I attended the Hitachi Vantara conference for the second year in a row. As conferences go, this was very well planned and executed and packed a lot into three-four days. H-V is a hardware, software and services organization now that Hitachi Vantara is merging with Hitachi Consulting to accelerate the expansion of Hitachi’s Social Innovation Business and Digital Growth. Beginning in January 2020, the integrated companies will operate under the brand Hitachi Vantara and will be led by Toshiaki Tokunaga
Hitachi Consulting was formed in 2000 when the Japanese multinational corporation Hitachi Ltd. acquired Grant Thornton LLP’s Chicago-based information technology and strategy consulting practice. Other significant acquisitions include 23 partners and 370 consultants of Arthur Andersen Business Consulting (AABC), which joined the company in June 2002 after the dissolution of Arthur Andersen. I don’t have precise numbers for Hitachi Consulting, but it was 6500 in 2015.
A repeatable theme was "The New Rules for the Data Economy," which I didn't find very compelling, but the three focus areas under that vague manifesto were pretty clear:
- New Workloads: Enterprise AI/ML/AR
- New Architecture: Edge-Core-Multi-cloud (where is hybrid?)
- New Approach: DataOPS
The first major announcement was the introduction of their “Project Jupiter,” the VPS5000 storage array, which is scalable to 69 petabytes, 21 million IOPS. That sort of boggles of the mind, but in concert with their other focuses of IoT/Edge, DataOPS, and Cloud Management, it's an excellent fit for those massive data efforts. They mentioned among other features the use of FPGA, and that surprised me because I thought they'd come and gone along time ago (Netezza's was the use of FPGA to organize IO operations, but as everything else in the hardware stack got faster and cheaper, it was no longer necessary).
Lumada is software. Its focus is on Analytics, Governance, Operational Agility. Anything that HitachiVantara does in software is within the Lumada umbrella. Cloud services, for example, are integrated into the stack from the acquisition of:
REAN Cloud LLC, a global cloud systems integrator, managed services provider, and solutions developer of cloud-native applications across big data, machine learning, and emerging internet of things (IoT) spaces. Through this acquisition, Hitachi Vantara gains critical capabilities and industry-leading expertise in cloud migration and modernization, instantly elevating its cloud offering portfolio and managed services capabilities.
The assertion that most data emanates from the edge (probably true), the "Next Generation" Data Lake features structured and non-structured data, multi-cloud data management, self-service curation, and some level of metadata curation and a catalog. The catalog, as part of Pentaho 9.0, is not what I define as a data catalog. I'd suggest they add a knowledge graph machine learning/deep learning driver to the catalog and provide usable data semantics. Alternatively, a customer can add those features from another vendor.
The compelling argument about their data lake in the cloud (meaning, object store) is that it's more efficient than Hadoop. If you have a data lake with 1000 processors, most of them are idle when running a job because they're tied to data that you don't use. This isn't a novel argument, but it doesn't have to be if it's right.
For the second year in a row, I was impressed with Lumada’s capability in IoT, especially IIoT, which makes sense as Hitachi is a leading manufacturer of industrial equipment and operates over 100 of its own factories.
Toshiaki Higashihara’s Social Innovation Business
Toshiaki Higashihara, President and CEO of Hitachi, Ltd.- just for the record, Hitachi is an $85 billion company with roughly 300,000 employees worldwide-, gave a presentation on the main stage. He stressed that the Hitachi organization worldwide is committed to achieving a sustainable society through its Social Innovation Business. Higashihara is a very pleasant personality and projects real authenticity about this motivation, but there were a couple things that had me scratching my head.
Examples of Hitachi’s accomplishments in this vein were bullet trains in the UK and Denmark that cut commuters’ travel time to and from work (so they could have breakfast with their family) substantially. That isn’t what I’d think about first when looking into a sustainable society. More disturbing was the customer that followed him in the stage. ConAgra. A 2006 report by CERES, a non-profit organization that works to address global climate change and other sustainability issues, titled "Corporate Governance and Climate Change: Making the Connection," measures how 100 leading global companies are responding to global warming. Companies in the report were evaluated on a 0 to 100 scale. ConAgra scored a total of 4 points, the lowest of any of the food companies rated.
Nevertheless, Higashihara set the company’s direction to deliver digital solutions utilizing the primary product offering, Lumada, in five sectors, including Mobility, Smart Life, Industry, Energy, and IT, to increase customer's social, environmental and economic values.
One other presentation that was probably interesting to most of the people there, but it covered pretty much everything I've already researched, written, and spoken about: AI Ethics.
Zeynep Tufekci is a Turkish writer, academic, and techno-sociologist known primarily for her research on the social implications of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data in the context of politics and corporate responsibility.
She is an excellent presenter, without notes or slides, and presents a solid introduction to the ethical as well as reputational issues of ML/AI. (Plug: If you want a comprehensive treatise on this, read my report, "Ethical Use of Artificial Intelligence for Actuaries" Most of the material is applicable generally with only a few sections specifically for actuarial practice.”)
My overall impression of Hitachi Vantara is that they have some brilliant people. They are being ambitious and have an impressive roadmap and existing products, though not without substantial competition. In general, some of these things are not quite ready, but I suspect that will change in a matter of months. The merger of Hitachi Consulting and Hitachi Vantara has the potential to really propel these offerings into the market worldwide, but large mergers like this can often hit some speed bumps. I hope they don’t.