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BPM big boys Oracle and IBM face a growing threat in the business process management market – Fujitsu. The Japanese giant today unveiled version 11 of its BPM product Interstage and commenced a free development program designed to take advantage of the growing trend around BPM cloud computing.

The new program is designed for channel, embedded and system integrator partners as well as enterprise development teams. Participants can test drive web-based Interstage BPM with limited risk and without up-front cost. Members have the option to develop and deploy the product for up to ten users free in Fujitsu’s own cloud. Fujitsu competitors like Oracle and IBM do not currently offer web-based, BPM cloud solutions through their own consolidated data centers. Most tap Amazon for the heavy-lifting and SLAs.

The new Interstage version 11 enhancements focus on improving collaboration and intuitive process development. The company added upgraded process mining, process analytics as well as new social networking capabilities that allow users to track, follow and collaborate on defining business processes. 

According to Clay Richardson, senior analyst with Forrester’s BPM practice, one of Fujitsu’s key differentiators is its web-based platform.

“Most BPM platforms do not have web-based capabilities,” said Richardson. “When the product is thick-client, only one member is driving. With a web-based environment, the process is more intuitive and allows all stakeholders to get involved.”

Fujitsu’s $500 million Interstage business is highly targeted and reliant on partners. 40 percent of Fujitsu’s BPM revenue comes from its embedded and OEM software partners, like Interwoven  and OpenData. The new release and corresponding cloud services are focused on expanding its channel through OEM, VARs and systems integrators.

Fujitsu’s partner pricing structure differs from other BPM providers. The company offers a revenue-sharing opportunity for OEM and SaaS partners for web-based users of the Interstage cloud version.

According to Senior Director of Product Marketing & Management for Fujitsu America Software Hiro Makita, the new cloud Interstage offering is a direct reaction to the economy.

“The economy happened –and, since then, we strongly see that enterprise customers want to do a small, focused project that is cost-effective –confirm the ROI and then move on to a full-blown project,” said Makita. “The reason we put more effort on cloud was to address those needs. It doesn’t matter the size of the organization. The cloud platform is one of the best platforms to accommodate those needs.”

Fujitsu is not putting all of its eggs in the cloud basket, though. Customers and partners leery about cloud BPM can opt for the license version and, for now, that may be the dominant decision for software vendors and SIs targeting the enterprise. According to an April 2009 study by Forrester, some companies are still not convinced about moving BPM to the cloud. The research found that the top three perceived concerns about the cloud are perceived loss of control, perceived loss of security, and perceived integration challenges.

Richardson believes that Fujitsu’s concurrent license-cloud strategy is quite smart, and admits that cloud-based BPM poses authentication and integration challenges. SaaS providers looking to reduce costs and maximize reuse of application development resources will find the Fujitsu cloud offering compelling. Cloud-cautious enterprises can opt for the on-site version of Interstage BPM.

“The direction of the strategy Fujitsu is taking is very smart – they are not trying to push the cloud on customers,” said Richardson.  “With the cloud, they are targeting SaaS providers, domain experts—people who can build a product around their product and then offer it to the cloud.”

The new free service is available at today.