Hitachi-ID: Good strategy, great new opportunities, but no shopping spree!

I've recently briefed by Hitachi-ID (ex M-Tech) about what's going on now that they are operating under a new banner. On the line were the Shohams (Gideon and Idan) as well as the new Chief Strategy Officer Masata Saito. We started going over the acquisition again - no surprise there as it's been all over the news: M-Tech has been acquired by Hitachi, and is now run as a separate business unit called Hitachi-ID, the Shohans will continue to lead the company, and the entire ex M-Tech organisation and product line will remain with Hitachi-ID - no splits-ups, re-orgs or technological fusions on the roadmap.

What I was burning to know was what Hitachi-ID's outlook was. Some have forecast a new sun rising on the Identity Management horizon now that HP called it quits. Initial comments that Hitachi-ID was looking to establish itself as one of the leaders in the space and grow through partnerships and acquisitions have also fueled rumours of a new acquisition wave about to go through the industry - is another compulsive shopper about to go on a binge? In short: Nope. The Shohams have both feet on the ground and a very clear vision: now we have everything in place to really accelerate what we've been doing. This was the big message that was present in many of the smaller details.

Hitachi-ID will now get an almost immediate footprint, leveraging existing Hitachi facilities world-wide, and recruit local sales and service staff. Also, a select team of Hitachi Ltd staff will join Hitachi ID. That made me wonder. Did Hitachi Ltd have significant Identity Management skills on their payroll? Apparently so, through many service engagements with customers - and it seems that those specialists are excited to join the foray!

The more you look at the potential for synergy between Hitachi Ltd and the former M-Tech, the better it seems to get. By leveraging the Hitachi corporate brand, large enterprises are expected to feel more comfortable sourcing strategic technology from the world's 5th largest company. Was this really a problem back in the M-Tech days? Probably only rarely, but when it did happen, it sure must have hurt. The fact that Hitachi's business units attracts invitations to tender (or as our American friends would say: "receive RFPs") means new opportunities: nowadays, Hitachi is now taken even more serious in the IT security and identity area, and Hitachi-ID will now receive more calls for tender/RFPs than it previously has, and can count on a very experienced full-time staff coming from other business units that are experts in writing and winning these proposals. At the same time, Hitachi ID will work with other Hitachi units that have a foot in important verticals, such as health care, education, power systems and manufacturing - to develop a focused presence and sales in those verticals.

Well, this all sounds great and exciting, but I was determined to quiz my hosts about the plans for the product range, and to see whether I could smell any upcoming new acquisition or strategic shift of direction. Hitachi-ID has a very successful offering based on specific components, but is not offering a comprehensive suite, and therefore in the same league as some of the current "major players". Specifically, the lack of Web-SSO and federation technology (amongst other things, but these are the biggies) spring to mind. Gideon acknowledged that yes, these were some "small gaps", but saying that he thinks that Hitachi-ID covers about "90% of the whole spectrum". I found that - how should I put it - very "forward looking"; in Kuppinger Cole's opinion M-Tech has a solid offering in some key areas of identity and access management, but not even coming close to an integrated suite in terms of completeness, compared with other suite vendors.

So is Hitachi-ID going to try to cover these bases, fill out the gaps and offer an end-to-end solution? The Shohams are firm believers in "best of breed solutions" and says that it has sold its software into many accounts that are also using identity management software from one of the other "big suite vendors" - Sun, CA, IBM and Oracle. According to Gideon, many customers and integrators share his view on the "best of breed" approach, and that makes for healthy business. Hitachi-ID will continue its existing partnerships to offer its software in combination with parts of other vendors' "suites", and expects the number of partners to grow rather than shrink. What about the long-term? Well, some of the gaps are likely to be filled through developments or acquisitions, but at this time the focus is on consolidating and maximising synergies.

Hitachi ID is definitely in a very comfortable position - having been successful and growing smart as M-Tech in the past, it now has some strong tailwind that can take it much further, much faster. Hitachi ID's management is now setting its sails correctly to make perfect use of that tailwind that came with the acquisition.



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