Two of Australia's largest IT services companies - Fujitsu and Unisys - have outlined their belated plans to make cloud computing relevant to Australia's largest organisations.
In events held one day apart in Sydney, the two organisations laid out their plans for taking the core applications of large companies and Government agencies to the cloud.
Fujitsu, which claimed to be the third largest IT services company in Australia (behind IBM and HP/EDS), plans to launch an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) play with storage, server and network IT assets available on tap by May 2010.
Many of the elements required for such a service are already in place.
Fujitsu has already acquired the capability for a customer to self-provision infrastructure on a pay-per-use basis.
The Japanese services giant plans to use service catalogue technology called 'Services Connect', developed within Kaz whilst it was owned by Telstra, as the front end for its cloud computing play.
The key to Fujitsu's capability, according to the company's local CEO Rod Vawdrey, was its impressive array of data centres in Australia.
With its Sydney facility (in Homebush) at capacity, Fujitsu is building a state of the art sustainable facility in Perth and expanding its Melbourne facility with the build of a highly dense, climate cooled second room for anchor tenants in the University sector.
"We see data centres as the cornerstone of the cloud," Vawdrey said. "We have a strong footprint of sustainable Tier III data centres - in Homebush (Sydney), Perth and Melbourne."
Fujitsu is also in discussions with Microsoft to host an Azure data centre in Australia.
Azure is a Microsoft 'operating system as a service' - a platform Microsoft hosts in large data centres around the world upon which enterprise customers can deploy their .Net applications.
Microsoft is building a data centre for its own Azure cloud compute service in Singapore, but many Australian organisations concerned with data sovereignty and network latency issues baulk at the thought of sending sensitive data offshore.
So Microsoft is also licensing the technology for third party IT services companies to build out their own cloud service.
Fujitsu intends to offer this 'platform as a service' from within its own data centres in Australia.
Other key vendors in Fujitsu's cloud play include VMware, SAP and Computer Associates.
Unisys, by contrast, announced its cloud computing play in the United States in May 2009, but according to Paul Allen, director of real-time infrastructure at Unisys, the company is "still making a business case for standing up" the same services from its Rhodes (Sydney) data centre.
For now, Unisys Australia is limited to offering its large customers 'data centre transformation' work and advisory studies around the transition to cloud computing.
In the United States, Unisys is offering a full stack of infrastructure, platform and software as-a-service products, plus private cloud services, and by Q1 in 2010 expects to have a 'hybrid cloud' offering that automates the movement of workloads between Unisys' public cloud and the customer's private cloud.
"To cover the initial investment [in cloud computing in Australia], we need to ensure we have a pipeline of business that justifies that investment," Allen said. "It would only be a matter of four to eight weeks once we get the go ahead and customers could be up and running."
Unisys is banking on a propreitary encryption technology it has developed for the US Department of Defence as the key differentiator for its cloud services.
Named 'Stealth', the technology enables data to be sent across public networks using 256-bit AES encryption smarts that also split up the packets at bit level. Allen said it removes the need for using multiple VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).
"Security is the key if you want to move beyond the entry level test-and-dev, mail or collaboration services the cloud has been used for to date," he said.
Stealth is already available to private organisations in Australia, but is yet to be certified by the Australian Government for use in the public sector.
Allen said Unisys' traditional strength in bureau computing is also a selling point.
"We see cloud computing as similar to bureau services, except that it is internet-based and self-provisioned," he said. "We have a deep history of providing bureau services in multi-tenant environments."
Unisys will be trusted on cloud computing, he said, as it possesses all the necessary process and security accreditations in the traditional computing world such as ISO27000 [IT security], ISO20000 [IT Management], ITIL [IT service management] and FIPS [data processing].
Unisys' vendor partners on cloud computing include Dell, Microsoft, VMware, EMC and Striata.
Scale is key
Both Allen and Vawdrey concede that international competitors - and indeed smaller challengers in Australia --are way ahead of the pack in terms of offering cloud services.
But neither is concerned about losing their big corporate clients to the international consumer-grade cloud players or local hosting companies.
"We have our wonderful base of customers, though, you see," Vawdrey said. "Those little guys have got to go and get their first big customer or second or third customer first. And enterprise apps is a whole different ballgame to what they've been providing."
Vawdrey said the scale of IT service providers will determine the winners and losers as the industry continues to consolidate.