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Watch out Amazon and Google, here comes Fujitsu

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright July 17, 2013
Summary:
Japanese computer giant Fujitsu is aiming to ride the next wave in cloud computing to rival the success of companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce.com as a cloud provider in the enterprise market.

Chiseki Sagawa, Fujitsu
Chiseki Sagawa, Fujitsu

Japanese computer giant Fujitsu is aiming to ride the next wave in cloud computing to rival the success of companies like Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Salesforce.com as a cloud provider in the enterprise market.

Fujitsu's plan to be a global cloud player rests on the assumption that enterprises are becoming more sophisticated about their use of cloud resources.

Fujitsu doesn't intend to be just another infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) provider. It sees a much bigger opportunity higher up the cloud stack, as I learned last month in an interview with Chiseki Sagawa, corporate vice president and head of Fujitsu's Global Software Centre. He told me:

"My belief is our customers have a problem with operation and maintenance of their infrastructure, middleware and applications.

"IaaS does not relieve that.

"The goal is to take away the customer's burden of managing IT operations and maintenance, that is a waste of money for everybody. If we can monetize those costs, that is a win-win for customers and for ourselves. So that is our goal."

Aggressive cannibilization

Like many of the established names in enterprise computing — including IBM, HP and Microsoft — Fujitsu sees cloud computing as simultaneously a major opportunity for growth and a significant threat to much of its traditional business.

It has one significant trump card over those other vendors: except in Japan, it doesn't have any software business to speak of. "We do not need to worry about cannibilizing ourselves outside of Japan, so we can be aggressive," says Sagawa.

That aggression will show itself in a strategy that aims to help enterprises transition to a new wave of cloud adoption. Whereas today most enterprises are simply moving existing applications to IaaS platforms, Fujitsu sees those applications being supplemented or even replaced as future adoption moves up the stack.

Next-generation Amazon

The trend is inevitable because enterprise demand for use of the cloud comes from line-of-business managers, not CIOs, says Sagawa. They see the cloud as a means of rapidly assembling the applications, processes and services they need to achieve business outcomes.

"The opportunity [for Fujitsu is] quickly composing and reusing services," he explains. "To develop the next generation of Amazon at the higher level."

To further that strategy, in April Fujitsu bought French startup RunMyProcess, a cloud-native process integration platform. Coupled with Fujitsu's existing cloud enablement and distribution capabilities such as an app store, this allows businesses to aggregate cloud services and then provision the resulting composite service to users or customers.

Strategy director Dr Ian Thomas, a key architect of the plans, says it's all about harnessing cloud services to achieve business goals:

"While we want to be one of the global cloud platforms, our emphasis is different. We're not looking for people to put their existing middleware and platforms on our cloud infrastructure ... What we want to do is enable people to go as quickly as possible from an idea to digitizing their intellectual property and sharing it with others and making money from it."

Initially, says Sagawa, most enterprises will focus on orchestrating existing services that aren't working well together — for example, integrating processes across applications, combining them with SaaS offerings, or exposing existing IT assets as cloud APIs. "Web services integration is very important because of the trends we see today," he says.

Datacenter automation

Fujitsu's global ambitions are founded on a cloud service infrastructure launched in 2011 that spans six datacenters in the US, UK, Germany, Australia, Singapore and Japan. But despite becoming the first third-party hoster of a Microsoft Azure cloud, the IaaS offering has not built any significant customer base outside of Japan. Fujitsu missed its chance to be an IaaS provider on a global scale.

It was Sagawa who led the creation of that infrastructure, known as the Fujitsu Global Cloud Platform (recently rebranded as Fujitsu Cloud IaaS Trusted Public S5). It includes a highly automated management layer that was designed at Sagawa's insistence, as he explains:

"The server group was introducing blades at that time. I had a lot of complaints from customers that by having the network built into the server, now they had to look after networking as well. My concept was to eliminate all of those burdens."

The datacenter management layer is on a par with the kind of systems Amazon and Google have developed for their own datacenters, says Thomas. "In terms of how the software layer is built, that was built from the ground up for cloud." It is effectively a virtualized datacenter concept, he adds. "The whole virtual system can be templatized so people can provision the whole thing again and again."

Enterprise-class

Where Fujitsu differs from the big cloud-native vendors is in running on standard Fujitsu hardware rather than custom-built OEM equipment or Open Compute designs. But Sagawa points out that Fujitsu doesn't have the latitude with its enterprise customers that a provider like Amazon has: "Their business model is different because they can afford to be disruptive." He adds:

"Today our datacentre is enterprise-class. The biggest feature of our datacentre is that it's anti-earthquake proof. If we build it like Amazon or Google, if there's an earthquake it all goes down. Being in Japan and doing business in Japan, it's a must."

Those design parameters means that the datacenter can deliver almost seven nines of uptime — which means better than 99.9999%, or less than 30 seconds of downtime a year. It achieves this by using techniques such as software-wide striping across an 'island cell' of 128 servers and Raid 6 storage.

Within this architecture, a single database is distributed across all 128 servers to avoid data loss, which means Sagawa is not a fan of Oracle's licensing policies, notwithstanding Oracle's recent change of heart on cloud.

"Oracle asks us to pay for 128 licenses so we cannot offer Oracle," he says. "Oracle takes advantage of our architecture and asks us to pay a lot of license fees."

Read next: Can a 15-person startup change a global giant?

Disclosure: Oracle and Salesforce.com are diginomica premium partners at the time of writing. RunMyProcess is a former consulting client of the author. Dr Ian Thomas represents Fujitsu on the board of EuroCloud UK, where the author serves as chair.

Photo credit: Man on cloud © alphaspirit - Fotolia.com; Sagawa headshot courtesy of Fujitsu

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