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An ICT service specialist versed in everything from development to operations

Photo: Hidenobu Azeta

"My goal is to create new value for society and businesses through the cloud"

The concept of "ownership" is falling by the wayside as the market and demand for cloud services undergo sweeping changes, taking ICT systems in new, innovative directions. NEC's C&C Cloud Infrastructure Strategy Division was conceived as a think tank for promoting cloud business across the entire company. Hidenobu Azeta, a specialist in ICT services, shares his thoughts with us regarding NEC's strengths, the creation of current and forward-thinking cloud business strategies, and ways to utilize the cloud successfully.

Cloud requirements are shifting from cost strategies to business strategies

Photo: Hidenobu Azeta

--First, tell us about recent customer requirements for cloud solutions.

Cloud technology started gaining traction in Japan around five years ago. At the time, the shift in direction for ICT systems from "ownership" to "usage" was a sea change of significant magnitude.

Initially, Japanese companies mainly used the cloud to optimize costs and system operation. The aim was to lower the introductory costs for IT resources such as hardware, and reduce system operation overheads and running costs.

Looking back, cloud utilization had a limited scope, targeting areas such as groupware and peripheral business. However, more recently it is also being applied to mission-critical tasks and big data.

While there were once many instances of cloud technology merely being used on a trial basis, in recent years more and more companies are making the cloud their primary focus, adopting a "cloud first" policy.

In addition, because an increasing number of customers are seeking to use the cloud alongside proprietary systems as part of their growth strategy, demand for highly versatile "IaaS" solutions is rising. Another topic many customers have been asking about lately is business continuity measures for disasters. There is growing interest in remote backup solutions that integrate data centers and cloud technology.

--Can you explain the service models that exist for cloud solutions?

There are a variety of cloud-based service models, including IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) for providing hardware and OSes, PaaS (Platform as a Service) that adds middleware and common functions to IaaS solutions, and SaaS (Software as a Service) for providing application functions.

In the beginning, the spotlight was on the use of SaaS, which can meet the needs of a broad spectrum of industries, in addition to IaaS and PaaS. NEC has also provided SaaS solutions for a wide range of industries, including local government, manufacturing, distribution services, hotels, agriculture, financial institutions, educational institutions, and small and medium-sized enterprises. These cover a myriad of tasks, from front-office to mission-critical areas.

In addition to PaaS and IaaS, NEC also provides robust support for customers building private clouds. The cloud needs of customers are becoming more diverse, so we enable customers to select the optimal service for their goals and requirements from among a range of service models.

Figure: What Are Cloud Services?

Corporate ICT options enter the age of "cloud first"

--Tell us about recent trends among vendors that provide cloud services.

When it comes to cloud services, I'd say we are finally at the stage where we have a full range of IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS solutions available, despite the market emerging in Japan in 2009. With regard to mission-critical cloud services, competition is now intensifying with the market entry of a string of companies other than ICT service vendors.

More and more people are leveraging the cloud, as it enables the use of business services you require as they are needed. However, there are some other points to consider. For example, you must identify how to handle the integration of business services utilizing the cloud with existing on-premise systems, and who will be responsible for investigating and resolving issues with the cloud system or network. Another factor is whether or not it is safe to rely on the cloud for mission-critical tasks that are the most important assets of a company.

It will be important for customers to be properly aware of factors such as these when considering cloud solutions in the future. To avoid making decisions you may regret later, and implement effective and sustainable cloud solutions, it is crucial to select a suitable service provider that you can trust.

NEC's strengths lie in the combined power of products, SI, and operations

Photo: Hidenobu Azeta

--Tell us about NEC's strengths in the area of cloud services.

Put simply, our main strength is the ability to provide comprehensive support as an ICT service provider. NEC has assets and resources covering all aspects of hardware, software, networking, and cloud services.

Some of NEC's other strengths are the system integration ability we have built up in a variety of industry solutions, the operations capability we have developed with our outsourcing business, and the fact we have our own data centers.

That means NEC can provide one-stop support, covering cloud-based services, housing services, and on-premise environments. We are also well-equipped to handle the integration and overall operation and optimization of these systems. We can swiftly diagnose and fix system failures, whether they involve hardware, software, or networks.

We are confident that NEC's competency in system integration and operation provides significant security and peace of mind to customers looking to leverage the cloud. The NEC Group, with a workforce of around 100,000, already has a proven track record with cloud solutions in mission-critical areas, which are recently seeing increased demand. This is another of NEC's strengths.

Figure: NEC cloud solutions diagramLarger viewNEC cloud solutions diagram

--Can you talk a bit about the new cloud strategy division that was formed in 2013?

Its official name is the C&C Cloud Infrastructure Strategy Division, and it was put together to enhance and develop NEC's cloud service potential. We analyze and promote NEC's overall cloud business across the entire company, breaking down the boundaries that existed between our system integration, service, and product divisions.

This division is mainly responsible for determining the direction of operations, technological and marketing strategies, as well as optimizing investments, based on NEC's overall corporate viewpoint. Another key mission is to create strategies with a more global perspective, including forging alliances with overseas vendors.

Photo: Hidenobu Azeta

--What is the main focus of the new strategy division?

I believe our most important role right now is clarifying a new strategy for NEC's cloud business. The landscape for hosts, open systems, the cloud, and ICT is undergoing dramatic change. The industry itself also continues to evolve. It will be crucial to anticipate where these trends are leading, and apply NEC's distinctive strengths and strategies as quickly as possible.

NEC is dedicated to enhancing and expanding its IaaS and PaaS solutions and data centers, as well as reinforcing its on-premises infrastructure. It also aims to incorporate advanced security features, and develop its base system integration service operations around the world. We believe the cloud will eventually become much like smartphone apps are today. Users will be able to download things they like, and use them when they want to. We will continue looking ahead to the coming age.

The recent launch of our new NEC Cloud IaaS service and the opening of the NEC Kanagawa Data Center are significant events for NEC's cloud business strategy. The strategy division coordinates NEC's cross-division initiatives, so at times we struggle with the tug-of-war between other divisions, but our goal is to facilitate collaboration so we can take the pole position in the field of cloud infrastructure.

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