VPN Services Case Study

Sony Builds an IPv6 Network for the Future (Cont'd)

About Sony

Sony Facts

Business Needs

Enhance communications capabilities between the various companies while preparing for the new IPv6 standard

Networking Solution

Fully-managed VPN supports IPv4 and IPv6, or “dual stack” IP Addressing, while enabling migration to one network platform

Business Value

Strengthens communication among disparate business units, enhances collaboration and supports the One Sony initiative

Industry Focus

Electronics and entertainment

Size

162,700 employees worldwide (as of March 31, 2012)

Sony Corporation, with its global headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, is a leading manufacturer of audio, video, communications, and information technology products for the consumer and professional markets. In addition, its motion picture, television, computer entertainment (games), music and online businesses make Sony one of the most comprehensive entertainment and technology companies in the world. Sony recorded consolidated annual sales of approximately $79 billion for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2012.

Situation

The current Internet addressing system (Internet Protocol version 4 or IPv4) is running out of addresses. Companies need to migrate to the new standard, IPv6. The need is most urgent in Asia, where IPv4 addresses are nearly depleted. Sony decided to use this challenge as an opportunity to upgrade its global network and improve internal communications. The company wanted to enable transparent communication between its many business units- something its existing IPv4-only network could not do.

Solution

Sony needed a global service provider who could tie various locations together and help migrate its network to IPv6. The company chose an IPv4- and IPv6-capable, commonly referred to as “dual stack” Virtual Private Network managed by AT&T. The new network standardizes service globally and facilitates the adoption of IPv6 while continuing to support IPv4. This conserves Sony’s resources and allows its internal IT staff to focus on business-critical tasks instead of network minutiae. The VPN offers a unified infrastructure that connects systems between Sony’s subsidiaries, enabling easier cross-company communication and supporting growth.

A Global Leader

Sony has long been a leader in consumer electronics and entertainment experiences. Sony was co-founded in 1946 by Masaru Ibuka and Akio Morita as Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation. In 1958, the company changed its name to Sony Corporation. One of its earliest products, Japan’s first tape recorder, was the start of Sony’s long history of producing cutting-edge electronics products. From Walkman® and Handycam®, to PlayStation® and Blu-ray, Sony continues to bring innovative new technologies to consumers around the world.

We were able to introduce IPv6 ahead of other companies, thanks to AT&T’s ability to meet our implementation schedule, as well as its fast and capable resolution of difficult problems"

Fumiaki Sakai, CIO, Sony Corporation

In both product scope and geographic presence, Sony is truly a global company. “We’re operating in every major market across the globe,” said Mark DeLorenzo, General Manager, Network Service, Sony Global Solutions. Sony’s many subsidiaries include Sony Pictures Entertainment, Sony Music Entertainment and Sony Mobile Communications, among others. Through these diverse companies, Sony is involved in fields ranging from entertainment and technology, to finance and medicine.

Today, Sony’s electronics product portfolio includes tablets, smartphones, digital imaging devices and much more. But, unlike many of its hardware-centered competitors, Sony also produces a vast array of high-quality entertainment content worldwide. “Having the two together is a powerful combination” said Carlos Vergara, Senior Director, Network Service, Sony Corporation of America.

With such comprehensive operations, Sony has a unique potential for cross-product and cross-company collaboration. Through its “One Sony” strategic business initiative, the company is encouraging its subsidiaries to create products that integrate their content, services and technologies to deliver the most compelling entertainment experiences around the world.

“Now that the company is growing and building greater synergies, bringing all these companies together to communicate transparently and easily has been quite a challenge in the IPV4 environment,” said Mikio Fujii, Vice President, Global Network Planning, Sony Corporation of America. “From an internal standpoint, we’re looking to utilize IPV6 to help us move forward and alleviate some of those challenges.”

Communication for Tomorrow

Developed in the early 1980’s, IPv4 is the old addressing protocol used to assign unique addresses to “packets” of data traveling the Internet. Created with a limited number of addresses, the entire IPv4 system will eventually be replaced by a new and vastly expanded addressing system, IPv6. Whether they realize it or not, all Internet-based businesses face the imminent challenge of IPv4 depletion. The two versions are not compatible, rendering v4 data unrecognizable by v6, and vice versa. The exponential increase in Internet users has sped up IPv4 depletion and Asia is running particularly low. “In emerging markets, especially places like China where Sony is growing more rapidly, we need to have unique address space. IPv4 alone is just not an option,” said DeLorenzo.

Sony began initial IPv6 planning in 2007. The company saw how the IPv6 infrastructure could actually improve its corporate network. Growth through mergers and acquisitions had left Sony with multiple networks across its subsidiaries, some operating on a regional model, some on a global model. “It was not easy to communicate with each other with the IPv4 architecture,” said Toshio Hiraga, Senior Manager, Network Service, Sony Global Solutions. The shortcomings of these disconnected networks were dramatized by the One Sony initiative. “We’re seeing more and more need to allow communications and global networking across the various companies,” added DeLorenzo.

With extensive global operations, moving to IPv6 requires significant planning and preparation. The migration would have to be carefully managed. “This touches across all aspects of the business, from printers to PCs to copiers--everything that’s network-connected has a stake in the game,” Vergara said. This phase of the migration will include 270 locations throughout the Western Hemisphere.

As the company began planning, Sony found that lots of vendors and local carriers couldn’t support IPv6. “Everybody knows we’re running out of space out there on the net, but a lot of manufacturers have been slow to adopt IPv6 to the full extent,” said Vergara. It’s a common challenge for a technology early adopter like Sony.

A New Network

As Sony’s sole provider in the Western Hemisphere, AT&T was already delivering network services for voice, data and mobility. Sony chose AT&T to manage its IPv6 network migration. That way, instead of having to deal with regional postal, telephone and telegraph (PTT) carriers with varying levels of IPv6 capability, Sony has unified support from AT&T. “It helps us in the adoption of IPv6, because AT&T can negotiate with each of the PTTs to provide a global service,” said DeLorenzo. For a company of Sony’s size and scope, the experience AT&T has accumulated with IPv6 provides a significant benefit.

Sony decided to upgrade its corporate network to an MPLS-based VPN, a fully-managed IPv6-capable solution. In addition to supporting IPv6, the network provides a unified IT infrastructure across regions and companies. “We’re utilizing IPv6 to help provide seamless and ubiquitous access,” explained Vergara. “So regardless of whether you’re in electronics, motion pictures, music, games or any other part of the company, we want business systems to communicate with each other.”

Working at Sony's request, AT&T deployed Network-based Service Interworking. “It is really effective for Sony to migrate to the IPv4/IPv6 dual stack environment so we can support both protocols,” said Vergara.

IPv6 migration is complex as there are many pieces to plan for and track. Sony’s network-based business operations include manufacturing systems, voice communication, video conferencing and content sharing of major files such as movie assets. With project management from AT&T, Sony was able to start the move much sooner than if it were going it alone. Migration began in March 2012, with approximately a dozen sites. “AT&T has provided a strong project management team,” Vergara said. “At this time, the migration of those sites has gone very well and been far more seamless than I originally anticipated.”

Structured Synergy

From suppliers to retailers, Sony relies on Internet-based communication. The company is now in a position to encourage its partners within its supply chain to follow its lead and to provide an example of how the process can work. “We’re trying to leverage IPv6 to enable partner and business supplier communications,” said DeLorenzo.

With the new VPN, Sony doesn’t have to be concerned with the details of network management. The company gains both cost and operational efficiencies. With AT&T using its own equipment to manage Sony’s VPN, Sony doesn’t have to buy or upgrade infrastructure hardware. “Besides resources, these guys can handle the day-to-day management so the internal team can focus on other activities,” said Vergara.

The VPN enables seamless communication between Sony’s companies—from electronics, music and pictures, to gaming and mobile communications. “The transparent connectivity that we can gain globally across the various companies and regions is one of the key benefits,” said DeLorenzo. Operational systems now share one network, laying the groundwork for cross-company collaboration. “IPv6 is a good technology to promote synergy across all of Sony,” said Fujii. In addition, Sony can expect network consistency worldwide. The unified, reliable network infrastructure supports the One Sony business initiative and growth strategy.

Leading by Example

Sony is continuing to add new divisions to its IPv6 migration. “It’s definitely a challenge, but we’re looking at a big reward at the end,” said Vergara. From start to finish, the project will have spanned a seven-year period and is expected to be completed by the end of March 2014.

As an early adopter of IPv6, Sony is ahead of the game. Its main message to other companies is to get moving. “In my opinion, planning should be started as soon as possible,” said Fujii. Support from high-level management is critical. “Anyone taking on this type of project really needs to look at it from the top down, as a strategic organizational project, not as a network project,” said Vergara. “Otherwise, you just won’t get the support and movement that’s required to undertake a project of this magnitude.”

Sony’s leaders understand how critical IPv6 is. “As we continue to implement our business strategy for collaboration across countries, companies and business fields as “One Sony”, we believe that this new IPv6 service can play a vital role in ensuring the success of our strategy,” said Fumiaki Sakai, CIO, Sony Corporation.

“We were able to introduce IPv6 ahead of other companies, thanks to AT&T’s ability to meet our implementation schedule, as well as its fast and capable resolution of difficult problems that came up during the project,” he added. “AT&T’s expert advice and IPv6 management, as well as the architecture and routing protocols it created in accordance with our internal systems, has enabled us to ensure compatibility with our legacy technologies while also lowering our burden of operation, all of which are major achievements.”

“Sony is looking to be the innovator in the market and to show the Internet community that we are clearly a leader in the Internet space,” said DeLorenzo. With its use of IPv6 to advance its business, Sony is proving just that.

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