Hitachi Purchases Comstock

Gains NAS, resource management software; Comstock to keep CEO.

To bolster its storage software lineup, Tokyo-based Hitachi Ltd. last week acquired Comstock Systems Corp. for $20 million.

Comstock makes software to manage NAS (network-attached storage) and resources such as switches and servers and will essentially be a development shop in those areas for Hitachi Data Systems, based in Santa Clara, Calif., HDS President and Chief Operating Officer Dave Roberson said.

Comstock will keep its CEO, Bruce Eastman, along with other current management and will remain a separate company. It will be renamed Hitachi Storage Software Inc. and may also target ISVs, Roberson said.

Comstock, of San Jose, Calif., already was a primary source of the resource management in Hitachis HiCommand suite, Roberson said. The companys technology had features for device discovery, monitoring, managing, reporting and forecasting.

For the NAS management, Comstocks technology handles discovery, event handling, performance and file system management, security, quota management, and capacity forecasting.

"We wanted it for the people and their skills, not necessarily for the technology theyve already developed," Roberson said.

Comstock, with 36 employees, did have technology partners as a member of Sun Microsystems Inc.s and Silicon Graphics Inc.s development programs.

Despite Comstocks small size, Hitachi likely had to pay the lofty $20 million price tag to ensure Comstock will stay in business.

If Comstock had shut down, or if another buyer had come in, Hitachi could have been stranded without any resource management, said Randy Kerns, an analyst with Evaluator Group Inc., in Greenwood Village, Colo.

Hitachi may not be done expanding. Along with IBM in the high end and Hewlett-Packard Co.s Compaq legacy offerings in the midrange, Hitachis main competition is EMC Corp., of Hopkinton, Mass., and that means there are still gaps to fill, HDS Roberson said.

In the midrange and modular storage realms, Hitachi will likely partner with a server vendor, just as it already does with Sun, of Palo Alto, Calif. In services, itll try to grow in-house, Roberson said.

Hitachi officials have said their goal is to overtake EMC and become the top storage company by 2004. But EMC has been lowering prices and is announcing numerous new products and product updates this year.