NTT rises to the cloud with Azure

Image courtesy of Isa Boog.

With NTT currently undergoing an integration of its various subsidiaries and affiliates, the need to have a unified cloud platform is paramount.

Prior to the pandemic, the Japanese IT giant operated in a siloed environment, with each operating entity managing its own on-premises servers and assets.

However, as the company shifted to remote work during COVID, a new digital strategy had to be implemented, which included the migration of entire workloads to the cloud.

Frontier Enterprise interviewed Pascal Weiss, Regional CIO, Asia Pacific, NTT Ltd, and Vadim Zendejas, Executive Officer and Director of Global Customer Success, Microsoft, to explore their companies’ cloud partnership.

Built on trust

Drawing on their past collaboration, NTT chose to migrate its workloads to Azure, Microsoft’s cloud platform.

Pascal Weiss, Regional CIO, Asia Pacific, NTT Ltd. Image courtesy of NTT Ltd.

“The benefits of cloud-based solutions are not only with its hosting location, but with PaaS (platform as a service) and SaaS (software as a service) as well. This allows us to optimise Azure resources by streamlining operations, application integrations, and providing seamless access for our employees,” explained NTT’s Pascal Weiss.

To maximise Azure’s benefits, NTT adopted a two-step approach. First, they carried out a “lift and shift” migration to reap the immediate benefits. Afterward, they focused on integrating the PaaS and SaaS offerings.

According to Microsoft’s Vadim Zendejas, migration to Azure required a great deal of time and a certain level of expertise to ensure it takes place smoothly and successfully. Since NTT has over 25,000 servers and 2,200 applications hosted in more than 50 data centres worldwide, a coherent and scalable global gameplan was also necessary.

Therefore, before the global rollout, NTT conducted an initial test case at its on-premises data centre in Singapore, which housed equipment nearing the end of its life cycle.

“Working closely with the Azure team, NTT focused on designing and implementing a standardised and consistent Azure-based platform. Once the design phase was completed, each workload underwent a thorough review to ensure its alignment with business requirements,” Zendejas said.

He added that in Singapore, about 25% of the existing workloads were decommissioned. The remainder were migrated to Azure using a rehosting strategy, involving the transfer of around 1,500 to 2,000 Windows and Linux virtual machines and servers.

Cost reduction

Prior to migrating to Azure, NTT recognised the potential risks of increased operational expenditure due to its on-premises infrastructure.

To mitigate these risks, NTT’s Pascal Weiss emphasised the importance of implementing effective capacity planning, resource allocations, and licence optimisations.

“We defined different committed savings plans for our Azure workloads, moving away from the ‘pay-as-you-go’ model to optimise operational costs. At NTT, we assigned workloads to one-year and three-year plans based on the respective business applications roadmap and consolidation timelines,” he said.

NTT also leveraged the Azure Hybrid Benefit to optimise the licence cost by utilising the existing perpetual licence it already owns.

“It is important to understand the consumption model as it provides the flexibility to scale the infrastructure up or down according to business directions and requirements,” Weiss emphasised.

Recognising that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not suitable for their cloud migration strategy, NTT underwent a re-architecture of the solution and focused on PaaS to adapt the underlying database server structure of the applications for Azure compatibility.

“Thanks to our Azure program, we successfully simplified our application landscape by 50% in the APAC region by transitioning to a global cloud platform and decommissioning our legacy systems,” Weiss said.

Heightened security

With security at the forefront of enterprises’ concerns, particularly when engaging a third-party service provider, NTT’s collaboration with Microsoft has modernised and unified the security measures of the former. This is especially crucial as the Japanese company must uphold over 60 certifications in its APAC jurisdictions alone.

Vadim Zendejas, Executive Officer and Director of Global Customer Success, Microsoft. Image courtesy of Microsoft.

“NTT maintains more than 1,500 subscriptions globally in Microsoft alone, with each tenant having different security controls and frameworks. Moving to Azure strengthens NTT’s security stance by consolidating and simplifying security processes significantly. The goal is to have more than 200 security controls in a single global tenant,” noted Microsoft’s Vadim Zendejas.

NTT’s consolidation and simplification efforts have also benefited its business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) capabilities, Zendejas shared. By using Azure Backup and Azure Site Recovery, NTT gains a systematic view of all their assets, and achieves faster recovery compared to an on-premises infrastructure.

“Previously, NTT had to allocate significant resources and time for expensive disaster recovery planning in business continuity efforts for their clients. With Azure, BCDR becomes quicker and more flexible. Moreover, Azure Monitor helps NTT validate the health of the infrastructure state, optimise resources, and reduce infrastructure costs,” he said.

Driving forward

NTT’s cloud strategy has empowered its teams to drive innovation, particularly in automation and process standardisation.

As part of this initiative, NTT has pursued the integration of generative AI into its upcoming omnichannel client portal. This integration aims to personalise the client experience and proactively understand the needs of its customers.

Currently in its third and final year of digital transformation, NTT is focused on digitising and automating back-office functions such as finance and procurement, while also implementing a zero-trust security approach.

The Japanese IT giant intends to put stronger emphasis on Microsoft Azure’s PaaS to optimise the infrastructure and reduce their reliance on virtual machines. This approach will help to simplify operations, lower costs, and facilitate the transition towards a hybrid and multi-cloud environment, NTT’s Pascal Weiss said.

“We are currently in the process of migrating our SQL servers to Azure SQL DB service and our web servers to Azure Web services. Additionally, as part of our business continuity planning, we are building a hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure by leveraging Azure Availability Zones and Azure ExpressRoute to connect our on-premises data centres,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Micorosft is keeping close watch on the possibilities with large language models.

“Microsoft continues to prioritise the democratisation of AI and maintain a strong partnership with OpenAI. Recently, we announced the general availability of Azure OpenAI Service, providing businesses with access to advanced AI models like GPT3.5, Codex, and Dall-E 2. By harnessing the capabilities of Microsoft Azure, businesses can now develop cutting-edge applications,” Microsoft’s Vadim Zendejas concluded.