Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has come up with a new way to keep selling hardware in the cloud age, by creating a compute-as-a-service service that will live in Equinix's 32-nation-strong bit barn network.
HDS is most often characterised as a storage vendor and has offered storage-as-a-service for some years. The company also re-entered the server market with the 2010 launch of its Unified Compute Platform, most often sold in reference designs configured to run VMware and Microsoft stacks, or tailored to the needs of various applications.
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The firm is now willing to be the "one throat to choke" for the operation of in-cloud servers and Equinix's hosting services. It's not just Equinix's global footprint that HDS craves: the operator also offers direct connections to big public clouds. HDS can therefore go to market with a managed services offering that spans on-premises compute and storage, or blended on-premises and managed hosting of its own servers, or both plus a platform configured to take advantage of the big three public clouds (AWS, Azure and Google).
There's also a range of ways to buy the company's kit and services: outright purchase, a commitment to a certain spend, plus extra usage fees or infrastructure-as-a-service with a baseline spend but no ownership of the tin.
However you choose to shop, you get a platform that behaves the same way wherever it runs.
Competitive positioning for the new offering will suggest that other hardware makers have an interest in herding customers to their particular flavour of cloud, with attendant lock-in risk. HDS' spiel will suggest that it's not backing any particular platform or stack, but instead making it easier to move your preferred infrastructure software to the cloud.
If Equinix isn't your cup of tea, HDS is also making fresh attempts to have partners run services based on its platforms.
HDS' response to the challenge of remaining relevant as a hardware-centric company as the cloud age gathers pace doesn't look massively different to Dell's or HP's, and its managed services aspirations are matched by several contenders, some of whom sling servers and others – CSC, Fujitsu, Dimension Data – that have no hardware businesses to protect.
It might feel a little more comfortable if compared to the appliance-driven hybrid cloud market created by VMware's EVO appliances, legitimised by Microsoft's Cloud Platform System and now throwing up a challenger in the form of HDS. HDS' offerings may be reference architectures rather than platform-locked appliances, but it's probably easier to explain the difference between those two approaches than to compete in the less-delineated managed services market. ®