The homepage of Munich's Augustiner Keller, where the annual Fujitsu Forum Europe has opened with a traditional Bavarian shindig for years now, says: "Do we have to talk about beer? Yes, of course we do!" We could say the same: there are many global IT conferences in the world, but the 10,000 or so attendees at the Fujitsu Forum know that few would be as successful without some attention to the "human" side of the event - that is, the hospitality.
That's no, if you pardon the pun, small beer. Fujitsu, despite being a Japanese company, has had its European headquarters in Munich for many years.
On top of that, it is now an IT vendor of some vintage, having been founded way back in 1923, so you can understand why IT chiefs settled on the Augustiner Keller, which serves speciality beer from the Augustiner brewery founded in 1328, as a suitably convivial venue with more than a smattering of tradition. The public keller only took its current form in 1896 - a few years after the last beer oxen, who toiled in circles in what is now the dining area to haul up the beer barrels from the cellar, were retired.
So what was served up at this year's Fujitsu Forum? Wurst, beer, and pretzels, certainly - but much more. The company is excited about its progress over the past year, particularly in the areas of what it is pleased to call a "human-centric" transformation of business computing, trickling across its products and services on offer as well as its channel.
Last year Rod Vawdrey, corporate senior vice president and president of international business at Fujitsu (pictured, right), admitted sales at the firm had been flat, but insisted it was still on track to grow sales 40 per cent in coming years, expecting to expand nine per cent from 2011. And this year, the figures appear to be improving.
Fujitsu Services, particularly, is on a roll as the firm's harmonisation and globalisation programme continues. This month saw Vawdrey explain at Fujitsu Forum that growth is now across the board, including €6.4bn (£5.3bn) in revenue earned from services by the international business, with the Japan market enjoying a boost this year as well.
"In Europe we have been engaged in a significant transformation programme," he says. "Things are better than we thought back in July. And we're predicting $46bn in revenue this year."
Nearly 40 per cent of its business is now done outside Japan, with the next goal being 50 per cent, Vawdrey says, as the globalisation of its offering accelerates. Today its worldwide support network includes 100 datacentres, six multilingual service centres, seven global delivery centres and networked cloud centres.
According to Vawdrey at 2012's Forum, 30 per cent of Fujitsu revenue will come from cloud services by 2015, and the company has become especially focused on emerging markets including Russia, the Middle East and Africa. Ninety per cent of organisations will be using "some form of cloud services" by then, he said.
The company is putting out plenty of froth around its challenge to other hardware OEMs, as well as services providers. In particular, its new cloud integration and aggregation platform that will get 30 or more cloud services from different vendors working together, with "single pane of glass" visibility, is expected to be a game-changer for the cloud market, which is continuing to mature.
Cameron McNaught, executive vice president of solutions for the international business division at Fujitsu, said the Fujitsu Cloud Integration Platform is "completely new" in its broad cloud portfolio with 3,600 customers, and 18 global cloud centres.
Customers began telling Fujitsu that they really need some way of integrating, aggregating and managing the multiple cloud services coming into their organisations. Fujitsu has responded with a modular platform that goes beyond being a service catalogue or portal to facilitate various cloud services and apps aggregated on it to "talk to each other", instead of operating opaquely and independently.
This should improve efficiency and reduce cost, freeing up resources for that coveted innovation, McNaught notes, with the main target being large organisations and government bodies with 2,500 seats or more. Full launch is expected by March 2014, although channel partners are expected to miss out - at least at first, in the case of VARs.
"We mean to sell it direct initially," confirms McNaught. "But we also intend to offer it through our partners."
Joseph Reger, chief technology officer in the international business division at Fujitsu, said afterwards that the job of integrating different cloud services - PaaS, IaaS, some kind of public cloud or virtualisation, and so on - is complicated "but not so complicated that it cannot be automated".
In future, companies may no longer need teams of specialists to help them do these kinds of things, Reger said - a statement that may not be pleasant hearing for a channel increasingly reliant on the services wrap.
It all fits under a banner idea of automating and streamlining business processes so customer organisations become free to create and innovate.
Fujitsu invited Forrester Research analyst Rachel Dines to explain how current IT - particularly incumbent storage technology - is actually preventing many organisations from doing these things at the moment - at least, if a related market research survey can be trusted.
Dines said Forrester's analysis confirms -- as reported earlier on ChannelWeb -- that data processing needs, coupled with similarly expanding business requirements, are far exceeding what storage technology can cope with. "It is no surprise," she said. "And 25 per cent of business leaders said that the IT hampers what they're trying to do. That's not good."
The phenomenon is down to several reasons - not least that servers have got so much faster and the storage hardware is just too slow. Meanwhile, businesses need to be able to handle more data and information at greater speed. There is a need to compete and maintain or develop competitive advantage based on a real fear that rivals will snap up their customers; rising employee and customer expectations of what can be achieved; the cost of downtime; accountability to shareholders; and then there is globalisation, all pushing organisations to do more.
European businesses surveyed this year, she said, also indicated that they wished to spend only 41 per cent of their IT budget on maintenance and operations - down from
48 per cent in 2013.
"This obviously plays into the big data revolution that we are seeing," Dines says. "But only one in three believes that IT is well aligned to business needs. And 25 per cent of business leaders say that IT hampers their success."
Fujitsu has released a new line of Eternus storage hardware, the DX Series, shipping next month, that boosts the IOPS (input/output operations per second)and allows for more automation, the company says. Frank Reichart, senior director of IT infrastructure solutions at Fujitsu, says the message to customers is that you can do the same things with a smaller DX system, or do more with the same system class.
Investing in stability
So is there much for Fujitsu's 45,000 regional resellers and 16,200 Select partners to raise a stein to this year, after all?
According to Craig Parker, head of product marketing at Fujitsu UK and Ireland, the new channel opportunities are exciting across most of the product lines, covering mobile computing, servers, and unified storage. "We are investing heavily in people and programmes around storage," he says.
Parker also promises sufficient stability in terms of channel offerings to assist predictability. "We don't change them much," he says.
Michael Keegan, executive director of Fujitsu's technology products group across UK and Ireland (pictured, right), believes the vendor is now in a great position to take on major brands and take their partners - including the 150 on the Select programme - with them.
"Overall, the Fujitsu product business is showing great year-on-year growth, low single digits of revenue. I'm really happy about that because it's in a market that is seeing a desktop and PC decline," Keegan says.
Indirect sales especially are growing faster. Also, last year the UK saw 19 to 20 per cent server growth, and storage up about 30 per cent to 20 per cent of its business in total terms, he says. "HP's business is obviously enormous - but it can only go down. And with Dell, the capital structure now is quite problematic for Dell partners, taking on $220bn (£137bn) of debt. You have to have fantastic profitable growth," Keegan says. "A classic example is 2e2. So if you're a Dell partner, you've got to be thinking quite carefully."
Veerle Limbos, vice president of corporate channels in the international business at Fujitsu, says the vendor will go on doing whatever it can to support its channel to increase sales, including ongoing evolution of the Select partner programme. Only by working together can vendors and VARs both achieve their goals today, she says.
"The data tsunami is creating a lot of challenges in terms of complexity, security, networking and so on, and we also see changes in buying behaviour - stimulated of course by economic challenges," Limbos says.
"But the Select partner programme is really a success - 80 per cent of our retail product revenue is now coming from partners, in some countries 85 per cent. And in this complex environment we have seen that we need to shift gears and address the market in a different way."
And it's not all about the money, according to Hideyuki Saso, corporate senior executive vice president at Fujitsu: the newly globalised company's vision of its role is a big one. A large company based all around the world, with access to many different human and other resources, collaborating in real time, can accelerate and innovate faster, and therefore help others to do the same. The ultimate aim, Saso says, is to benefit humanity.
"We want to help [fight] the many social challenges in the world, with the power of ICT. We are committed to building a better and more prosperous world through the power of ICT. This is exactly our vision, through one Fujitsu."
Fujitsu: a services-led technology business
■ 31,000 staff in the services arm
■ 4.4m end users in 177 countries
■ 150,000 servers in 113 datacentres
■ 1.5m support requests a month
Source: Fujitsu 2013
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