NTT Challenges Cloud Giants

Mitch Wagner
News Analysis
Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading
6/3/2019



NTT Communications is looking to elbow a place for itself as a cloud provider in a market where Amazon, Microsoft and Google have left hardly any breathing space.

Telcos looking to compete against the entrenched cloud platforms need to specialize, and NTT has done just that, with a hosted private cloud service for enterprises wanting the agility of cloud, under their own control, generally for compliance reasons.

To build an infrastructure for that service, NTT needed to replace its legacy data center network with software-defined networking (SDN), to get new services up faster and improve network performance.

NTT turned to Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) as the foundation for its cloud network. In addition to Cisco, NTT has deployed Dell EMC for storage and Hewlett Packard Enterprise for servers. On security, NTT uses Cisco and Check Point. Virtualization is by VMware and OpenStack.

After more than a year in operation, with more than 30 large customers on the infrastructure, NTT says it has seen nearly 80% improvement in application performance, reduced infrastructure scale-out time by 40%, and reduced service set-up times from hours to minutes.

NTT Communications is the infrastructure services arm of parent telco NTT Inc. While NTT Inc. is still known primarily as a telco, it has a large infrastructure, cloud and hosting business.

Primary customers are in finance, pharma and healthcare, industries with strong compliance requirements, says Indranil Sengupta, VP engineering and operations for NTT America, an affiliate of NTT Communications. NTT manages the entire stack including the virtualization layer, and in most cases manages the operating system, database and middleware as well.

"We have been a Cisco shop for a long time for networking," Sengupta tells Light Reading.

Cost is a key issue -- NTT needs to compete on that front with hyperscale providers. "When we do similar cost analysis for a private cloud solution, even with the hyperscale providers, we come out pretty attractive," Sengupta says.

With the transition to a new architecture, NTT shut down its old data center in Ashburn, Va., and moved its workloads to a modern data center in nearby Sterling. NTT plans to migrate another data center in Santa Clara, Calif., along the same model, and possibly expand the model globally.

In addition to cost, NTT also competes with the hypercloud providers on availability, which is one reason why NTT selected ACI -- for its robustness. Most customers require a 99.95% service level agreement, Sengupta says. "That means very robust solutions, which should ideally never fail, but when it does fail we need to respond quickly," he says.

NTT made the transition to SDN as it transformed its business from hosting to cloud. In hosting, you provide compute and memory -- it's basically bare metal -- but in the cloud, you provide a multitude of different configurations, requiring infrastructure flexibility, Sengupta says. "We call it 'flexible fabric,'" he says.

Automation was another factor behind the transition to SDN. "We wanted to support the whole data center network from a console, and drive everything through software," Sengupta says.

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