Japanese technology giant Fujitsu has unveiled plans to launch enterprise-grade storage as a service to its Australian customers, although it will cut down the number of hardware vendors it focuses on.
The service, still in planning, is intended to offer a cheaper and less complex alternative to the management of storage under Fujitsu's existing outsourcing model.
It's the commoditisation of storage; taking out the technical complexity and delivering storage like you would electricity or water
Fujitsu's Rajesh Singh
Today, Fujitsu manages storage area network switches from Brocade and Cisco Systems, storage from EMC, HDS, HP, IBM and its own Fujitsu brand and a smattering of NetApp and low-end proprietary network-attached storage devices. Furthermore, the outsourcer has to manage the various product lines each of these vendors release (EMC's Clariion and Symmetrix lines, for example), plus the tools of all the major backup vendors.
"Every customer of ours has one or more SANs and backup technologies," explained Rajesh Singh, general manager of systems management at Fujitsu, in an interview with ZDNet.com.au. "Our approach until now has been, if there is a need for a customer to have a piece of kit, we'll manage it."
Supporting such a broad folio of technologies has come at considerable cost to the outsourcer, and in turn its clients.
"Its very manual and time-consuming and hectic to be on top of it," says Singh. "Most of that complexity would be resolved if you had one, maybe two storage vendors. You achieve better economies of scale, depth in skill-sets in the technology you choose and improved quality for customers."
Fujitsu said its aim was to transition as many customers as possible to use storage-as-a-service, under which the vendor specialises in one to two technologies, and delivers customers "storage at the end of a piece of cable, based on performance specs driven by SLAs [service level agreements]".
The outsourcer's current customer list includes the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority, RailCorp, HealthSmart and Victoria Police.
Singh said the company might still choose to support multiple storage vendors within its traditional outsourcing services, but such an offering would come at a markedly different cost to the storage-as-a-service offering.
"We might in the future give customers just two alternatives," he says. "We can offer one price to manage their SAN as it is, or a far more attractive price to move their data to the one or two SANs we specialise in."
Aaron Bell, solutions architect at Fujitsu, said he expected storage-as-a-service to be cheaper. "How much cheaper is anybody's guess," he said. "But if it takes less people to manage it, we will be passing those savings onto customers."
Fujitsu is still in an initial stage of evaluating which storage and back-up technologies to support.
Bell said the solutions of the various storage vendors wouldn't be evaluated on a "feature for feature, point for point" comparison, but rather how each fit within the broader framework of technologies Fujitsu managed.
Singh says there was a "clear trend" in service providers consolidating to as few technologies as possible.
"[Storage as a service] is a good business model based on the growth of storage and its growing complexity. It's the commoditisation of storage; taking out the technical complexity and delivering storage like you would electricity or water," he said.