Indian enterprises uniquely positioned to embrace digital journey: KC Phua, Hitachi Vantara

In an interaction with IDG Media, KC Phua- Technical Director for Data Management & Protection, APAC at Hitachi Vantara, explained how data center solutions, combined with machine learning and artificial intelligence, can help large scale enterprises achieve digital transformation. 

Edited Excerpts:

What are the major technologies that you are looking after for Hitachi Vantara’s global market?
Within the organization, we have different people looking at different portfolios of Hitachi. I look after the portfolio that covers storage to storage software that includes automation software, backup software and data protection software. It is this that has been the core part of Hitachi Vantara’s technology portfolio for the last 10 years. 

What trends do you see for the data storage industry overall?
Data is growing phenomenally. We now have to build systems that will be able to handle these large volumes of data. So, you need to ensure that the systems can handle not only terabytes, but also petabytes. Our systems today, for example the 900 models can handle up to 16.6 petabytes. So, the trend we are seeing is that we need to build systems that are able to handle these large capacities. The second trend is that there are huge amounts of data that are moving along data paths, owing to the large amounts of data. 

How is Hitachi Vantara integrating artificial intelligence with its storage solution?
In the past, people were only delivering systems that were faster. Today, it has become a lot more focused towards performance oriented metrics. At Hitachi Vantara, we refer to this as the intelligent operation software, which stems from the whole journey that customers have been taking around digital transformation. As part of this transformation, one of the big things today we are transforming is the datacenter. There are two things that we are doing to transform the datacenter: we are trying to make things faster, and reduce the number of manual tasks. The backbone of the software that we have, leverages AI and machine learning to enable some of these automations. 

In the latest release of systems that we have undergone, which is called the Virtual Storage Platform (VSP) systems – we not only deliver machine learning to the systems, but we also give customers unprecedented agility and automation to achieve two major tasks. The first one is being able to monitor the telemetry of the entire datacenter. Now that we are aware of the telemetry and the data, the second task involves taking control of the reaction. For instance, assuming there is a throttle in a CPU, the system will be able to mediate itself by shifting the workload to another machine. By knowing what to automate and having the ability to automate, we have what we call the Intelligent Operation Software.

What are the major enterprise segments that you are targeting with this technology?
I would start off by saying that everybody would need this technology, because who would not want to reduce costs, increase operational efficiencies, reduce the number of manual steps, and reduce overall risk. There are all kinds of customers today who are looking at it, but in terms of who is taking the lead, clearly we are seeing bigger enterprises take center stage. Within the enterprise customers, we are seeing two major industries trying to leverage this: banking, and government & public sector. 

With huge amount of unstructured data being created, how do you plan to address the issue?

There are two issues around this. One is the sheer growth of unstructured data, and the second problem is, as the name suggests, that it is unstructured. So, a picture in a JPEG file itself does not have any meaning, unless you enrich it with data like whose photo it is, the location the photo is taken, and the picture resolution. In fact, a JPEG file today has 52 pieces of metadata that you can harness to put a structure in it. So that is the real problem. At Hitachi Vantara, we have Hitachi Content Platform that allows customers to deal primarily with unstructured data. And the key parameter around this system is that we allow them to not only categorize the data into rows and columns, but have the data with the metadata as well. We also have a software within the Hitachi Content Platform that allows it to grow the metadata and derive live insights on the data. 

As far as IoT is concerned, how is Hitachi Vantara integrating the technology with data storage?
I am not directly responsible, but that is an interesting question. Hitachi as a company has been in the industry for more than hundred years, and there is a lot of knowledge that has been developed within that segment. Today, we are applying that knowledge combined with 50 years of IT experience. And we are developing multiple sets of technologies that enable IoT implementations. At the core, IoT is all about data. That means, at the core, the storage systems that we have, should be able to handle the volume of IoT data, and be able to blend this data, in order to derive insights. 

You are targeting the banking and government sector which have huge security concerns. How do you plan to address all the security issues for these two segments? 
Firstly, we need to make sure that the data can be encrypted and unencrypted.

Secondly, it is important to protect the data at the core and edge. Today, we actually use industry authentication, on our systems to make sure that we protect the data at the core.

Now the third area is that we have data protection technology that allows you to retrieve data in situations when there is a ransomware, or when data backup is required. So, at the end of the day when you are actually hit by some ransomware, you have this data available to you at short notice. And that really applies to the banking sector when one requires banking data to be made available in the case of calamities. From a government point of view, one needs data to be made available as and when the service is used. It is all this availability that is driving this. 

How do you see the Indian market for your product portfolio?
Our strategy across APAC, and in fact around the world is no different than what we are trying to do in India. We are trying to help customers realize outcomes for better efficiency, cost savings, and at the same time innovate and transform our strategy in order to help them enable their digital journey. I feel India in particular is unique, because it has a lot of big organizations and large-scale banks. It also has a lot of mobile players that are really embracing their digital journey. So, when they start their digital transformation journey, they have also been looking to us to help transform their datacenter. 

Finally, how are you planning to expand the channel partner ecosystem in India?    
With the constant need for businesses to transform, the necessity to create end-to-end solutions along with the help of partners have never been greater as business transformation today cannot be accomplished alone. Market opportunities and transitions can be successfully executed by expanding channels that reach customers. We are actively investing in building a capacity-and-capability matrix which will help us in achieving our vision of a self-reliant, value selling profitable ecosystem of partners capable of addressing the requirements of every segment of the market. Our enhanced channel framework will help partners collaborate and help create more value for their customers.