Fujitsu eyes cloud-powered 'human' society

Japanese IT vendor unveils three cloud computing services for companies in Southeast Asia, marking start of long-term cloud roadmap aimed at solving some of society's most pressing needs, reveal execs.
Written by Kevin Kwang, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Fujitsu has introduced three cloud-based services here, and on a wider scale Southeast Asia, which the company hopes will cover the spectrum of needs for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) and large enterprises. Beyond this, the Japanese IT vendor is looking to create complex cloud offerings that comprise multiple workflows to create a "human-centric society", executives shared.

Wong Heng Chew, president of Fujitsu Asia, said on Thursday it launched its Global Cloud Platform, SAP infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) and suite of cloud professional services as part of the company's decision to make cloud a cornerstone of its overall business strategy. These services were first launched in Japan, followed by Australia and New Zealand in February. The new services were also introduced in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany this week, alongside the Singapore launch, he added.

Wong told ZDNet Asia during an interview that Fujitsu expects cloud services to account for 30 percent of the company's new businesses by 2015. Additionally, it invested US$1 billion in 2010 and is investing a further US$1.2 billion this year to bolster its cloud business, he revealed.

Elaborating on the new services, Craig Baty, CTO of Fujitsu Australia who was also present at the interview, said the SAP IaaS offering is an example of the company's Local Platform, which allows for customization according to the characteristics and needs of each individual market.

"What Fujitsu's global headquarters does is to arm the respective regional offices with the necessary technologies and support, but it is up to us to customize the product offerings to better target our customer base," Baty explained.

Wong added that following the partnership with SAP, he is currently looking for a "Salesforce-type" company for future cloud offerings in Singapore. To target SMBs, the company will be looking to service providers as channel partners, he said, noting that Singapore-based ST Engineering is one such provider that has signed up.

Baty stressed that the difference between Fujitsu's IaaS offerings and what other public cloud providers have brought to market is in the "enterprise-class" security measures and SLAs (service level agreements) that it has in place. He said the Japanese vendor views cloud computing as an "outsourcing deal" where security and SLAs required should be met.

As such, he said customers looking to utilize Fujitsu's public cloud service will first have to call its customer support to verify their credit details and business background. Compared with other alternatives currently offered in the market which require users to simply key in their credit card details online, Baty said this step helps ascertain the identity of new users and ensure they have proper licensing for software they might want to deploy on top of Fujitsu's IaaS hardware. Users will then "never need" to contact another support staff again, as its cloud service portal is created for people to self-provision.

"With these steps in place, we see our offerings as a 'trusted cloud' which brings in the best of public and private cloud deployments," he added.

Focus on enterprise-grade security and SLAs had heightened following high-profile service outages suffered by Sony and public cloud provider Amazon Web Services in the past months.

Solving society's needs
Baty also shared the company's long-term philosophy regarding its cloud roadmap, noting that it is intent on cloud offerings that would help create a "human-centric society".

To this end, Fujitsu is looking beyond IaaS, which Baty expects to be "commoditized" in the next 3 to 4 years, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) and software-as-a-service (SaaS). It also looking to provide "activity-as-a-service and content-as-a-service", which involve bringing together existing single workflow done over the cloud and configuring these into multi-workflow deployments equipped with multiple databases, he explained.

An example of such a deployment is Fujitsu's collaboration with the Japanese government to create an "agricultural cloud database" that incorporates multiple workflows and sources of data, the CTO pointed out. In this project, the Japanese government is looking to harvest the knowledge of existing farmers and accumulate these in a common repository so that future generations would be able to tap the data.

Fujitsu, in turn, creates and deploys sensors attached to farmers' bodies to track their movement, soil temperature and conditions, weather information, among others, he said. Additionally, Baty said a Web portal was created for farmers to better track and grow their businesses as well as to provide supply chain management tools for the government to track, for example, the amount of rice being produced.

Asked when activity-as-a-service and content-as-a-service will be made commercially available, Wong said there are already "live" projects deployed but these are still relatively small in scale. Baty added that the vision is a philosophy and not time-measured yardsticks to follow.

He also noted that for such deployments to be successful, people's concerns over data and trusting personal information to third-party vendors are barriers that need to be overcome. "The challenge is with people, not the IT involved," Baty said.

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