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Asahi Group Holdings: Modernizing legacy systems for better business innovation with Google Cloud

About Asahi Group

Founded on 1 September, 1949, Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. engages in the manufacture and sale of food and beverages. It operates through the following segments: alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and food, including logistics and other businesses. The company is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

Industries: Food & Beverage
Location: Japan

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Intel
Intel Corporation provides scalable, mission-critical technology solutions for organizations, by harnessing the capabilities of the cloud to solve global challenges.

VMware
VMware is a leading provider of multi-cloud services for all apps, enabling digital innovation with enterprise control. As a trusted foundation to accelerate innovation, VMware software gives businesses the flexibility and choice they need to build the future. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, VMware is committed to building a better future through the company’s 2030 Agenda.

Both Intel and VMware are part of the Google Cloud Partner Network.

As part of their growth strategy and mission of creating “a winning Asahi” Asahi Group Holdings successfully built and launched a modernization roadmap to bring their legacy systems into the future.

Google Cloud results

  • Reduced bottleneck in its hub systems, increasing productivity
  • Migrated systems to Google Cloud VMware Engine in a short time
  • Frees up IT teams from mundane tasks to focus more on business solutions

Crunches through massive amounts of company data with BigQuery to achieve better business results

As a global corporation with a diverse portfolio in food and beverages, Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. (Asahi Group) is renowned for making some of the world's well known Japanese beers. The company prides itself on adopting a "glocal" mindset with innovation ingrained deep in their DNA.

"The Asahi Group's belief is that we don't win just by following trends and introducing SaaS. In order to become a leader in the business, we needed to take on the challenge of creating our own unique business model in a new, modern environment," shares Hiroshi Shimizu, Manager of the Digital Transformation Department, Asahi Group Japan, Ltd.

However, back in 2014, the Asahi Group did not have the environment and tools necessary to carry out the company's vision, which hindered daily operations. The IT department was also becoming a cost center as the team was focused on updating tools daily, Shimizu added.

"The Asahi Group's belief is that we don't win just by following trends and introducing SaaS. In order to become a leader in the business, we needed to take on the challenge of creating our own unique business model in a new, modern environment."

Hiroshi Shimizu, Manager of the Digital Transformation Department, Asahi Group Japan, Ltd.

Forging the path to modernization with Google Cloud

This led to Shimizu looking for a solution that could help modernize Asahi Group's business systems with its limited resources. Extending the life of existing assets and moving to a new environment became a priority. The answer came during "Google Cloud Next '17 in Tokyo" held in June 2017, where Shimizu was introduced to BigQuery.

"I saw a demo where BigQuery was utilized to process vast amounts of real data at a speed that I had never seen before. I was convinced that it would help solve the time lag problem with our own data," says Shimizu. The Asahi Group was also looking to switch its data center to Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE).

Based on the initial results from cloud utilization, Asahi Group introduced Apigee API Management in the latter half of 2017 to 2018, to further accelerate their digital transformation. Shimizu says that this move had two major goals.

"We have a mechanism that manages data linkage, which is a hub for various systems. However, it created a bottleneck when it came to availability. This is based on the concept of loose coupling. As such, our first goal was to solve this, and the second was to realize a modern architecture that connects group companies and business partners by exchanging data using APIs. Apigee solves both of these problems for us."

A man sitting with Asahi products

Migrating legacy systems to Google Cloud VMware Engine

The Asahi Group is steadily realizing their goals for modernization, led by Shimizu and his team. The company sees 2027 as a milestone and will gradually transform legacy systems into a fully modern architecture that is not just an extension of the past, by adopting Google Cloud VMware Engine, a solution that provides a fully integrated VMware vSphere environment natively in Google Cloud. The solution enables customers to rapidly migrate VMware workloads to Google Cloud without changes and take advantage of a highly performant, modern, scalable infrastructure.

"During this migration, it became clear that it is impractical to modernize hundreds of systems at once. This is especially true when it comes to older systems that have different operating systems and application versions, and many have not been maintained for long periods of time. Other factors to consider included how many users will be affected, what’s the effect of completely removing something and of course, the budgetary constraints around this," shares Shimizu. "There are many variables that I have to consider before looking at how to modernize these." He adds that on top of everything, the team was overwhelmingly short of time.

"But that doesn't mean we couldn't do a quick migration by porting the system to a container as it is. For systems we were unable to modernize, virtual machines provided a viable solution as they are relatively new and can run for a long time. We decided to use Google Cloud VMware Engine as a temporary destination to create a grace period. The important thing here is to do what we were doing in the VMware vSphere environment in the data center in the cloud, without changing anything," says Shimizu.

"This is a big benefit of Google Cloud VMware Engine and I think it formed the basis of our strategy. Google Cloud VMware Engine also proved useful thanks to its high hardware specifications, including Intel CPUs. As a result, the aggregation rate for each node has increased, and we have been able to run workloads with high performance, which is satisfying."

Shimizu adds that it was an important point to decide to leave some of its legacy workloads on-premises, especially for old systems that can not earn grace time even if they move to Google Cloud VMware Engine. By placing rules on "old, unbudgeted systems" it created organizational buy-in and a sense of urgency among teams, after which a decision could be made to dispose of a legacy system. Simulating scenarios for migration also proved helpful.

Asahi Group Holdings Architecture

"This is a big benefit of Google Cloud VMware Engine and I think it formed the basis of our strategy. Google Cloud VMware Engine also proved useful thanks to its high hardware specifications, including Intel CPUs. As a result, the aggregation rate for each node has increased, and we have been able to run workloads with high performance, which is satisfying."

Hiroshi Shimizu, Manager of the Digital Transformation Department, Asahi Group Japan, Ltd.

The actual switch will begin in June 2022 and is expected to be completed by the end of the year, making the transition so natural that users will not be affected.

"Through a series of efforts using Google Cloud we are closer to realizing a "Winning Asahi." With the framework already in place, all we have to do next is put it into practice and prove it. I am proud that we have a winning model, and I feel that one of the benefits of adopting Google Cloud is that many people have renewed interest in the Asahi Group through these efforts."

Hiroshi Shimizu, Manager of the Digital Transformation Department, Asahi Group Japan, Ltd.

"Through a series of efforts using Google Cloud we are closer to realizing a 'Winning Asahi.' With the framework already in place, all we have to do next is put it into practice and prove it. I am proud that we have a winning model, and I feel that one of the benefits of adopting Google Cloud is that many people have renewed interest in the Asahi Group through these efforts," concludes Shimizu.

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Asahi Group

Founded on 1 September, 1949, Asahi Group Holdings, Ltd. engages in the manufacture and sale of food and beverages. It operates through the following segments: alcoholic beverages, soft drinks, and food, including logistics and other businesses. The company is headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

Industries: Food & Beverage
Location: Japan

About Partners

Intel
Intel Corporation provides scalable, mission-critical technology solutions for organizations, by harnessing the capabilities of the cloud to solve global challenges.

VMware
VMware is a leading provider of multi-cloud services for all apps, enabling digital innovation with enterprise control. As a trusted foundation to accelerate innovation, VMware software gives businesses the flexibility and choice they need to build the future. Headquartered in Palo Alto, California, VMware is committed to building a better future through the company’s 2030 Agenda.

Both Intel and VMware are part of the Google Cloud Partner Network.