Hitachi intensifies focus on Internet of Things at inaugural customer event

In addition to forming a new company, Vantara, to consolidate around the IoT opportunity, Hitachi rebooted their Lumada IoT platform and announced their first IoT appliance, based on Lumada. While they were never close to the top in enterprise storage, their goal is to be the leader in the IoT space.

LAS VEGAS – The big theme here at Hitachi’s first-ever NEXT customer event was the decision to double down on the Internet of Things. It began with the creation of a new company, Hitachi Vantara, which unified three separate companies that connected to this space – Hitachi Data Services, Hitachi Insight Group, and Pentaho. From there, it continued with what was effectively a reboot of their Lumada Internet of Things platform, and then the announcement of their first IoT appliance.

The striking thing here is that Hitachi is not a newcomer to the Internet of Things, at all. Like Cisco, they have been doing extensive work in the area since long before the Internet of Things moniker even existed. The messaging was clear – the company is restructuring itself to better focus on data-driven solutions in the digital world, and to make this area central to the company’s strategic direction.

“We kept this a secret for quite some time,” said Mary Ann Gallo, Chief Communications Officer at Hitachi Vantara. “It was important to do this, considering that we are a brand that has been around over 100 years. We made a strategic decision, for both our global customers and this company, that this is what this company is all about.”

Gallo emphasized that the folding of Hitachi Data Systems into Vantara will not mean a de-emphasis of the storage and data management business.

“Hitachi Data Systems has a long history of data management, and we are not moving away from that business,” she stressed. “The IT side of the house is very important for the company. The future is the data, analytics and the Internet of Things – providing insight into the data.”

The major product announcement of the event was not truly a new product announcement at all – although most of the attendees at the event could be forgiven for not picking that up. Hitachi announced the second version of their Lumada platform, which was actually introduced last year. However the platform was treated with such fanfare and reverence that most of the customers seemed to think this was its formal launch.

“It actually was a soft launch last year, with no formal announcement,” Ravi Chalaka, VP Global IoT and Lumada Marketing, told ChannelBuzz. “So we used the NEXT event to introduce it to customers.”

“Emphasizing the newness adds to the excitement,” said Scott Baker,  Director of Emerging Business in Content and Data Intelligence, Hitachi Vantara.

Throughout the event, Hitachi certainly played up the radical and disruptive element of Lumada – whose name is an acronym combining ‘illuminate’ and ‘data.’

“Lumada is the most important software product in the 100 year history of our company,” said Rich Rogers, Senior Vice President, IoT Product & Engineering, ‎Hitachi Vantara. “It is a secure, composable, portable platform, which is extremely flexible. Its power comes from blending data. It provides the ability to look across all that data and drive intelligent decisions.”

“Our vision with this is to connect every machine out there – not just the 6 million we support,” Chalaka said. “Our vision here is to be the Number One IoT platform in the world.”

Lumada was actually developed by the Hitachi Insight Group, one of the three companies that were folded into Vantara. While those companies have been collaborating much more extensively in the past year, as preparations began for the Vantara launch, the formal integration into the new company is expected to create new synergies.

“As a combined company, we can develop the power of Lumada much more extensively,” said Bob Madaio, VP, Infrastructure Solutions Marketing, Hitachi Vantara. “You will also see us develop more in that family as we go forward.”

Donna Prlich, Chief Product Officer for Pentaho Data Integration and Analytics at Hitachi Vantara, gave her perspective from the Pentaho side on how the integration of its Big Data capabilities into the Lumada platform can significantly extend what Hitachi has been able to do in IoT.

“The value of Pentaho comes from our expertise in Big Data and our ability to leverage that in IoT use cases,” she said. “The big insights come when customers are able to blend different types of data together. Caterpillar was able to blend data from censors, location data, and data around fuel consumption, and found that they could save a huge amount on fuel consumption by cleaning the hulls of ships of barnacles more often.”

The savings translated into about $800 per ship, and Caterpillar has a lot of ships.

“They wouldn’t have got that information without blending other data sources,” Prlich said. “It’s an example of how Big Data and IoT are coming together, and that the flow of data from the edge to outcomes puts us in a very good place.”

Prlich noted another example of synergies coming from the integration of the companies.

“Hitachi Insight was set up to act like a start up,” she indicated. “Pentaho, on the other hand, has over 1800 customers, and a lot of experience with Big Data systems. How do we optimize that most effectively? That’s what we have to figure out. Hitachi is in a massive amount of industries, so co-creation has always been at the core of the company. That won’t change. But a lot is still not defined yet, especially about what we need to add in terms of technology. We have been going through a big transformation effort over the last six months, involving all the different teams. It has been a major strategic initiative, where leadership has been involved.”

Dr Umeshwar Dayal, SVP and Senior Fellow, Information Research Center for Social Innovation, Hitachi America, provided another case study example during a keynote.

“We have been working with customers in a number of different industries, and we have found in fact that we can make a difference, and help them get to better business outcomes,” he said. “With one, a mining company, we worked with them to see if we could push the envelope of their operation, and got their mean time between equipment failures up by 22 per cent, which had a very important impact on their bottom line.”

Hitachi used the event to announce their first Smart Data Centre solution powered by Lumata, an appliance.

“Lumata 2.0 is our industrial IoT platform,” said  Jinesh Varia, Senior Director of Product Management at Hitachi Vantara. “It’s pure software you can run in your data centre, and it’s now also in a turnkey appliance. The power is in the ability to blend the data. We are the only company that can provide the complete end-to-end stack, with the AI and the Lumata, software.”

Hitachi Vantara’s VP of  Infrastructure Solutions Marketing Madaio explained why the company designed this appliance.

“Lumata can be intimidating for those deploying it,” he said. “We can’t walk into these large customers and ask them to bring Lumada deployment experience, because they don’t have any. This isn’t a small three mode appliance, but it does have smart installers built in. You can be ready for IoT in an hour. You won’t have the value in an hour, but you will be ready to get it.” He noted that one had been deployed the previous day at the event in 16 minutes.

The Hitachi IoT Appliance will be generally available later this year.

Steve Wexler, principal analyst with IT-TNA, was impressed with Hitachi’s pivot to re-emphasize the IoT part of their business.

“They have been seen primarily as an enterprise storage company, and while they have good technology, they have been fifth or sixth in the space,” he said. “That’s inconsequential. By focusing on the integration of IT and OT, and emphasizing the IoT, they put themselves in a position to be the leader there. That’s much more consequential. It puts them in a much better space.”