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Minaminihon Information Processing Center ProgrammableFlow Minaminihon Information Processing Center uses SDN for competitive advantage, making services faster, more reliable.

Japanese English

Overview

Minaminihon Information Processing Center

Minaminihon Information Processing Center (MIC) provides high-quality IT services mainly in the Kyushu region under the keyword, “Tsunagaru,” which means “connect.” The company offers not only the MINC brand Internet connection service to businesses and individuals, but also System Integration and various services that utilize MIC’s data center, including server outsourcing, virtual hosting and SaaS. In addition, its range of originally developed packaged products have been used by businesses, municipalities and medical institutions around Japan.

 

photo: Hiroshi Churei
Hiroshi Churei, President, Minaminihon
Information
Processing
Center Co., Ltd.
 “The keyword, “Tsunagaru,” expresses our commitment to building close relationships with clients. But it also embodies our desire to offer network connection at any location by taking into account the fact that the Kyushu region includes many remote islands. Aside from assisting businesses with their transactions and communications, ensuring business continuity even in the case of a disaster is an important mission,” says Hiroshi Churei, President of MIC.

One of the pillars of MIC’s growth strategy today is to further expand its operations nationwide. Realizing the need to make its services more sophisticated in order to achieve this objective, the company embarked on a reform of its data center, which serves as a key foundation for its various businesses. This prompted the company to tackle virtualization of networks at the data center to enable the facility to provide high value-added services to clients.

photo: Akito Eitoku
Akito Eitoku, Manager,
IT Promotion
Division,
Minaminihon
Information
Processing
Center Co., Ltd.
 “Under our old way of handling server outsourcing, our engineers select devices individually and build a network specifically for each client. As optimization of these individual networks had been carried out over time, network structures at our data center became very complicated, resulting in heightened network management load,” says Akito Eitoku, Manager of the IT Promotion Division at MIC.

Challenges were becoming obvious in the field of virtual hosting services as well. “Our urgent priorities were to reduce time and effort spent on developing VLANs for individual clients, lower the risk of human error and raise network reliability,” notes Kazuhiro Fuchigami, Manager of the DC Service Group in MIC’s IT Promotion Division.

Challenges

photo: Kazuhiro Fuchigami
Kazuhiro Fuchigami, Manager, DC Service Group, IT Promotion Division, Minaminihon Information Processing Center Co., Ltd.
 To overcome the challenges, the company turned to NEC’s UNIVERGE PF series. The series consists of a portfolio of products including an SDN controller, integrated network monitor for visualization and network switches, all utilizing the OpenFlow protocol. This Software-defined Networking (SDN) solution, implemented with ProgrammableFlow architecture makes it possible to centrally control network devices, which in turn makes it possible to build virtual networks that are not dependent on the underlying physical network. ProgrammableFlow SDN enables users to change network structures flexibly and manage networks efficiently. For example, it allows users to set up a secure, independent VTN (virtual tenant network) instantly for clients signing up for virtual hosting services, instead of the previous method of setting up VLANs. This dramatically reduces the time it takes for MIC to start providing virtual hosting services for a new client.
photo: Hiroshi Matsukubo
Hiroshi Matsukubo, Senior Executive Director, Minaminihon Information Processing Center Co., Ltd.
 “Under the previous conventional network environment, which was linked intrinsically to the physical makeup, it was very difficult to grasp which services were using which resources. But thanks to ProgrammableFlow SDN, we can now easily check the device makeup and the network data flow using a GUI. This also enhances our networks’ availability and stability, as it enables us to pinpoint where problems originate and respond promptly when a network bottleneck occurs,” according to Mr. Fuchigami.

The fact that it employs a new disruptive technology expected to spread widely in the future also encouraged MIC to embrace the UNIVERGE PF series.

“The source of our competitiveness comes down to the technology we use. We believe we will be able to differentiate ourselves from rivals more and offer our clients higher value by implementing new technologies ahead of others and becoming an expert on them,” says Hiroshi Matsukubo, Senior Executive Director of MIC.

As the world of SDN continues to expand year after year, the market’s expectations for the technology keep growing.

“NEC is a world leader in OpenFlow, being the first in the world to commercialize products that support the technology,” Shinobu Kamikaseda, Executive Managing Director of MIC, notes. “NEC’s engineers possess high levels of skill. And the company swiftly responded to our inquiries and a request to see products in action. This convinced us we would be able to receive attentive customer support and efficiently utilize virtual networks based on UNIVERGE PF series products.”

Solution

The UNIVERGE PF series consists of network products that support OpenFlow, the next-generation network control protocol. NEC is a pioneer in OpenFlow and SDN, having conducted extensive research, development and testing, dating back to 2007. Leveraging this work, it developed ProgrammableFlow network control technology, the first commercial implementation of OpenFlow technology in the world.

The technology makes use of the ProgrammableFlow Controller, which centrally manages and controls the network, as well as the ProgrammableFlow Switch, which transfers data at high speed. The controller monitors the overall network, determines the most ideal route for a particular flow of communications data and sends instructions to the switch. This makes it possible to manage an overall network as if it were one virtual switch, allowing users to build an independent VTN easily, as well as automatically set an alternative route when a network problem does occur. The resulting high-performance network is scalable, flexible and reliable.

In addition, the UNIVERGE PF series makes it possible to grasp data communication routes visually via GUI. This not only makes network management and control easier, but also enables service providers to deliver high-quality network services to their clients without interruption, by detecting the source of trouble quickly when a network load surges or an abnormality or a problem occurs in a communications route.

Thanks to these benefits, the UNIVERGE PF series is ideal for supporting corporate LAN systems and data center networks.

Results

MIC first introduced the UNIVERGE PF series in the area of virtual hosting services. Through experience, the company found a variety of benefits.

  • Faster response in providing virtual hosting services

     

    Previously, it took MIC at least two to three days to provide infrastructure including a virtual server and network. Since implementing the UNIVERGE PF series, it has become possible for the company to offer a secure, independent VTN on the day a client requests it. This has reduced the load on network management and control, and changed the client’s strategy for utilizing IT.

  • Availability of new high value-added services

     

    MIC previously installed devices separately for each client when a firewall was requested. Now, with the ability to pool network services and new granular network management and control, the company can offer a firewall at a lower price as an option in its “shared services” menu for clients.

  • Improved service reliability and availability

     

    NEC ProgrammableFlow SDN increases network availability since the controller automatically sets an alternative communication route when a device problem is detected. By minimizing downtime caused by problems, it makes it possible to securely manage mission critical systems. The series has also made it possible to add new devices, change configurations and carry out maintenance and software upgrades without stopping network operations.

  • Efficient utilization of network engineers

     

    Being able to free up network engineers from daily network administration chores and assign them to more strategic operations is another benefit.

    “Since it takes time to train network engineers, we consider them important assets. Because the UNIVERGE PF series lowers the network management load, we can now relieve our important assets from simple network administration tasks and change the quality of their work,” Mr. Kamikaseda says.

  • Advanced automation reduces costs

     

    photo: Shinobu Kamikaseda
    Shinobu Kamikaseda,
    Executive Managing
    Director,
    Minaminihon
    Information
    Processing
    Center Co., Ltd.
     Because tasks, such as making changes to a network, have become easier, MIC has been able to lower its network management load and personnel costs. “According to our estimate, we will be able to recover 60% of our initial investment within three years. Reflecting lower costs on our service prices will make our services more competitive,” Mr. Matsukubo notes.

    To initiate SDN, MIC switched the network infrastructure for its virtual hosting and SaaS services to the UNIVERGE PF series. The company now plans to virtualize all networks in its data center by using NEC ProgrammableFlow by the end of the next fiscal year. Once this is done, the company’s services will expand and become more flexible. For example, it will become possible to map a managed system and a virtually hosted system to the same VTN, keeping the two systems closely linked at all times.

    In addition, a migration to ProgrammableFlow SDN is also planned for the area of SaaS, which includes “Eye Vision” web conferencing and “PowerCabinet for SaaS” large-file management and transfer services. When this is completed, MIC will be able to grasp data flow client by client, paving the way for introducing charges based on the data volume and other new service systems.

    Furthermore, the company has set its sights on offering sophisticated data backup and disaster recovery services by working together with NEC’s data centers. The goal here is to enable clients to swiftly resume operations after a disaster or other incident. Because NEC’s Kyushu Data Center has already implemented UNIVERGE PF series products, MIC will be able to set up a backup network easily without setting aside dedicated network resources by working with the NEC data center.

    “We are looking to open our second data center in the future. By organically connecting multiple data centers, we will be able to provide our clients added value in the form of less risk and higher reliability and flexibility at competitive prices,” Mr. Kamikaseda says.

    MIC also aims to accumulate know-how on managing the UNIVERGE PF series and start selling the products to third parties in the future by making the most of its expertise.

    “Many clients are facing network-related challenges similar to ours. We want to offer ProgrammableFlow SDN as a solution to solve those challenges. We also have great expectations for NEC’s technical expertise to assist us in our future business development,” Mr. Churei says.

    With its business potential boosted following implementation of the UNIVERGE PF series, MIC’s business domain is expanding from the Kyushu region to all around Japan.

Customer profile

Minaminihon Information Processing Center Co., Ltd.

 
Location 4-104 Tokai-cho, Kagoshima-shi,Kagoshima Prefecture 891-0115 Photo
Establishment October 15, 1969
Capital ¥80 million (authorized capital)
Sales ¥6.24 billion (year ended September 2012)
No. of Employees 379 (as of April 2013)
Business areas The company offers systems integration, server outsourcing/hosting and other services that utilize its own data center mainly in the Kyushu region.
URL http://www.kk-mic.jp/ (Japanese only)

(DEC 24,2013)