with Universiti Teknologi Petronas?
Universiti Teknologi Petronas is one of Malaysia’s most prominent universities and our agreement is aimed at working towards improving clinical support for traumatic brain injuries. The study will initially be focused on traumatic brain injuries, integrating magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, blood panels and intensive care unit (ICU) data to deliver precise and instant clinical support that can benefit both patients and healthcare professionals. The research is part of a global study by International Neuroinformatics Coordinating Facility (INCF) in the area of traumatic brain injury.
The industry has witnessed a major consolidation in the converged infrastructure space in the form of Dell-EMC merger. How will it impact the storage solution space in general and HDS in particular?
While the Dell-EMC news is not a done deal yet (expected to close in May-October 2016), we expect further consolidation, churn and turmoil amongst the pure play IT organisations to better find a way to stay relevant in an ever-changing landscape. This usually doesn’t bode well for customers who need partners that are focused on helping answer the challenges facing their business. In this case, we can expect this merger to keep both companies distracted for a good period of time and we can’t expect too many innovations that will help customers in the near term.
(The interview appears in the January 1-15, 2016 issue)