Briefing Note: How to Tackle Big Data and the Internet of Things

IT companies around the world are looking at analytics as the holy grail for improving a host of business processes, such as cost reduction, manufacturing efficiency, predictive maintenance, design optimization, etc. And those in large, capital-intensive industries are particularly interested, the kinds of businesses that Hitachi Ltd has been running for decades. At Hitachi Connect, this week in Las Vegas, the company explained their plan to leverage these business units to become the leaders in Big Data Analytics and the Internet of Things.

At this event the company brought together industry influencers, executives, key customers and sales teams from all the divisions of Hitachi Ltd. around the world. These are the companies that make large engineered products like trains, medical imaging equipment, construction machinery, etc, as well as automotive systems, electronic equipment and of course, computers and storage. In addition to announcements about new products and acquisitions and some really interesting technology demos, the theme of the event was “Social Innovation”, a concept they introduced at last year’s Analysts’ Event.

Social Innovation

As we discussed in a previous blog, Social Innovation doesn’t refer to the impact that Twitter, Facebook and Google have had on IT and the world in general. It’s the application of Information Technology to solving real-world problems by making complex systems smarter. While this sounds like a grand vision for a non-profit, there’s good business logic at work here as well.

The dozens of business units that comprise Hitachi Ltd. make all sorts of products that in fact do impact people’s lives, like transportation, water treatment, energy, public safety, automobiles, etc. Social Innovation, from Hitachi’s perspective, is a plan to improve the businesses in these industry sectors by leveraging what HDS knows best, data. And now Hitachi is focusing on Big Data Analytics (BDA) and the Internet of Things (IoT) as the technological means to that end. Here are some of the details.

Converged Infrastructure and BDA Platform

HDS has the IT infrastructure, of course, and is now adding other pieces, like the announced acquisition of the Pentaho analytics platform, to their new turnkey, converged architecture, the Unified Compute Platform. This gives customers a standardized IT infrastructure from which to run Hadoop and OpenStack implementations, as discussed in this StorageSwiss White Paper. They’re also building a BDA practice, leveraging the technical resources of the Hitachi organization, along with an impressive set of labs around the world. But most importantly, there’s a commitment from the top, a directive from the CEO of Hitachi Ltd, for each of the company’s divisions to work with HDS in developing this Social Innovation expertise.

The Imperative of Real World Experience

Developing an understanding of Big Data, the Internet of Things, and how to make these concepts work for companies requires intimate knowledge of the industry in question. For an IT products company developing a BDA solution that means access to the technologies and processes these companies want answers for, access to what’s often their most sensitive IP. This is where HDS is leveraging the real-world experiences of Hitachi Ltd businesses and the access they have, being a division of the same conglomerate.

Let’s assume we’re talking about a company making large industrial chillers, air conditioning units for big buildings. In order to improve efficiency, they may want to analyze millions of data points collected during the operation of these units and optimize their designs to reduce energy consumption and maintenance.

To do this, the company would work with their information technology vendor to develop the appropriate analytics models and come up with an application to deliver the data outcomes they need. It could even require some additional technology outside of IT to capture the data – like sensors – which might need to be developed.

This is actually a real-world example. Hitachi is in HVAC (Heating, Ventilating and Air Conditioning) manufacturing and HDS is working with them on this project, leveraging the kind of access that’s only available within the corporation. In addition to this insider access, HDS can leverage other available technologies that may be key to this particular BDA project, like equipment sensors (which Hitachi also develops). Finally, the technology developed through this project could be applied to other industries, like data center cooling, for which HDS could provide its industry knowledge.

StorageSwiss Take

Big Data and the Internet of Things are arguably the primary drivers for IT over the next decade, maybe even more so than the cloud. When it comes to developing technologies around capturing and analyzing these enormous amounts of data, knowledge of the industries, the businesses in those industries and the equipment that generates much of that data is key. That requires real-world experience of these industries and access to the companies in them, both of which HDS has.

Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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