Human-centric: it is a phrase many IT and cloud services vendors are using now – indeed, many would say they have always faced that way. But there are strong signs now that most of the large systems vendors understand that their world is changing significantly.
The interesting test now for business users is to try and gauge which of them has the best handle on the term, and which are suffering from `platitude-initis’ – the uttering of words or phrases for marketing purposes only.
For what it is worth, the latest to make that claim, Fujitsu, does seem to have a better idea of what constitutes human, and customer, centricity and how to implement it for its target marketplace, than many of its competition.
This came through at the company’s annual Fujitsu Forum in Munich. Though it would not claim it, the company is, at least in part, looking particularly at arming CIOs and IT departments with the tools needed humanly-centrify IT services.
This is being done by focusing attention on what might make the job of the CIO and TI department a good deal easier when it comes to producing fresh value for their business manager colleagues.
Getting that right will, or at least should, lead to the business as a whole providing customers with the type or degree of good experience that leaves them happy to come back for more.
This comes from two significant developments from the company: a reference architecture implementation of OpenStack as the core infrastructure underpinning everything and the global release of a new end user platform, called MetaArc, on which IT operations can build and manage the services their business users require.
At the heart of MetaArc lies some hefty developments in the architecture of Fujitsu’s core cloud infrastructure. Until now this has been a proprietary architecture known as K5, but the company has just about completed a full transition to OpenStack.
Rather than provide just an OpenStack distribution, however, it has opted to produce a full reference architecture, optimised to utilise the company’s own Primergy servers and Eternus storage systems.
Though this might sound like producing the essential ingredients for a customer lock-in environment, the company insists this is not the case. And even if was such an attempt, there is the point that it does look comprehensive enough – bringing together most if not all of the tools needed to set up and run a scalable cloud environment with the minimum commitment of engineering skills and resources by the customer – to make it a reasonable economic bet these days.
It is certainly cheaper to pull together all the open source elements required to build the equivalent OpenStack architecture from scratch, but it would take much more time and engineering resources, as well as be devoid of warranty or support, except from the community.
For many businesses, however, the ability to get services up and running, generating either revenue or value in some other form, is a more important goal. And if a customer did decide to move to a different cloud service provider at a later date, this would be relatively easy so long as it also provided an OpenStack-compliant infrastructure.
The underlying premise of MetaArc is as an implementation of Fujitsu’s main theme of servicing the need of bi-modal, hybrid IT – a business platform on which IT can build business services, basically providing users with the ability to produce a business system that can encompass the legacy systems that still play a core role in a business and the latest cloud-based applications that increasingly form the customer-facing front-end to business operations.
As the company’s CTO, Dr Joseph Reger, put it:
MetaArc is the description of a service platform, it is the basis of the service that the customer wants. People don’t go out and buy òne MetaArc and get it in a box’. They define the service they require and build it on MetaArc.
It is seen by the company as a system of engagement with the need to transition businesses for a digitalised world adding a range of applications and tools designed to help businesses pull together their specific mix of legacy and new applications. This can be then deployed in whatever way makes best sense for the user, ranging from a full, on-premise private cloud with just minimum warranty support through to a full SaaS implementation fully managed by Fujitsu.
A couple of the tools that come with MetaArc are examples of the direction the company is taking with it. One is RunMyProcess, a system which allows users to define the businesses they need to run and, through that, create the integration between applications, be they legacy or new cloud apps, that are required. This was originally a French company that was acquired by Fujitsu in 2013.
The company’s latest acquisition, announced at the Forum, was of another French company, UShareSoft. Its main product, Uforge, will be used to provide application delivery software for automating the build, migration and governance of applications in multi-cloud environments.
The acquisition also means that the UshareSoft people will become the lynch pin of Fujitsu’s cloud services R&D centre in Europe. Its job will be global, looking to accelerate the development expansion of its new parent’s cloud business. It also has tools that allow IT to set up systems providing full management control over operations that range for applications deployment through to HR on-boarding of new staff.
The company is already starting to push out early developments of MetaArc that target particular market sectors. These include one targeting on-premise and collocated private cloud users, known as PRIMEFLEX, as well as one aimed at businesses with heavy use of mobile devices, and one targeting the IoT sector.
In all of these, extensive use of automation is available and expected to be used, and in a discussion with Diginomica, Andrew Brabban, Vice President and Head of Hybrid IT Global Delivery at Fujitsu, challenged the view that hi tech, and Fujitsu in particular, was creating a situation where increasing use of automation would lead to extensive unemployment:
If you look over the history of technology development, its introduction has led to the loss of some jobs, but it has also always led to the growth in new jobs. It reflects the change in society as to where employment is. It also reflects the changes in the skills of those people.
We find that within Fujitsu as well, but fundamentally it is about recognising the latent value we have in the organisation. Take systems engineers: historically we have aligned them as a workforce that delivers projects to customers. With MetaArc we can start to capture the knowledge from the individuals to exploit across our provision of services and solutions.
He observed that there is a shift occurring amongst major vendors, where it is no longer about the technology per se but rather about exploiting the value and fundamentally shifting in how organisations govern and control their IT:
The real challenge now is how you can make a digital world work with the integrity of an organisation. And while the business imperative is to go as fast as possible there is a need to change the governance model to support the speed, while realising that with the digital agenda we are starting to lose control of some parts. So there is a need for maturity – we don’t want to lose the speed but how do we keep governance and control.
A good deal of the move to human centricity can be seen in the provision of glitzy apps and services targeted at end users. That is OK as far as it goes, but if the business systems behind and beneath them, that do the grunt work of making glitzy transactions happen, aren’t up to the job then it could be that only houses of cards are being built. Fujitsu looks like it is positioning what it does best at where it can make the greatest contribution to human centricity.