Hitachi Vantara Looks To Widen IoT Appeal With New Exec Team, Channel-Friendly Appliance

Hitachi Vantara, the new Internet of Things powerhouse formed last month from the combination of three different parts of the Hitachi business empire, is swiftly bulking up its executive ranks with expertise from a wide range of IT and digital transformation businesses.

The company is planning to introduce a new version of its Lumada IoT appliance aimed at easily tying the analytics and IT sides of IoT in an offering it said will help channel partners with strong IT experience easily start working with customers on IoT deployments.

Hitachi Vantara was formed last month by combining the Hitachi Data Systems storage and data center infrastructure business, its Hitachi Insight Group IoT business, and its Pentaho big data business into a new company aimed at delivering collaborative data offerings for commercial and industrial enterprises.

[Related: Hitachi Combines Data Center Infrastructure, IoT, Big Data Capabilities In New Company: Hitachi Vantara]

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Hitachi Vantara Wednesday unveiled the appointment of Hans-Peter Klaey as its new chief revenue officer with a mandate to lead the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company's global sales organization and bring its products and services to market.

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The appointment of Klaey came less than a week after Hitachi Vantara said it had hired Brad Surak as chief product and strategy officer to oversee the development of the company's product portfolio, and John Murphy as vice president of offerings management to develop its services portfolio.

Klaey most recently was at Ixia, and prior to that spent time with Hewlett Packard's software business and SAP. Surak joined Hitachi Vantara from GE Digital, where he served as that organization's chief operating officer after spending time as its first chief product officer. Murphy joined Hitachi Vantara from IBM, where he led product development and product management for IBM Watson.

Surak told CRN he left GE Digital, which is a part of General Electric, in July after five and a half years with that organization for the same reason he joined it, namely, to find an opportunity to help build out an IoT platform.

"This is an opportunity to get in early with an IoT company with the deep domain expertise on the IT side combined with over 100 years of industrial experience," Surak said.

Hitachi Vantara combines the IT, big data, and analytics capabilities needed for IoT, Surak said.

Hitachi Vantara already is showing how the combination of IT and industrial experience can be put into play in a way that can help IT channel partners enter the IoT business, Surak said. "I'm impressed with how easy it is to adopt an IoT solution," he said. "I just came from a demonstration where it took nine minutes to deploy our Lumada 2.0 IoT appliance," he said. "It configured itself. The user didn't require any knowledge about the software. The appliance just wanted to know if we wanted a dynamic IP address or assign one."

Lumada 2.0, which is slated to be generally available by the end of October, includes a complete software stack to grab machine data from the edge combined with a template system to help with deployment including finding information on the equipment from which data will be grabbed, Surak said. Lumada 2.0 also can map to the sensors, run the appropriate algorithms whether included with the appliance or added by the user, and get up and running quickly, he said.

Lumada 2.0 can be deployed without the need for writing a lot of code, which is a bonus to channel partners, Surak said. The appliance collects the data, dumps it to storage, and integrates it to the analytics engine for such use cases as monitoring a piece of equipment to look for anomalies in operation.

"It ingests the data, does the analysis, and suggests action," he said. "And it's not just Hitachi equipment. It's one of the reasons I came to Hitachi Vantara. Lumada 2.0 works with any kind of data and any equipment. Hitachi's Pentaho was built on open standards, and the industry is looking for machine-agnostic offerings that can work with existing IT infrastructures."

The combination of IT and industrial technology is Hitachi Vantara's key differentiator in the IoT business when it comes to the channel, Surak said.

"It's hard to move into IoT with other technologies," he said. "But we're making it so machine data is just another type of data to store. We're extending the capabilities of our content platform to treat machine data like any data."

Hitachi Vantara is also applying its analytics capabilities to machine data and other data, Surak said. "If a CT scanner has an issue, Lumada 2.0 can look at the recorded images, maintenance data and machine data," he said. "The Lumada appliance makes it easy to add all that to the stack. And it makes it easy to get up and running quickly."

Hitachi Vantara has managed to attract some top talent since it was formed last month, Surak said.

Murphy, for instance, saw the reality of applying analytics to solve new business problems while he was with IBM Watson, as well as the importance of a product portfolio to IoT, he said. "Watson is not just a product, but an entire portfolio," he said.

Klaey, known internally as "HPK," is leveraging his SAP and HP software experience, Surak said. "HPK has to help us figure out how to go to market with these very new capabilities," he said.

Hitachi Vantara's new team is outstanding, said Joe Kadlec, vice president and senior partner at Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and Hitachi channel partner already working with the company's IoT technology with the City of Las Vegas.

Kadlec told CRN that his company has worked with the General Electric companies on IoT, and has seen the impact that GE has made. "To have that background couldn't be better for Hitachi Vantara and what it is doing with projects like smart cities," he said.

Hitachi Vantara is going in the right direction by bringing IT and industrial expertise together, Kadlec said.

"A lot of companies make niche products or niche solutions," he said. "But Hitachi, with its software, has been able to bundle everything together. A lot of companies have been doing pieces of IoT for a long time. But Hitachi Vantara is saying, 'Let's pull it all together.' That's a bold move for Hitachi."

Hitachi as a whole is very much an international heavyweight in the industrial and IT markets, and it's no surprise Hitachi Vantara would so quickly assemble such a roster of talented executives, said John Woodall, vice president of engineering at Integrated Archive Systems, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based solution provider and Hitachi Vantara channel partner.

"Look at Murphy from IBM Watson," Woodall told CRN. "Watson is all about artificial intelligence and data. It's very much a mature offering."

Hitachi overall has maybe 1,000 entities making everything from cellphone components to cranes to bullet trains to nuclear power plants, Woodall said. "It's the GE of Asia," he said. "If you think about it, if Hitachi Vantara is embedding Pentaho and Vantara elements in all those companies' products -- that's an unlimited amount of data it can address."

As more businesses go through their digital transformation, they will be collecting more data about every part of their business and doing analytics on it to understand both in real time and historically how they are operating, Woodall said. And Hitachi Vantara is taking the long-term view of how to play in that world.

"The digital economy requires good companies to get bigger to be relevant," he said. "It requires them to be ready to take advantage of new technologies not necessarily tomorrow, but some day down the road. Hitachi has been an industrial leader for over 100 years, and has been an IT company for over 50 years. They have the heritage to take the longer view."