Fender’s CIO Talks about Tuning up SAP with a Migration To AWS

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An increase in business led international guitar manufacturer Fender to look at more efficient ways to utilize its SAP resources.

Migrating from company-controlled computing resources to the public clouds can be a challenge. Fender had already adopted the cloud in other areas of its operations but was reluctant to include its SAP solutions. The company had to reconsider its approach after a surge in guitar demand during the pandemic.

Michael Spandau is the CIO at Fender. He spoke to InformationWeek about what prompted the guitar manufacturer to partner with Lemongrass in order to run SAP on AWS.

How did operations run at Fender and what drove the changes you sought?

We were among the first cloud users in terms of cloud computing. We started using AWS’ compute systems as soon as they were established. We started to load production servers into AWS’s environment many years ago. The AWS team has been a part of our business for many years.

We have a cloud first strategy. We are very comfortable with the cloud. SAP is our crown jewels. We run logistics. Finance is our business. Manufacturing is our business. We manage HR. Everything is run by SAP. We’re a global company — about 3,000 employees — and everything hinges off this system. This particular system was in a colocation facility and we were reluctant to move it into the AWS cloud.

What has changed? We have seen significant business growth since the pandemic. Since the pandemic, 60 million new players in the US alone picked the guitar for the first time. It was difficult for SAP systems to keep up with business demands. We needed to do something.

Michael Spandau, Fender

The two options were re-platform or migrate them into the AWS environment. Lemongrass was a great choice because they have deep technical skills. They convinced me and my team that this was possible. We worked on this project for approximately 12 months. We migrated all SAP loads to the AWS cloud in three days. The systems were upgraded. We switched to SAP HANA. We switched operating systems.

The outcome was significant performance improvements. Certain reports, business intelligence reports that would run 10, 20, 30 plus minutes would run [in] subseconds. It had a positive effect on all our users, employees, and executives who use business intelligence. Many reports, such as MRP, that are typically long-running systems, run much faster.

It is a combination of AWS infrastructure and HANA database.

We have since resized our production system. AWS offered large instances at first. In a stairstep fashion, we were able reduce this size. These tools are elegant and very practical and can be used to manage waste and utilization, and even spend.

What were the concerns prior to migrating SAP resources to the cloud.

Hesitancies could refer to many things. Security was one. The cloud’s stability and availability. Only the technical knowledge to perform the migration. We were using a very old version of SAP. It was difficult to complete the migration within a reasonable timeframe. Lemongrass was the only company who convinced us that they could do it.

A SAP system cannot be down for more than a week. It is impossible. The company ceases to exist. This could be accomplished in a very short time. We felt that Lemongrass was the best company to help us achieve this goal.

I was certain that things would improve once we moved to AWS. We were well aware of the many tools AWS provides. This very small window was the linchpin of our hesitation. I suspect that many other companies have similar problems.

What is Fender’s operational scope?

Fender runs in SAP — it’s used for manufacturing. It is used for our global supply chain. We have offices throughout Europe. We also have offices in Australia and Japan. We also have offices in Mexico, Latin America and Brazil. All of them depend on SAP and SAP functioning. It’s one instance. It’s not multi-instance. Everybody interacts and works with this system. It’s crucial from a financial standpoint. SAP is essential for invoicing and audited cash.

Were there any surprises on the path to migration? This opens the door to what else?

It will allow us to manage the operational part of these SAP instances. PreSonus, for example, was just acquired. They are currently using an Oracle ERP system. We plan to move them to SAP. They are literally copying a sandbox to get used to the system. This is something we would find very difficult to set up in our higher environment with AWS.

This can all be done in a matter of minutes. This is how powerful these tools can be.

The other thing I look forward to is SAP’s rules-based system. My favorite part of working with AWS is the combination of the huge amount of transactional data in SAP and Amazon’s AI and machine-learning algorithms to give insight we can’t get with the traditional tools we have.

Were there tradeoffs in the migration process?

The only problem would be an Amazon outage. One of the [recent] outages did impact SAP instances. We did experience some outages within our environment. We had greater control. There have been no other benefits. To manage costs, we use reserved instances. It’s an attractive pricing solution.

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