Rakuten Group: Harnessing Innovation & Upholding IT Control

April 11, 2017

Nick Tramontin, EU Infrastructure & Operations Manager at Rakuten Group – one of the world’s lead Internet service companies – talks to us about harnessing innovation without a loss of control and IT governance.

Rakuten Group is one of the world’s leading Internet service companies.  Founded in Japan as an online marketplace in 1997, Rakuten Group have undertaken a series of acquisitions to drive global expansion.  These include Priceminister (France), Rakuten Deutschland – previously Tradoria (Germany), Play.com (UK) and Wuaki.tv (UK and Spain).  The Group’s mission is to be a global innovation company using new technologies to improve service levels and customer experience.  And it’s working – we are very proud to have ranked among Forbes ‘Top 20 Most Innovative Companies’ since 2012.

However, harnessing innovation from our geographically dispersed team isn’t always easy, and it’s presented challenges from an IT perspective.  For example, each of our acquired subsidiaries around Europe had their own approach to managing infrastructure and deploying code, as well as their own development environments.  This led to complexity, and it meant that our central IT team was slow to react to their requests for IT services.

This delay sometimes resulted in our software developers turning to public cloud services in order to maintain their pace of innovation.  But it meant a loss of control for IT, as well as a loss of best practice. When these newly developed apps were moved into production environments, we discovered some of the correct controls and governance hadn’t been properly applied.

As so much of our innovation is digital, the IT department had to become much faster in supporting requests for IT services – the alternative was a loss of control and governance.  We’re now using a combination of VMware Integrated OpenStack and NSX to foster developer innovation, and have overcome these issues.  We run OpenStack in production with confidence because of the tried and tested, back-end VMware platform.  A cross-cloud architecture, where we can manage and secure applications across diverse cloud platforms, is fast becoming a prerequisite of successful digital businesses like ours.

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