The next move of Fixstars to challenge the world with cloud services

“Launch into the global market”. Many Japanese software companies have decided to do this and set out to develop overseas markets, but I have never heard of a great success. In addition to the difficulty of raising funds such as marketing and R & D expenses and acquiring advanced IT human resources, there are many issues to be overcome such as the industrial structure with major IT vendors at the top. To put it simply, the environment for fostering and growing start-up companies is not in place. Under such circumstances, Fixstars, which develops programs for efficient use of multi-core CPUs, has embarked on a cloud service. Satoshi Miki, President and CEO (Chief Executive Officer), said, “There are few cases of overseas expansion and no wins in SaaS for BtoB (corporate transactions).” Thinking that “technology” has potential, we will find a way out in cloud services developed by making use of the know-how cultivated through contract development. How will cloud services originating in Japan compete in the global market?

Satoshi Miki, President and CEO of Fixstars Founded in August 2002, the company will start with the development of NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode apps. President Miki started the company as a “technology company that can compete globally”, but he stumbled in the i-mode application development business. At that time, I came across a multi-core CPU “Cell” jointly developed by IBM, Sony, Toshiba and others. He has begun to undertake contract development of a program that concentrates management resources on Cell and accelerates applications running on the CPU. After that, the business will be expanded to speed up home video game consoles and sell expansion boards equipped with Cell. However, the development of Cell is stopped. Due to the Lehman shock, it became difficult to list on the stock exchange in three years drawn by President Miki. Therefore, we will switch to contract development of programs that speed up several to several tens of times by optimizing applications for multi-core CPUs. Target devices have expanded from CPUs to GPUs and FPGAs, and business performance has expanded steadily. Listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange Mothers in 2014 and on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange in 2016. Fixstars will start a medium-term management plan in October 2020, which includes increasing sales from approximately 5.8 billion yen in the fiscal year ending September 2020 to 10 billion yen in the fiscal year ending September 2023, in preparation for the next step. I let you. The driving force behind this will be cloud services that are expected to generate sales of over 3 billion yen in FY09 / 2023. Currently, there are four edge AI (artificial intelligence) development environment “GENESIS” on the cloud, quantum annealing application development environment for solving optimization problems, code review automation tool, and breast cancer diagnostic imaging support using AI. Prepare a cloud service. GENESIS will be a no-code development platform for edge AI apps. It automates everything from application development to selection of optimal devices and performance evaluation to streamline development. According to the company, it will be possible to select devices and develop apps by examining apps without having to have specialized knowledge. Multiple hardware such as Intel, Google, and Nvidia installed in the company’s data center can be used, and development can be 10 times faster and performance can be 15 times faster than users preparing their own equipment. In order to increase the number of IT engineers who use this development environment, the usage fee will be incurred once the operation stage is entered. According to the company, while shipments of AI chips are skyrocketing, there is a shortage of IT engineers to optimize AI apps. Against this background, it is expected that demand for GENESIS, which enables the development of applications for IoT, will increase, and sales of 1 billion yen are planned for the fiscal year ending September 2023. The other is “Amplify,” which provides a machine and application development environment for quantum annealing that solves combinatorial optimization problems. Similarly, this will make the use of research and development free of charge in order to increase the number of IT engineers who develop quantum annealing applications. According to President Miki, application development requires specialized knowledge such as quantum and mathematics, and application creation and interfaces differ for each hardware, making it difficult to master. Amplify solves these problems and allows IT engineers to work on application development without being aware of the hardware of each company. The target hardware will be the annealing machine on the GPU prepared by the company, and the quantum annealing machine of Canada’s D-Wave, Toshiba, Fujitsu, and Hitachi. The operation stage fee is 100,000 yen per month (shared server, 1 system) for the annealing machine on the GPU, which is “reasonable” (President Miki). This is also expected to have sales of 1 billion yen in the fiscal year ending September 2023. The company will also focus on acquiring advanced IT personnel necessary for sharp technology development. He is an engineer who can master the programming environment for GPU such as CUDA and is interested in hardware design. However, few students are working on research on GPUs and speeding up simulations. Therefore, we will raise awareness as a company specializing in high-speed technology, and discover and hire students through internships. Fixstars, which started with three people, will have about 250 employees, and the sales per person will be about 24 million yen, which is 1.5 to 2 times that of a contract development company for business systems. If the target devices for speeding up are expanded to AI chips, etc., demand for contract development and cloud services can be expected to grow. However, there are few examples of contract development becoming a product company. The key is investment in R & D, marketing, and human resource development. The company’s R & D expenses have increased from 100 million yen to 200 million yen annually, but US startups expanding globally have raised 1 billion yen, or even 10 billion yen, to secure ample R & D expenses. To do. President Miki, who turns 50, talks about the reality of listed companies, saying, “We are raising funds in a Silicon Valley style and cannot say that we are in the red.” It seems that the future will be how to market technologies such as pointed speedup to the global market. Katsumi Tanaka IT Industry Journalist Nikkei Computer Deputy Editor-in-Chief, Nikkei Watcher IBM Version Editor-in-Chief, Nikkei System Provider Editor-in-Chief, etc., has been a freelance IT journalist since January 2010. From 2004 to 2009, he was also a lecturer at Senshu University (information industry). Since October 2012, he has also served as the representative secretary of the IT Business Study Group. Watching the trends of the IT industry for 35 years, the main books are “Crisis of IT industry collapse” “Course of IT industry revitalization” (Nikkei BP), “IT company of Japan” (ITmedia, e-book), “2020 Future possibilities for expanding IT in the year ”(Nikkei BP Consulting, supervision).