Kyowa Kirin Enables Remote Work, Cuts VDI Costs by 30% with Amazon WorkSpaces


In business, adapting to the fluctuating, evolving market is key to longevity—and as a result, companies are increasingly reliant on technology to remain competitive. This has never been truer than during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has profoundly impacted the business world. Certain companies must be able to operate virtually in order to survive. With the implementation of an Amazon Web Services (AWS) solution, global specialty pharmaceutical company Kyowa Kirin quickly enabled remote work for employees and streamlined its business so it could be more flexible for future market changes.

At the center of Kyowa Kirin’s pivot to remote work was Amazon WorkSpaces, a managed, secure desktop-as-a-service solution that quickly scaled to provide desktops to employees so they could work remotely. Amazon WorkSpaces also enabled the company to easily migrate from Windows 7 to Windows 10 and implement systemwide robotic process automation (RPA) technology, empowering Kyowa Kirin to accelerate its business.

Back view of business woman talking to her colleagues about plan in video conference. Multiethnic business team using computer for a online meeting in video call. Group of people smart working from home.

“Having a managed service with Amazon WorkSpaces is key for us because it allows us to offload unnecessary operation work.” 

Takayuki Kusumoto
Manager, ICT solutions department, Kyowa Kirin

Launching into the Cloud with AWS

A major subsidiary of Japan-based Kirin Holdings, Kyowa Kirin is a global specialty pharmaceutical company that performs technology-driven drug discovery to produce medicine in four therapeutic areas: nephrology, oncology, the central nervous system, and immunology/allergy.

For Kyowa Kirin, transitioning to Amazon WorkSpaces was one part of a greater migration to AWS that has been in progress for nearly a decade. In 2011, Kyowa Kirin first considered relocating to the cloud in pursuit of solutions that would accelerate its business. It aimed to offload the responsibility for infrastructure maintenance from the information and communications technology (ICT) team so it could focus on facilitating Kyowa Kirin’s mission. “Creating value in the worldwide market requires an ICT system with global agility,” says Takayuki Kusumoto, manager of the ICT solutions department at Kyowa Kirin. After testing services such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), which provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud, Kyowa Kirin implemented its all-in “Cloud First” strategy in 2013. “We were convinced that we could use AWS as we could use existing data center groups and operate a production environment sufficiently,” says Kusumoto. “AWS was the only cloud service as an infrastructure that met our requirements.” As of 2019, about 85 percent of all the company’s servers were running on AWS.

So Kyowa Kirin had a strong trust in AWS when it began adopting Amazon WorkSpaces in 2017. Its previous on-premises virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) required a large initial investment and time-intensive planning to predict the sizing that might be needed. Amazon WorkSpaces removed the necessity to precisely predict unknown future needs—and reduced costs by 30 percent. With it, Kyowa Kirin could start small and scale to meet demands, significantly reducing lead time. Amazon WorkSpaces also helped abate security risks because the VDI doesn’t store user data, diminishing risk surface area. And above all, the solution alleviated the ICT team’s workload. “Having a managed service with Amazon WorkSpaces is key for us because it allows us to offload unnecessary operation work,” says Kusumoto.

Accelerating Business Operations with AWS

Kyowa Kirin had integrated Amazon WorkSpaces into its operations by 2019, launching more than 1,000 WorkSpaces—and just in time. The migration allowed Kyowa Kirin to react quickly to the forced retirement of Windows 7 in January 2020, and in just 6 months, the company moved its data, profiles, and settings to Windows 10 using Amazon WorkSpaces. Each user had access to both Windows 7 and Windows 10 during a 1-month parallel usage period, which maintained the support system and minimized user workload.

Amazon WorkSpaces also enabled Kyowa Kirin to use RPA technology to further enhance productivity, automating previously time-intensive tasks such as master registration and data entry, effectively eliminating human error in the process and saving the company 3,500 hours’ worth of workload per year. Because Amazon WorkSpaces is a PC environment that runs 24/7, the company can securely execute processing at night or early in the morning to reduce the waiting time. It also reduces unnecessary overhead by streamlining the arrangement and maintenance of physical PCs.

Using Amazon WorkSpaces to Work Remotely

One particular benefit of Amazon WorkSpaces came to light after the COVID-19 pandemic emerged: in 1 week, Kyowa Kirin deployed 300–400 additional Amazon WorkSpaces, reaching 1,600 total across the United States and Japan, allowing homebound employees to immediately access their desktops and work remotely. And since Amazon WorkSpaces doesn’t limit the usage period or the number of active WorkSpaces, Kyowa Kirin plans to expand to more than 2,000 in a year, depending on its user requirement. “The COVID-19 pandemic made us recognize the value of Amazon WorkSpaces,” says Kusumoto. “Users could continue to use their desktop environment from their homes and work without any major confusion.”

AWS support was integral to both the migration and stable operation of Amazon WorkSpaces, according to Kusumoto, who notes specifically the support from its AWS solutions architect and its AWS Enterprise Support technical account manager. The team added more Amazon WorkSpaces as needed, helped to solve network issues, and offered advice on deploying and monitoring the environment. “AWS contributes to our business—especially in this situation,” he says. “And we have continued to use AWS for 7 years because we value the AWS process of always being customer centric and listening to us.”

Continuing to Invest in AWS Infrastructure

Kyowa Kirin will continue to pursue an AWS infrastructure that not only accelerates operations—in the enterprise system and in research and development, among other areas—but also enables it to restructure overseas networks. By shifting to AWS, the company hopes to avoid the vicious hardware update cycle and to abandon old operating systems and security update protocols.

With Amazon WorkSpaces, Kyowa Kirin furthered its Cloud First strategy to streamline and accelerate business operations by building an AWS Cloud infrastructure, an initiative that ultimately also supported the company so it could succeed in uncertain times.

About Kyowa Kirin

Kyowa Kirin, a global specialty pharmaceutical company and a subsidiary of Japan-based Kirin Holdings, uses advanced technology to produce innovative drugs in four therapeutic areas: oncology, nephrology, the central nervous system, and immunology/allergy.

Benefits of AWS

  • Replaced on-premises VDI, reducing costs by 30%
  • Deployed 300–400 Amazon WorkSpaces in 1 week
  • Transitioned from Windows 7 to Windows 10 in 6 months
  • Saved 3,500 hours’ worth of workload per year

AWS Services Used

Amazon WorkSpaces

Amazon WorkSpaces is a managed, secure Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) solution. You can use Amazon WorkSpaces to provision either Windows or Linux desktops in just a few minutes and quickly scale to provide thousands of desktops to workers across the globe. You can pay either monthly or hourly, just for the WorkSpaces you launch, which helps you save money when compared to traditional desktops and on-premises VDI solutions. Amazon WorkSpaces helps you eliminate the complexity in managing hardware inventory, OS versions and patches, and Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), which helps simplify your desktop delivery strategy. With Amazon WorkSpaces, your users get a fast, responsive desktop of their choice that they can access anywhere, anytime, from any supported device.

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Amazon EC2

Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides secure, resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale cloud computing easier for developers.

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