Andy Green, Senior Director Software GTM, explains how NTT is positioning itself at the forefront of 21st century IT and the fourth industrial revolutio...
One of the world’s foremost technology and business solution providers, NTT has maintained a singular goal: developing technology for the benefit of wider society. Since its establishment as Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) public corporation in 1952, it has assiduously worked towards achieving this vision, eventually incorporating the latest innovations such as hybrid cloud, data centres and digital transformation, and always monitoring the changing needs of its customers. This ethos has allowed it to expand operations as NTT Ltd. (part of the NTT Group) beyond its native Japan to 57 countries, trade with 73, and provide services to more than 200.
As such, NTT is fully prepared to confront one of the most exciting paradigm shifts in recent times: the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0). Andy Green, Senior Director Software Go-To-Market, spoke with us to outline why NTT’s focus on application performance will be crucial to this effort.
Joining Dimension Data (now part of NTT Ltd.) in March 2018, Green was brought on board to lead and accelerate the transition of vendor solutions from hardware to software, predominantly driven by Cisco’s own transformation - a company with which NTT shares a significant history and mission. Managing this process in European countries, Green brings his considerable expertise and industry knowledge, gained from previous roles at Cisco, among others, to bear on a company that he describes as truly unique from competitors in the space. “Over time, NTT Ltd. has acquired over 31 companies, each an expert in their respective areas. Not only do we have application development capabilities, but we also own physical data centres and core wide area network infrastructure. NTT has become a one-stop shop for any IT requirement.”
The company’s tech transformation journey has been crucial to reaching this prestigious position, and Green is quick to narrow down how its evolution has affected three key aspects: the customer experience, the employee experience and finally digital transformation itself. “Digital transformation feeds into the other two, but it’s primarily looking at how we interact with our clients, employees and the entire supply chain. Generally, when you look at all of these, you will see that there is an application at the core.” As such, NTT remains vigilant in order to make sure its message and goals are harmonized by the conversations it has regarding these three elements.
Optimal application performance is, in Green’s view, going to be indispensable when it comes to fulfilling the promise of the fourth industrial revolution. Conceived as the zenith of automation, wherein cloud, IoT (internet of things) and AI (artificial intelligence) software combine to produce efficient and self-optimising operating systems, Industry 4.0 could change the face of enterprise IT. Indeed, technology priorities have changed within 95% of organizations during the pandemic, according to ‘The Agents of Transformation Report 2020: COVID-19 Special Edition’ by AppDynamics. And the importance of high-quality applications has never been more apparent. “There is practically no business in the world that will not have some form of digital technology involved in it. When we talk about IoT, it means that you need to have a secure platform for building those capabilities, and this is where NTT’s expertise lies.” The company’s emphasis on shifting away from hardware to software reflects an industry macro trend that favours cloud compute and storage over owning physical data centre equipment. Green calls cloud a “key part” of facilitating Industry 4.0 but clarifies that it is not without challenges: “Historically, you would have your applications in your own secure data centre. You’d control what went in and out of it and have a big firewall to protect it. However, fast-forward to where we are now and very little is on-premises.”
Organizations’ appetite for automation and intelligence software, to answer to the needs of the consumer, has been whetted by the pandemic, and this has not gone unnoticed by NTT. “We're seeing an increase in SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) usage, too,” Green states. “This has mainly been driven by the need for people to work remotely from home. Take NTT Ltd., for example: we have about 40,000 employees and many are now working from home. Both from a customer and employee experience perspective, there's been a huge amount of investment, but it does demonstrate that, if you invest in it, you can accelerate the transformation as well.”
It is important to note that changes underway do not apply to one sector or industry, rather they are a consummate shift from an old to a new way of working. The rate of change could be overwhelming for some companies, who must, nonetheless, ensure that they do not allow their essential applications to fall into obsolescence. Therefore, NTT advocates ‘Application Visibility and Performance Management’, a concept aimed at providing organisations with a ‘single pane of glass’ perspective on complex IT environments. Developed in conjunction with partners like AppDynamics and ThousandEyes, two of the leading solutions in the Cisco product portfolio, NTT can offer full-stack application visibility and management in a centralised data hub, with an accompanying strategy designed to mitigate the risks of adopting cloud technologies and enable multi-layer troubleshooting. Notably, the company’s clients can also gain precise insights into the end-user experience by viewing services from their perspective, regardless of whichever application or device they are using. This aspect, says Green, is invaluable when it comes to resolving problems. “For me, it's absolutely integral that all applications are performing optimally. Are there customer drop-offs during a transaction? What's the reason for that; is the application not performing correctly? Does the customer experience need to be improved? Our clients are able to understand what's working and what isn’t across their entire application landscape”.”
The events of 2020, although profoundly disruptive for business all over the world, have not altered NTT’s digital strategy for 2021 and beyond, on the contrary, it accelerated the company’s plans. Addressing the new security issues of remote working, NTT has, for example, begun operating with an ‘always on’ VPN, something initially scheduled for 2021, but which has been necessarily brought forward. “The other things we are really focusing on is the rationalisation of our applications monitoring tools. These tools need to be seamlessly deployed and fully integrated to improve observability of the application landscape, ensuring we can glean valuable insights into how the applications perform, allowing the business and IT operations to make intelligent decisions.” By doing so, NTT not only gains greater visibility and management over its applications, but can also create trust with its clients and share first-hand experience.
Summarising his position on what organisations can do to prepare for the fourth industrial revolution, Green is emphatic that application performance will be integral to positive business outcomes moving forward. To that effect, NTT, a company with world-class service capabilities partnering with world-class platform and software providers, like AppDynamics and ThousandEyes, has the expertise necessary to draw up a winning digital roadmap and can help facilitate that success. “It doesn't take much now for anyone to jump onto Twitter and share a negative story about their poor customer experience,” he concludes. “Your own internal digital transformation, from automation to process improvement, will shape your response and I absolutely believe that all of these things will soon be running on applications.”