Hitachi Vantara Adds Predictive Analytics And New Automation To AI-Driven Software, Refreshes All-Flash Hardware

Hitachi Vantara Wednesday expanded its storage software with enhanced intelligence for improved automation and predictive analytics in heterogeneous storage environments.

The company also unveiled several new all-flash and hybrid-flash arrays, including models that bring the Hitachi Vantara entry pricing to a new low.

Hitachi Vantara is innovating inside and outside the box to make it easier for partners to manage their customers' data centers, said Bob Madaio, vice president of infrastructure solutions marketing for the Santa Clara, Calif.-based vendor.

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

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"Inside the box, we've increased performance and support for new environments," Madaio told CRN. "With our management software, we went outside the box. We're not just managing our storage, but other vendors' storage. We're tying together multi-vendor storage with automation."

Hitachi Vantara was formed in September by combining the Hitachi Data Systems storage and data center infrastructure business, its Hitachi Insight Group Internet of Things business, and its Pentaho big data business into one company aimed at delivering new collaborative data offerings for commercial and industrial enterprises.

When it comes to understanding how Hitachi Vantara and the storage industry are moving, it is more important to look at the vendor's software direction than it is to watch the new hardware, solution providers said.

Storage hardware is important, but all vendors' hardware has become extremely capable and gets better with new processors, cache and so on, said Chuck Strickland, strategy architect at Sirius Computer Solutions, a San Antonio-based solution provider and longtime Hitachi storage channel partner.

"But more important is the tools," Strickland told CRN. "You can easily buy more hardware. But you can't buy new engineers as easily. You need automation. You need the ability to push buttons and see things happen."

Alan Rogers, chief technology officer at Stoneworks Technologies, an Ottawa, Ontario-based solution provider and large Hitachi storage partner, told CRN that hardware is an important factor, but not the one customers want to talk about.

"People want to see real-time analytics and predictive technologies," Rogers said. "Sure, the scalability and performance of hardware is important. It's always important. But it's not a differentiator anymore. The differentiator is enabling the technology to work with modern applications, the cloud, Docker, Kubernetes."

Hitachi Vantara expanded its Hitachi Infrastructure Analytics Advisor management software, which leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor storage performance and provide information about anomalies, with new predictive analytics, Madaio said.

"As the software tracks performance over time, it determines the normal range of operation," he said. "By watching and learning from the environment, it can make better choices. The software also uses heuristic techniques to pinpoint problems and dig down to the root cause."

Hitachi Infrastructure Analytics Advisor is available as a base version that provides visibility into a customer's storage infrastructure and an advanced version with built-in analytics, Madaio said. The predictive analytics is a plug-in to either version, he said.

The base version of the software is now included with all new Hitachi Vantara systems, Madaio said. It also can be purchased as a stand-alone offering for customers with older Hitachi storage infrastructure or even for customers who have never deployed Hitachi storage, he said.

The company also enhanced its Hitachi Automation Director software, which orchestrates the delivery and management of IT resources, with new integration with IT service management tools, as well as improved REST API integration to better integrate with third-party storage, Madaio said.

When connected to automation tools such as ServiceNow or Ansible, the artificial intelligence inside Hitachi Automation Director can be used to automate storage decision-making, not only for Hitachi Vantara storage but for storage from multiple vendors, Madaio said.

"For example, think of two applications, A and C, running," he said. "If A is the priority app, and the software sees an issue with C, it could automatically throttle bandwidth to C to ensure A continues operating as expected."

The Hitachi Infrastructure Analytics Advisor is a way for customers to look ahead at storage requirements with heterogeneous monitoring, predictive analytics and automation, Strickland said.

"Other vendors have offered some similar capabilities, but were startups that were acquired," he said. "The difference is that Hitachi has a big company behind it dedicated to making it work, and work in heterogeneous environments."

Predictive analytics is a very important capability in storage software, Strickland said. "We have to stop being reactive," he said. "Software today sees an issue, sends an alert, and gets someone to do something, and then the customer complains that everything is slow. We really want to look ahead three or four months, which would tremendously help with planning. We want software to alert us before trouble gets here."

The Hitachi Automation Director has become a critical part of management, Strickland said. "It can reach out to other tools, and other tools can reach out to it as part of a heterogeneous storage management system," he said.

On the hardware side, Hitachi Vantara introduced new versions of its VSP F-series all-flash arrays and G-series hybrid flash and spinning disk arrays.

The eight new arrays, four in each series, feature increased hardware capabilities as well as a new version of Hitachi Vantara's Storage Virtualization OS that when combined increase performance by up to three times that of their predecessors. All are bundled with the company's Foundation software package including infrastructure analytics and copy data management applications.

Included in the new arrays is the all-flash VSP F350 which, with the Foundation software package, has a starting list price of $70,480. The F350, at that price, includes 7.6 TB of raw flash storage capacity, a 36-month standard maintenance contract, Hitachi Storage Advisor for management, Hitachi Data Instance Director for data protection and copy management, and the Hitachi Infrastructure Analytics Advisor.

Along with the new arrays, Hitachi Vantara is also bringing its flat service model pricing to its hybrid flash arrays for the first time, Madaio said. With flat service model pricing, customer support contracts are priced so that the cost remains constant throughout the length of the contract, he said.

While competitors such as NetApp and Dell EMC have announced and/or are shipping all-flash arrays featuring the latest high-performance NVMe SSDs, Hitachi Vantara is not likely to do so until some time next year, Madaio said.

Hitachi Vantara's new entry point pricing move for its all-flash storage arrays is a good move for customers, said Joe Kadlec, vice president and senior partner at Consiliant Technologies, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider and longtime Hitachi storage channel partner.

"I love the idea of having a cost-competitive entry point for storage with the robustness of Hitachi's architecture," Kadlec told CRN.