The secrets of a complex cloud migration, from a CIO’s perspective

The industrial group Simon, a multinational with production plants in nine countries and presence in more than 90 countries, carried out the migration of its SAP systems to the AWS public cloud, in order to respond to the agility needs of its business units. The CIO, David Xicota, shared his experience in a session, in which he revealed the ins and outs of the project and the lessons learned in this project, carried out with our SAP on AWS experts.

During the last months of 2019 and the first months of 2020, this Spanish company carried out a strategic project as part of its digital transformation process: the migration of its SAP environments to the cloud, with the aim of supporting its growth, becoming more efficient and agile in its processes, and achieving greater control and security.

The company, which has around 4,000 employees worldwide and an established brand with more than a century of history in the electrical equipment manufacturing and lighting design market, was clear that cloud was the model to adopt. Its CIO, David Xicota, was aware of the complexity of this transformation, the criticality of its SAP systems and the change management involved.

However, the time had come to tackle the project to address the limitations of their systems at the time, which were centred around the lack of performance and the need for process agility, as well as increasing infrastructure reliability and standardising operating systems for ease of management, patching and security. There were also other important points which, as the CIO explained, were to “facilitate innovation and drive a change in the role of the IT department from being systems administrators to creating value for the business by providing solutions”.

The choice of AWS and Syntax

Convinced that “the only reasonable, logical way out was to go to the cloud”, David Xicota stressed, the company had to decide between the different types of cloud. At this point, the possibilities were private or public cloud, and which provider to choose. “We were clear that our choice was the public cloud because we wanted to outsource, but we wanted to have control over technology and spending, and that gave us this modality, and then it was a matter of choosing the best option, and for me there was no doubt about which one it was”.

With AWS as the provider, the next step was to look for a partner with a lot of experience in SAP and AWS environments, which would ensure that the assigned team had a lot of experience in this type of project. “Syntax offered us the most experienced and committed team. We were able to talk to other companies that had already gone through this experience and, after conversations with the company and the team, we saw that they were the right partner”.

The migration

The project, which took seven months to complete, involved moving the company’s pre-production, development, quality and production environments to the cloud, a process in which Syntax consultants used AWS migration optimisation and automation tools to mitigate risks.

Each of the environments was moved separately, so that “by the time we got to production, we had already done the migration quite a few times.  By taking this approach, the process got better as we went along, and we overcame the challenges we encountered,” he said.

The results of the project

For Simon Group, increasing the performance of its SAP systems was critical. On average, performance has increased by a factor of 4 in all areas, and in some transactions by a factor of 17.

The company, which processes 2 million records per day from SAP, has reduced user access times from international sites and has also standardised its operating systems, which are now Linux.

By delegating the maintenance of cloud applications to our experts, its technology team can focus on more business-valuable tasks, which is another benefit.

Lessons learned

As key recommendations, Simon’s CIO highlights the following points that can be useful for all those companies that are considering taking the step that this company has already taken:

  • A project of this type should not be started without the CEO and the other directors being convinced that this is the future of the company. It is not only a technological change, it is cultural and affects the entire organisation and, therefore, alliances must be sought.
  • Since it is an ERP system, there are two main actors that have to be involved and even participate. They are the Finance team, the most affected by the use of management solutions, which also has to deal with auditing processes, and the operations team, in those companies that have production plants.
  • Proper change management is essential. It affects all levels, from the CEO and the steering committee, to the business units and also the IT team itself, which needs a lot of support to evolve to the new environment and to be able to perform more valuable tasks. Change requires education, a lot of communication and confidence building. 

Next steps

David Xicota’s team is now working with AWS and our team to reduce costs. “For the first year, you migrate and worry about making everything work, not so much about the cost. Now comes the optimisation using the Well Architected Framework to identify potential savings that we can benefit from, for example, S/3 Spot machines, pre-bookings.  The future migration to S/4HANA will come and it will involve a lot more machines, so we have to start saving so that, when the time comes, we don’t have problems in terms of budget,” added the CIO.

In addition to the future migration to SAP S/4HANA, the organisation is deploying machine learning services and using APIs to make better use of data.

Finally, it is also considering whether to move from a centralised ERP model and start deploying certain compute and access nodes in subsidiaries. “With the AWS architecture and Syntax’s experience, it’s feasible right now. We have the confidence to do it,” he concluded.

If you want to know more about this project, follow this link. 

must also be taken into account.  This strategy should also be part of the long-term transformation plan for applications, business processes and the IT environment.

2. It is a technology and business strategy

Interfaces to SAP ERP systems impact virtually every department in an organisation. Therefore, a successful migration requires an accurate inventory of all interfaces and their impact on the business.

The IT team must not stand alone, but must work with the other units and management to ensure the company’s commitment to the migration strategy.

3. Know the most appropriate technical alternatives

In a SAP migration project to AWS, following the SAP MAP methodology, the process should start with understanding the technical options by conducting an assessment of the existing systems in the enterprise and the cloud capabilities that can benefit from them. At this stage it is important to take the following steps:

  • Confirm the base version of SAP from which you are starting.
  • Assess the right target architecture based on AWS offerings and SAP requirements.
  • Find out if the databases are supported in the cloud, as well as the operating system.
  • Find out how SAP and non-SAP systems are supported, and identify possible integrations that need to be made.
  • Assess your functional environment.

This initial analysis should also assess business processes to ensure that the functional environment, including SAP and AWS, can generate new capabilities to enhance and optimise the support of a digitised corporate environment. During this step, it is possible to inspect custom SAP code and SAP Fiori applications, identify how the technology environment can be simplified, and see which processes are no longer consistent.

Once these validations are carried out, the scenario to be migrated is defined, the automations to create the infrastructure are designed, the configurations to streamline the provisioning of the environments and the tools to be used in the project execution to put it into production. An example of this is the success case of Cepsa, which we already talked about in a post.

4. Data and user security

As we have explained in previous articles, AWS is one of the platforms with the best security guarantees as, through a security model shared with customers, the security of the systems is reinforced, recovery times and availability are improved.

To sum up, a project to migrate SAP to AWS is an opportunity to optimise the company’s internal processes and ensure that the applications offer more value to the business through the use of Artificial Intelligence, automation, Data Lakes or Business Intelligence, but it should not be forgotten that this process can be simpler with the right partner and with experience in moving SAP environments to AWS.

At Syntax, as SAP experts on AWS, we are committed to delivering projects that realise the full benefits of the cloud for SAP workloads.