Fuji’s million dollar fix

MyCustomer.com
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by Jennifer Mears
The way Kirk Brauch, director of technology for Myfujifilm.com, figures it, Fuji Photo Film USA saved big with the decision to use an application service provider to handle its new Internet-based applications for its graphic arts customers.

“This was not something that we considered a core competency, and we did not want to do it in-house,” he says. “If I had to do it myself – contract engineers, build data centers – I’ll take a stab and say that for a company like Fuji we probably saved a capital outlay of $2 million to $3 million.”

About a year ago, Fuji realized that an increasing number of its graphic design clients were demanding digitally-based services. They wanted to manipulate and transmit images online instead of doing things with the traditional photo paper and transaction systems that Fuji sells.

How to manage digital workflow
“The question was, how are we going to replace lost revenue, and as our customers leave conventional workflow and move to digital, how can we help them out,” says Brauch. “We said we need to give customers an easy way to manage their digital workflow.”

That’s where Myfujifilm.com comes in.

Myfujifilm.com is an e-production website that addresses the business-to-business needs of the graphic arts industry, letting users perform tasks such as proofing, formatting and collaboration online.

But Brauch knew it wasn’t something Fuji could do alone.
“Fuji is a hardware manufacturer, but knows nothing about the Internet and Internet business,” he said.

So the film company contracted with publishing software maker Engage for help in writing its new applications.

The search is on
At that time, the search also began for a hosting provider to handle the infrastructure and connectivity needed to provide an Internet-based digital production and asset management system. Brauch says he looked at telecoms providers such WorldCom and AT&T, as well as hosting companies such as Exodus and Level 3.

He finally settled on Breakaway Solutions, a self-described full-service provider, which offers clients everything from application hosting to professional services.

“The fact of the matter is Breakaway has contacts with all of them,” Brauch says.

Breakaway leases data center space from hosting providers such as Exodus and Level 3 and uses a range of telecom companies for redundant connectivity services.

But one of the most important reasons for choosing Breakaway, says Brauch, is that in addition to managing standard applications, Breakaway hosts custom applications and has years of experience in handling collaborative e-commerce applications.

Learning the tricks
“Breakaway has something called an application management service, which is an additional layer of application servicing you can buy. They learn the application for you,” Brauch says. “That was a key thing.”

Breakaway is hosting the equipment it leased to Myfujifilm.com – six Sun Solaris Web and application servers and database – in an Exodus data center in Waltham, Mass., USA. It provides managed services to Myfujifilm.com, including system monitoring, capacity testing and storage.

Customers access the system via the internet, where they can manipulate images, collaborate, check e-mail and store digital images that often involve huge packets of data, according to Brauch.

Almost immediately after Myfujifilm.com decided on Breakaway last fall, it had its infrastructure in place so the software could be tested in a production environment.

“That’s the thing about an ASP. You get amazing speed,” says Bruch.
He says Myfujifilm.com hopes to bring on more beta clients, and put the software in wide release by the end of the summer.

Curing the headache
The company aims to take the IT headache from Fuji clients such as printers, trade shops, advertising agencies and publishers, who do not have to invest in their own equipment and technical support.

Brauch says: “The whole concept is if I’ve got to shop for the talent it’s going to take me months. Breakaway’s already got the talent. ASPs are smaller and lighter on their feet and employ technology faster.”

But that doesn’t necessarily mean companies should turn the reins over to an ASP, says Brauch, who says he’ll be closely watching Breakaway’s end-user support.

NW Fusion

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