As a thousand conference keynotes have spotlighted, IT is an industrial sector still in its infancy. As a symptom of that, the rapid rate of technology change prompts a constant need for new standards. Without them organisations stand little chance of designing, building and implementing applications that stand test of time and can be integrated with other business systems.
That challenge also means that there is a good deal of wastage – some estimates suggest less than 40% of IT infrastructure resources are actually put to use.
Like every other company, Fujitsu in Japan has been acutely aware of those challenges. In the years after Y2K, it set about developing an automated engineering approach to IT systems delivery – Triole – that would bring the discipline into adolescence. After three years pooling the experiences of its customers in Japan, in March 2005 Fujitsu Services, the consulting and systems integration division of the company, brought Triole to the UK. As the company's chief technology officer Marc Silvester explains: "The industrialisation of IT has to happen sooner or later. At the moment, projects are expensive, slow to get approval, slow to deploy and seldom achieve their ROI."
Triole essentially provides infrastructure building blocks. Each one of these 80 templates represents a repeated demand from Fujitsu customers over the last three years, with every one audited every 18 months for relevance. These software, hardware and service blocks are built in a laboratory environment by Fujitsu and then subjected to up to 50 man-months of testing before being incorporated into Triole.
Fujitsu executives claim it is this stringent test regime that sets it apart from rival approaches from other IT services companies. Because templates do not need to be tested on-site, deployment time is cut. This can carve up to 30% off systems implementation.
A customer can then essentially pick and choose which functionality (i.e. what combination of templates) it wants, adding or taking away when needs dictate. To date, 40% of Fujitsu's Japanese customers have bought into the Triole approach, and the templates on offer have addressed 73% of all their requests, the company claims.
Silvester shies away from using the term ‘commoditisation' outright, but Fujitsu's Triole strategy is dependent on the company being able to customise systems delivery cheaper and faster than ever before. Each template has a different lifecycle attached to it. For example, a desktop is deemed to be good for two years of full service and one year in transition until it is rendered obsolete. Mobile devices might last six months, a mainframe decades.
Rather than having to integrate hardware and software from different vendors, Triole provides pre-selected services, storage, networks and middleware for different needs. Triole-based infrastructures in Japan have generated 30% cost savings and a similar increase in reliability – largely because of extensive pre-testing, say Fujitsu executives.
There is a danger that the standardisation needed to make Triole cost-efficient will undermine the ability of companies to create differentiation. But Silvester casts Triole as a ‘pure' bank of best practices: customisation for each client fills in the gaps between what Triole can pre-provide and what the customer proposes.
In the 1980s, Japan provided the testbed for the models ‘total quality' and ‘just-in-time manufacturing', especially in the car and consumer electronics industries. Maybe now it can bring something of that heritage to IT.