Voices in Data Storage – Episode 28: A Conversation with Jonathan Martin of Hitachi Vantara

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In this episode Enrico speaks with Hitachi Vantara CMO Jonathan Martin about the evolution of data storage and its effects on numerous industries and technologies.


Jonathan Martin is responsible for the global strategy and execution of all aspects of Hitachi Vantara's marketing efforts. Self-described as a career CMO, Jonathan’s passion is to drive a progressive approach to B2B marketing at the intersection of metrics and magic where creativity and data work together.
Martin joined Hitachi Vantara after consulting for some of the world’s largest companies to revitalize and activate their brands. He was previously CMO for Pure Storage, Global CMO for EMC, and CMO at HP Software. Prior to HP, he held executive marketing and product roles at Salesforce.com, PortWise, and Veritas Software. Martin holds a Master of Science degree in Computer Science and Bachelor of Science degree in Applied Science from Staffordshire University. He is a frequent lecturer on marketing and entrepreneurship at Cal Poly University and global industry events. Martin is also a member of the CMO Council, a passionate supporter of diversity and inclusion, STEAM education and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.


Enrico Signoretti: Welcome, everybody. This is Enrico Signoretti for Voices in Data Storage, brought to you by GigaOm. Today I have with me Jonathan Martin, CMO of Hitachi Vantara of this data storage company or maybe more data company now; I don't know. Actually it was a great journey for this company in the last four or five years. We saw the company moving from being a data storage-only company, very conservative kind of company, actually, with monolithic storage array only in their offering for quite some time, moving to a lot of things: IoT, AI, edge computing.

I'm here today with Jonathan. Hi, Jonathan.

Jonathan Martin: Hey, good to be here.

My idea is to ask him a little bit about this journey; where are you today and where is the company going? We are here at Hitachi Next, so the company event. We got a large audience, more than 2,000 people attending. These are tier 1 customers. I saw the numbers; 90% of the Fortune 100 and 9 out of 10 of the major banks…

Almost - retail.

You deal with these kinds of customers, so what can you tell me about Hitachi today? What happened in the last two, three years, and now this year, you're at Hitachi Next.

Yeah, so I think our journey, at least as Hitachi Vantara, started about two years ago where we brought a number of different assets, different businesses together under the Hitachi Vantara brand, all really with a focus on how to build a platform for organizations for digital transformation. We had things like the old Hitachi data systems. We had things like Pentaho, so we brought a number of those together under this banner. The last couple of years, we've really been focusing on how to deliver more and more value for organizations that are going through digital transformation.

You may have seen over the last few weeks, we've also announced that we're going to be integrating, our intention to integrate with Hitachi Consulting. This is really to bring much closer alignment with the broader Hitachi, and we'll touch on that in a second, and really able to package up the intellectual property that we own as a company and package that into solutions that other organizations might like.

I think in Japan, if you're building an airport or you're building a railway line, more than 50% of the time it's probably likely that one of those was built by Hitachi. In the West right now, Hitachi's known a lot more probably classically for things like consumer goods. I think when I joined, everyone was like, “You're joining the TV and the power tools company.” I'm like, “We don't make TVs anymore.”

I think the journey that we're on right now is, as we bring these two organizations together is we have over 802 companies in our conglomerate. Not only do we work with finance organizations and manufacturing organizations and retail organization, but we own our own banks. We own our own manufacturing plants. We own our own retail stores. We are taking the intellectual property that we discover inside those organizations through the Hitachi Consulting, packing up that intellectual property into projects. Then as those projects repeat, we're now bringing this with the horizontal product software and hardware capability of Vantara to package that intellectual property and those projects into products, which we can then stand up and sell back into the automotive industry, the retail industry, the manufacturing industry, the energy industry, etc. If you look at where we're going, increasingly that's what you're going to see us doing.

It's quite interesting because yes, you mentioned it. You're integrating Hitachi Consulting, but actually the company now has hardware, software, services in the cloud, so it's a pretty broad line-up for you. My idea is how are you going to make all the integration of this company in the last few years. You're not Amazon, for example, so you're working on niche services. As far as I can tell about cloud, it's migration services, fast deployment, so maybe services that your customers are asking for. Are you not seeing that it's like a juggler with his balls running, but it's quite complicated now?

I probably wouldn't describe it as niche because data's pretty ubiquitous, but what we are trying to get to – over the last few years, everyone's tried to tell you that the world is hybrid. It's going from private data centers and we're moving that data from those private data centers more and more out into the cloud. I think our point of view is probably quite different.

If you look at/listen to the latest stats from Gartner, over 75% of the data that's going to be generated over the next few years is not happening in data centers; it's not happening in the cloud. It's happening out of the edge. The edge is not one thing; it's a spectrum of everything from sensors through to servers, gateways, and all the way through to micro-clouds. I heard some stats about the new BMW 7-series, which is 1500 sensors, 33 independent computers. It generates 4 terabytes of data inside the car and squirts 50 megabits back to BMW every day. That is, in itself, a micro-cloud on wheels.

More and more of that data is going to be managed out of the cloud. The organizations that we're looking at are not looking at ‘hey, the world is hybrid.’ They're looking at a world that is edge to core to multi-cloud, and they want to go and build what they call a digital business architecture, which spans all three of those things.

We're very focused on continuing to be super competitive in the markets that we've always operated in, things like storage. You'll see the announcement this week around the VSP 5000, two times faster than anything else that's out there, eight times more scalable; literally go from terabytes up to 69 petabytes in the same frame. I think probably one of the biggest sets of innovations there – is around the simplicity of deployment; 28 minutes from coming off the back of the truck to the first workload.

We heard from one of the customers today or this week that tasks that used to take them 28 minutes are now down to 2 minutes. We're going to continue to innovate and continue to bring game-changing products to the market in that space but on top of that, we're building a whole set of software services and service capability to allow you to be able to manage across this edge to core to multi-cloud.

In fact, to your point, one of the most interesting news [items] was your collaboration with Disney. I have to be honest; I saw Disney at all the events this year, IT events. Everybody's partnering with them somehow. What was different about Hitachi is that they came on stage and were not talking about “we are using this array or we are using this other technology.” It actually was interesting because they have a real scenario where they can use your technology and probably the whole entire stack. I mean, consulting servicing to make it happen but actually all the new other stuff for analytics and behind probably some services.

This is the end-to-end stack that you're talking about, and this is what companies want today. They want somebody. They want [fewer] vendors, so they want to talk with only one person and solve one problem, so avoid any sort of complexity. Is this the goal at the end?

Yeah, I think so. More and more, we're meeting customers that say “Yes, we can buy technology from a bunch of different people, or we could buy business consulting services from a bunch of different people.” The thing that Hitachi brings uniquely is its understanding [from] 190 years working in operational technology and bringing that intellectual property into our environment and then IT using tech to get it implemented. That's one thing that's different.

You talked about Disney; they are a very, very progressive organization. You've seen a couple of organizations on stage this week with us, people like Disney, people like British Telecom, who are all trying to struggle with the same problem, which in large enterprise organizations, is ‘how do you collect, curate, and share safely information across the enterprise?’ Seems like a very simple problem, but because of the diversity of the types of data that we're managing – no longer is it just your systems data or your peer or your CRM data or your social data or your digital clickstream data. People [are] merging it now with all of their sensordata, all of this data that's been generated by artificial intelligence and machine learning, so lots and lots of new data types, and all of those data types are managed in a slightly different way.

Second one is that this data is now more distributed in the organization than ever before. If you look at in my world as a CMO for a company the size of Hitachi Vantara, I have data that sits on tens of thousands of units generating telemetry out there and how people are using our products. I have my marketing data stored in 12 of our data centers around the world, might use in excess of 40 clouds. If I'm trying to understand just the basics of customer buying behavior, I have to be able to correlate all of those data sets. That is the challenge that we have, that Disney has, that BT has, that all these large organizations have. How do I collect, curate, and share data safely in the organization to allow the organization to use data to chase growth or to help reduce complexity?

Another aspect that I really appreciated in the keynote was all the discussion that you have on sustainability – that was the message. Like the Rainforest [Connection], while you are helping these organizations – I have to be honest. Hitachi, as far as I can tell, since the very beginning, the very first time I talked with a Hitachi representative, the company is very ethical. It's in its DNA. I want to talk about this today because now that everybody else is doing almost the same –

CSR is kind of really hip right now. There's a corporate social responsibility. Everyone's doing a little better at it. I think if you go to any of these other big events, what you'll see is a bit of CSR bolted on the front of the keynote. They're like, “Hey, not only do we have great products but we're a great company, too.” Then they bolt it on the end, and everyone's doing it.

Exactly. I appreciate that you did it in the end. You started the keynote talking to your people, IT members, your CIO, and these kind of guys and about the technology that they care the most [about]. Of course, it's very important to remark that you –

I think really what is genuinely different here is not just something that's cool or hip in 2019. It's something that is at the core of who the company is. Our mission statement from 109 years ago – I'm going to massacre it slightly here, but ‘build the company around building unique technology and services for the betterment of society.’ You roll the clock forward 109 years and guess what our mission statement is? It's exactly the same.

We have been doing this since day one and if you speak to Higashihara-san, Hitachi Limited CEO – he will talk to you equally about what we do having impact on business and on the economy, but equally having what we're doing have a positive impact on society and a positive impact on the environment.

What we've tried to do is over the two days – yesterday, focus on one half of the mission statement, which is around superior products, and we really brought some superior products to the market this week and really focus on economic and business impacts, so that was yesterday.

Today has been much more around technology, cool technology. We've talked about explainable AI. We've talked about what we're doing on 5G. We've talked about what we're doing on things like quantum computing. Also, we've talked a lot more about what we're doing from a social and environmental impact with, as you said, Rainforest Connection, with Smalkha, [India], with a bunch of other people.

Especially the Rainforest Connection was just this – the trading on between great technology and doing something for the environment. Maybe we can talk a little bit about it because it was very interesting.

They’re a fascinating Topher team over there, fascinating group of people. Basically they're just ripping the center out of old cellphones, putting them into what they look like, these large plastic flowers. They take them down to the Amazon. They hike them up 100 feet in the air, and they sit and listen to the rainforest. They stream all that data off of it into a cloud in San Francisco and then using the Hitachi products and Hitachi platform, they strip out the sounds of the rainforest in real time. They can strip out the sounds of a howler monkey or a parakeet or a stream, and they just get left with three sounds, which is the sound of human voices, the sound of engines, or the sounds of chainsaws. Because of that, they can then triangulate where illegal logging is happening in the rainforest and alert the authorities to go take care of that.

That's just an example of probably hundreds or projects like that that we work on around the world. They are trying to solve the big problems like the Amazon are the lungs of the planet; they recycle 25% of the world's carbon dioxide. If we can fix that problem, then we don't need to worry about how many cows are out there creating methane or how many cars are put on the road or whatever it may be. We're fundamentally solving one of the biggest challenges that people are facing over there.

We talked about what is Hitachi the last 100 years of why with this company and what you have achieved and what we have now. What is the medium range [focus] and maybe also talk a little bit about the long-term strategy for the company?

Totally. I think if you look at that we've moved from the 20th century where innovation was primarily fueled by one product, which is oil. Oil had a transformative effect on pretty much every walk of life in the 20th century from not just personal transportation but business, international travel, the ability to create plastics and all of these things.

We believe honestly that data is going to be the one commodity that is going to fuel innovation in the 21st century. We're very, very early days in this right now. We had Zeynep Tufekci on stage yesterday, who's one of the leading social commentators on the impact of technology on society. When she shares her vision of where she believes society is going to be in 2040, 2050, it's pretty mind-popping.

I think that's the goal for us is to continue over the next few years to bring the intellectual property that we create in the broader Hitachi, package it up, and deliver it in a way that will help accelerate the digital transformation for organizations. I hesitate to use that phrase because it's so over-utilized. Everyone has got religion on doing digital transformation. I think if you look, 55% of the Fortune 500 in the year 2000 simply don't exist today, the primary reason being they've not started the journey fast enough to becoming digital. Everyone's got the message on becoming a digital business.

I think the bigger challenge [over] the next ten years is all these new technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning and LIDAR and AR and VR and all of these things – how can organizations absorb this technology fast enough and be able to translate the technology into value and the value allow them to go and chase growth or help them reduce costs to keep them competitive? We believe we can have a transformative effect on organizations in accelerating that journey for them.

Fantastic. I think we covered a lot.

We did.

I think it was a great conversation, so I can wrap up and conclude it. If you want to add something that we...

No, I think that's great, other than if you want to do the gratuitous plug that we'll be back next year...

Jonathan, thank you very much for your time today. It was a great conversation, and I really enjoyed it. I have to say that I also enjoyed Hitachi Next this year and I'm looking forward to see what will happen in 2020 with the merger of the Hitachi Vantara and Hitachi Consulting as well as updates on the technology and all the other stuff that comes for your company. Thank you very much again.

Thanks so much.


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