So-net Entertainment Corporation (So-net) is one of Japan’s largest Internet service providers (ISPs) with more than 4 million users across the country. The company focuses on two main business segments: network services and media/entertainment. So-net Media Networks, a consolidated subsidiary within the Media and Entertainment segment started in July 2008, focuses on developing the company’s high potential advertising business.

In the Internet advertising business, customer event logs are critical to understanding customer behavior patterns, such as the frequency and amount of time spent on different pages and trending search terms.

Before moving to Amazon Web Services (AWS), So-net managed a fleet of on-premise servers to store and analyze their customer logs. But when So-net experienced rapid growth, its data volume surged, drastically increasing capacity requirements and slowing log processing time. Given the importance of timely insights to the business, these delays quickly became unacceptable.

In March 2010, So-net started to build a solution to handle the explosive growth of data. “It was not practical to efficiently store and analyze 3.5 TB of yearly log data with our on-premise infrastructure,” says Takahiro Yasuda, leader of the development team tasked with building the solution. 

After a two-month test and evaluation period, the development team started uploading data into Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). In April 2011, So-net uploaded 5 TB into Amazon S3 and officially launched its information analytics system. The company also uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) to process data. 

AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) is used to easily manage the complex security and resource management requirements of its internal users.

So-net Entertainment architecture diagram

Figure 1: So-net Entertainment Architecture Diagram

By using Amazon EMR to process data, So-net can now analyze up to 12 months of log data faster than it took to do a single month previously. AWS has also delivered significant ROI to the company. So-net no longer incurs capital expenses and their operational costs are around JPY 500,000 per month, a huge savings compared to the tens of millions of Japanese Yen that would have been required to purchase and maintain on-premise infrastructure.

Moving to the AWS Cloud allowed So-net to cost-effectively meet rapidly increasing capacity requirements while limiting its upfront commitment. "That gave us the flexibility to scale up and down based on changing needs, and lowering costs by only charging us for what we used," Yasuda says. "All of this could be done without having to rely on external professionals to build and manage the infrastructure." 

So-net has experienced further cost savings by leveraging unused Amazon EC2 capacity through Spot Instances. Akikazu Takeuchi, a Senior Research Fellow at So-net, says, “Running Amazon EMR on Spot Instances has reduced the cost of our ad hoc data analysis by approximately 50 percent."

To meet the demands of an ever-expanding business, So-net’s development team is continuously working to improve their analytics systems. “With AWS, we no longer worry about underutilized infrastructure and maintenance," Yasuda says. "Instead, we can focus on differentiating through our customer offerings. Rapid access to critical customer insights has allowed us to differentiate our business in the face of a highly competitive and rapidly changing industry.”

Yasuda concludes, "We chose AWS because we'd had positive experiences working with them and knew that no other vendor could offer their level of rapid innovation.”

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