We have just returned from participating in the Fujitsu World Tour 2015 in London, which was held at the venue of The Brewery, on Chiswell Street in London. This was a useful day and allowed us to catch up on all that was new at Fujitsu, see some of their latest technology on display and chat directly with members of senior management etc.
This year's event was a big occasion, with Fujitsu marking its 80th anniversary of formation. When we are so used to tech companies coming and going, Fujitsu has shown that it is very much here to stay (and indeed growing and thriving as a business).
First item in the day was the greeting from Fujitsu UK CEO Regina Moran who also shared some of the history of the company with us. This was interesting and new to me - Fujitsu's origination was just after the Great Earthquakes of 1923. After this tragic and devastating event, a team of Japanese engineers made a visit to Germany to investigate the newly developed technology of the automated telephone switchboard and specifically Siemens who were one of the European leaders in this emerging field of electronic communications. This lead to the founding of Fuji Electric, from which Fujitsu Computers spun off (in 1935) and also gives us insight into the origins of the enduring relationship and strong ties between Fujitsu in the East and their counterparts in Germany over time. You may or may not remember that in Europe in recent history until 2009, the company traded as Fujitsu-Siemens computers (when Fujitsu bought out Siemens' 50% stake).
Fujitsu continue to have a large manufacturing and research facility in Germany at Augsburg where many of their business laptops, servers and desktop computers are produced. Where a lot of modern computers are now manufactured in China (not that there is anything wrong with this), it is good to know that computer manufacturing of the highest quality is still alive in Europe.
Next up was Dr Joseph Reger, who used to be Head of Research but is now CTO of EMEIA and a Fujitsu Fellow (the highest rank of engineering within Fujitsu). His background is in academia and we have enjoyed listening to his thoughts in the past, and his take on industry trends and insights are to be respected and in our opinion well worth paying attention to. The key theme of Dr Reger's keynote address was mainly on The Hyper Connected Society, and Human Centric Computing. At Onega we'd think of these as different takes on Digital Disruption, IoT (Internet of Things) and Pervasive Computing. Whichever terminology you use, the key message is the same - society is becoming more and more connected, to the point that we'll think it odd if something is not networked and 'smart' in a number of years and this is going to bring a lot of change, and contingent to this; opportunity for some and threats for others. By 2020, approximately 10 Billion devices will be connected to the Internet.
To give you an idea of the continuing exponential change to come after that - if all these devices were connected only to Onega's own IPV6 allocation of addresses, they would use only 0.0000000000000000003% of our available addresses. Companies have to think about their strategies to be part of this change, to embrace the opportunities, or to be left behind. Good companies simultaneously plan and think about their strategy for the next 12 months, the next 24-60 months, and the longer term. We've written about this at Onega before but it stands repeating - some industries will be created, others will be decimated. Dr Reger was frank that some companies sugar coat this with harmless sounding terminology such as IBM's preference for the term 'Augmented Intelligence' and indeed Fujitsu's own term 'Human Centric Technology' somewhat masks the fact that whilst technology connects people, it also cuts people out of the loop in the interests of efficiency and effectiveness.
There were some good points that we can all relate to. In the current age of technology, even as it is, there are simple things too that can (and will) be improved. One obvious example in the UK, Europe and most of the world, in the field of medicine, is the current status quo; when, typically, you turn up on time for your appointment with your GP and end up waiting for up to an hour to be seen, whereas in time the reverse can be true and the statement of 'Doctor, the Patient Will See You Now' will perhaps be made as per the work of Alex Topol that we link to here.
After the Morning Plenary Session, the rest of the day contained a number of breakout sessions including Government as a Platform (Gaap), Hybrid IT, CyberSecurity, Democratisation of application development in a business, Windows 10 and many others. Like many days with multiple tracks; Murphy's law dictates that the three sessions you're particularly keen on attending will all be on at the same time.
We attended the Partner Session which was a good briefing for Partners (Onega are one of the most qualified Fujitsu Partners in London and the UK) and learnt about progressions in Fujitsu's channel operations etc. Fujitsu works well and is responsive to the partner channel, and they are introducing new concepts to their Innovation Centre in Baker Street as well as continuing to grow UK sales and engineering presence. The business is profitable and growing, and this was only good news. We and other partners asked questions and gave feedback, and the session was in good spirit. After the session we had a short meeting with Alistair Hollands who is Retail and Volume Sales Director at Fujitsu in the UK, and this was also productive.
The evening before the event, I'd seen that Fujitsu had a smartphone app (for both Android and iPhone) for The World Tour - this I downloaded to see the agenda and map and it proved useful during the day as The Brewery is not a small venue and some of the halls had a lot of display areas from Fujitsu and their key partners; Brocade, Citrix and Intel. The app was genuinely useful on the day and I noticed that they also had a Challenge Game in this. The goal of the game was to fulfil a set of challenges and take photos which were uploaded for evidence (and embarrassment!) to prove you'd completed the task. These involved visiting nearly every stand and investigating something on it; ranging from the Oculus Rift VR Headset through to the Financial Services Innovation display and storage areas. Fujitsu now thus have photos of me doing dodgy yoga in their Human Centric Zone etc. The game was fun and while I decided to participate competitively on this and visit all the stands quite quickly for the points, I then went back later and had good in-depth conversations with staff on a number of the stands of most relevance to our work at Onega.
The lunch time break allowed for plenty of time to visit the key stalls and have good conversations with engineers who very much knew their stuff. As with any exhibition style event, not everything brought was working. One of the displays of interest was a state of-the-art Fujitsu Cashpoint system which incorporated palm vein scanning technology which actually scans the blood veins within a hand with IR to make a map and is more secure than fingerprints as they can't (yet) be copied. Onega have one of these scanners in our own office for staff access identification, complete with the relevant SDK which is quite simple to use. The demo cash machine however did not want to co-operate, and thus was said to be running in 'Full Greek Mode' as the day of the Fujitsu London World Tour coincided with the day that the Greek government failed to pay EUR 1.5B to its creditors and thus became in default. We do of course empathise with the case of temporary financial hardship and correction in the birthplace of democracy.
One particularly good conversation I had was with the Fujitsu Managed Security team - they have a number of outsourced services that are relevant to Onega clients and take IT elements that are important but often in reality boring and apply excellence to these. An example of this is in their firewall log file monitoring and management service. Traditionally this is something that would be done by internal staff in a large organisation, but it is hardly the sexy job that everyone wants. Analysing large amounts of data is something that is vital in order to find the needles in the haystack and manage the information that matters. Through best practice and a high degree of automation, Fujitsu can offload this task from an organisation and in 99% of cases do it better - alerting a business to threats and realities that they would want to know about in order to manage reduce the risk of cyber fraud and information (which leads inevitably to financial loss). This service is evolving so that it will be of emerging interest to mid size firms who want to make sure their security is in good hands.
Fujitsu had all their latest laptops on display and these are among the slickest and best built business laptops available - many members of Onega staff are equipped with Fujitsu laptops and for good reason. They are good and dependable, light and with excellent screens and battery life (some up to 20+ hours with an extended battery - and this is genuinely achievable). Also on display was the lineup of storage solutions, for which Fujitsu are particularly strong. Their storage we also use here at Onega with our DX90S2 SAN, which has had zero unplanned downtime since installation and is boringly dependable (in a good way - some things in life you want to be boring and dependable so that you can sleep easy and worry about other things instead).
Stepping outside my comfort zone (I'm neither photogenic or telegenic), I also had the pleasure of an interview with George Barker from Cloud-Channel.TV which was actually fun and I look forward to (read: 'am dreading!') seeing the results. I was asked about my take on current and future trends and shared thoughts on some of the disruption we see coming.
After this, we attended a world first at the event which was the Global Launch of Fujitsu's'Beluga' storage system. Answering the needs of 'big data users' this a storage array system that can scale massively to 18 PBytes+ of data in a single array, with a massive IOPS capability to go with this. This allows for massive data sets to be stored and crunched through in a large scale system with greater coherence than you'd get in a (lower cost) distributed data system. We understand that the code name of Beluga was adopted as it is big but agile. The Caviar of the Beluga is also the most sought after, and the digital equivalent is the meaningful insight that large data can give, which can give a company significant competitive advantage. The launch event was motor sport themed and included a racing driver on standby to demonstrate the speed of the system to get everyone 'revved up'. After the formal launch I spoke with Mr Reichart about the systems and some of the business results that clients are finding that large data analysis is delivering.
The final session of the day was a plenary session with a talk and thoughts from Futurologist Rohit Talwar, author of 'First to the Future' and a Panel Session that included Dr Reger, who shared with us his serious concern that IOT may be 'The Last Chance For Europe to Lead in Technology'. Michael Ibbitson, Gatwick Airport CIO spoke on Open Data and integration between services and there was some joint thought of the Circular Economy (a return to the past). A few interesting things we noted were the '30 Storey Hotel Built in 360 hours' (15 days) - by Dongting Lake in China and New York based Quirky Consumer Products, who help inventors get their ideas into production with the power of the crowd. Good examples of innovation and agility in business in the current day.
In closing, people were thanked, and awards given. I was surprised and happy to find that I'd won the Fujitsu Challenge competition by completing the challenges first (partly I was late entering my pictures due to the TV interview). I met a fellow competitor at the last of the challenges who worked at Bletchley Park so it must have been a close run race. Many Thanks to Fujitsu for the Virgin Experience Voucher which I was grateful to accept on behalf of the team at Onega and which will be very much enjoyed.
A very worthwhile day in all and very good to catch up with people at Fujitsu in person, with many that we normally might mainly talk to electronically or by phone. Onega are happy to partner with Fujitsu, and value the strong relationship.