A story behind SoftBank epic story

Following Q&A was created based on the conversation between Dave Hitz and Ty McConney in correspondence to the Softbank Epic Story launch on April/10th.

Dave Hitz is a founder and executive VP of NetApp and Ty McConney is the VP and GM for Japan.

Can you tell us the history behind NetApp and Softbank's relationship?

We started working with Softbank approximately 4 years ago when they were considering a scalable storage platform for their “White Cloud” service offering.  At that time, Kito-san (CISO) made it very clear that he wanted a partner and not a vendor.  Softbank was looking for a company who understood their business requirements, provided leading edge technology and could enable their global expansion. 

In 2006, Softbank set their sights to consolidate not only their IT system but also their IT organization. What was Softbank looking to accomplish?

  The IT vision was to transform the organization into an innovative business enabler and profit center rather than an internally focused cost center. Like many organizations, Softbank was seeing the negative impact of departmental IT on their operational efficiency and costs.  Over the years, they had completed several successful acquisitions, which resulted in inconsistency across the 3 different Softbank entities.  Softbank’s goal was to establish a single IT organization with common infrastructure to feed the multiple businesses.  They also wanted to decrease their dependency on external IT vendors for operational management.

What benefits or significant changes did Softbank as an organization experience with the cloud?

Softbank was able to benefit from a more flexible workforce, who could use the cloud infrastructure to work from anywhere.  Individual productivity increased by 10% and internal help desk calls decreased by 90%. It also played a critical role in earthquake relief.

From a technology standpoint, Softbank quickly realized that they had developed a cloud infrastructure and skill set which could be coupled with their existing capabilities (broad network, utility pricing, customer base, etc.) to offer cloud services to the external market.  Softbank decided to participate in the NetApp Service Provider Program and leveraged joint GTM activities with NetApp to help develop and promote their cloud business.

Softbank's early cloud investments allowed them to accelerate their goal of mobilizing workers and decrease energy usage. It also enabled them to quickly respond to one of the world's worst natural disasters. How did Softbank respond and adapt in a time of need?

At the time of the Japan disasters, Softbank had deployed their DaaS solution to only one of three internal business units.  But several external factors forced Softbank to accelerate deployment of their cloud solution to both their internal users as well as external enterprise accounts.

In Japan, working from home is not the norm and employees are usually not permitted to remove their laptops from Company premises. But the Japan disasters of March 2011 forced Softbank and others to adapt quickly.  During the crisis, public transportation was severely disrupted and the government mandated that companies decrease their power usage by 25% due to the nuclear power degradation.

Softbank’s response was to accelerate the deployment of the DaaS solution to the two remaining group companies so that their employees were able to continue working remotely. Softbank was able to create 1,000 desktop units from one week to one day, and offer its White Cloud services to additional 14,000 internal employees within weeks of the earthquake.  A consolidated IT infrastructure and remote workforce helped Softbank to significantly reduce their power consumption and surpass the government-mandated savings.

Also within three days of the disaster, Softbank offered their Google Apps cloud services free of charge to both non-profit organizations and government agencies that lost their IT infrastructure during the earthquake and tsunami.  The ease of use, rapid deployment and scalability of the NetApp solution enabled Softbank to respond effectively during the crisis situation.

You call Japan home and made a personal pledge to stay and help with recovery efforts. How was NetApp able to help?

Several customers required urgent assistance to repair or replace damaged systems and to replicate critical data that was deemed to be at risk.  Also during this period, our Japanese customers were very susceptible to foreign competitors capitalizing on their idle operations so it was important to act quickly.

NetApp employees both in Japan and globally made a tremendous effort to help the country in its most urgent time of need. The team quickly realized that the most immediate way to assist in Japan’s recovery was to help our Japanese customers return to full production as soon as possible.  Fortunately, most NetApp systems operated flawlessly during the earthquake.

Our team wanted to get more personally involved.  So, as part of our Community Volunteer activity, two teams of NetApp Japan employees traveled to the tsunami-hit areas to assist local residents as they started down the long road to recovery.

Over the past year, we have spent a lot of time with customers that have lost employees, facilities and major parts of their operations.  They have been painful and sometimes emotional encounters. 

But now more than ever, I believe that our customers do appreciate and recognize our sincere commitment to customer success. Beyond technology, our behavior is a key reason that Softbank chose NetApp.  Our behavior is a reflection of our values as we continue to strive towards being a model company.