Screenshot 2014-12-03 14.11.14I met NEC a few weeks ago during Storage Field Day 6. As always when I talk to a giant Japanese IT company I feel great respect for their technology but at the same time, I have to admit that they seem distant from western user needs and the risk is that they remain irrelevant.

My impression

Screenshot 2014-12-03 14.11.30We got the chance to look at two different products: the M-Series array series and HYDRAstor. The first looks old while the latter has a great untapped potential.

If you look at spec sheets, features, configurations, models and so on, the M-series arrays look solid and they have all the features you can expect from a traditional, 2 controllers, storage array. Nothing special, but acceptable.

Then you watch the demo and the only thing that comes to mind is “Really?!?! This product is as old as my grandmother!”. The UI was probably designed 10 to 15 years ago (or more), still on Windows and with no sex appeal whatsoever. Complicated and awkward in many aspects. This is a big mistake and diminishes the value of almost everything behind it: one of the most important factors for success in SMB (where this product can be positioned) is ease of use and simplicity.

HS8-4000-2HNx2SN_front1On the other hand, HYDRAstor, which is a much more complex solution (a scale-out object-based multi-petabyte storage) has a decent user interface but totally lacks some useful features, in a half baked product.
The backend seems very well designed as well as all the parts that are related to its engineering, even the Web user interface has a much better aspect (when compared to the M-series).
It is a great fit for backup (performance, replication, integration with backup softwares) but it has a huge undiscovered potential in many more interesting areas.
Most evident limitations come from S3/Swift APIs absence (they will probably be released in the future) and limited file protocol access (NO SMB 2/3 for example). Limitations which narrow the scope of the product.

Closing the circle

At the end of the day NEC’s storage solutions have a potential but I think that, as for many other Japanese companies, part of the engineering should be moved outside Japan, where they could look more carefully at the needs (and trends) of the rest of the world.

Look at HDS for example, the most popular Japanese vendor in enterprise storage, they picked up on this problem a few years ago and now this company looks (and acts) in a very international fashion thanks to clever Japanese engineering and real world American pragmatism. New HDS products and results speak for themselves, don’t they? IMHO, NEC should do the same.