Visy is a leading packaging and recycling company with more than 120 locations across Australia, New Zealand, and Thailand. The company, which has a workforce of more than 5,500, also has trading offices across Asia, Europe, and North America. Headquartered in Melbourne, Visy launched in 1948 as a manufacturer of corrugated cardboard boxes. Today, the business manufactures a wide variety of packaging products. It also recycles more than a million tons of paper and cardboard as well as hundreds of thousands tons of glass and plastic.
By 2010, 98 percent of Visy’s IT—including a business-critical SAP environment—was running on a private cloud. For David Peano, chief information officer at Visy, public cloud providers could offer broader services than private clouds but without the incremental capital expenditure (capex) costs. “It was more than just cost for us though. We wanted to put IT in place that could drive innovation,” says Peano.
Visy sought to migrate all the systems running on its private cloud—including SAP—to a public cloud environment. The business also hoped that the change would improve the performance of all those systems. Comments Peano, “SAP is the core financial system for our entire global operation. We saw the switch to a public cloud as an opportunity to improve our SAP performance—ensuring financial data got to stakeholders faster than ever before for better business decisions.”
Peano sought longer-term benefits too from a move to a public cloud. It was clear to him that artificial intelligence (AI), Deep Learning, and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies would play an increasing role in manufacturing, helping companies like Visy make production processes more efficient. “We wanted to work with a cloud provider that could help us incorporate AI and IoT technologies into our business in the future,” he says.
We saw the switch to a public cloud as an opportunity to improve our SAP performance—ensuring financial data got to stakeholders faster than ever before for better business decisions.
Why Amazon Web Services
Visy engaged Amazon Web Services (AWS) to migrate its SAP environment to the AWS Cloud. The decision was based on the success that Visy had had in the past when it moved its website infrastructure to the AWS Cloud. In addition, AWS Partner Network (APN) Advanced Consulting Partner Telstra and their cloud services, which helped Visy manage its private cloud environment, was already skilled in the management of AWS-based environments. Peano adds, “AWS is also investing significantly in areas such as AI and machine learning to help customers enhance their operations for the benefit of stakeholders and customers.”
To assist in building the SAP environment and the migration, Visy began working with AWS Professional Services (ProServe). The ProServe team provided the long-term project link between AWS and Visy, and worked to manage the migration with Telstra to ensure the entire project was delivered on time and on budget. For Visy’s SAP BW/4HANA data warehouse and all other SAP systems, Visy engaged APN Advanced Consulting Partner and SAP specialist BNW Consulting to handle the migration process. Peano recalls, “The level of collaboration between all parties was excellent, which helped ensure a smooth migration process. There was no downtime on our systems at all.”
The core AWS services supporting Visy’s SAP environment include Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances, which provide the compute power to run the environment’s applications. Of these instances, Visy uses an Amazon EC2 X1 instance type, whose 2 terabytes of memory is certified to support SAP HANA, the in-memory database providing the backbone of the SAP infrastructure. Each X1 instance is powered by four Intel® Xeon® E7 8880 v3 processors and offers up to 128 vCPUs and up to 1,952 GiB of DRAM based memory per instance. Intel Xeon E7 8880 v3 processors feature high memory bandwidth and larger L3 caches to boost the performance of in-memory applications like SAP HANA. X1 instances also enable increased cryptographic performance via the latest Intel AES-NI feature, support Intel® Transactional Synchronization Extensions (TSX) to boost the performance of in-memory transactional data processing, and support Advanced Vector Extensions 2 (Intel AVX2) processor instructions to expand most integer commands to 256 bits.
For storing all SAP data, Visy uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) and Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) for in-memory storage. To obtain increased business insights, Amazon S3 and Amazon Redshift, a peta-scale data warehouse, aggregate data from SAP and other Visy systems across Visy business units. Queries are then run against this data to provide accurate, real-time reports for key stakeholders in the Visy organization.
Visy today no longer faces the capex costs of refreshing a private cloud infrastructure. The company has also enhanced the speed of its business applications, including SAP. Peano says, “By moving to AWS, response times on the SAP database are 28 percent faster than in our private cloud infrastructure. We’re also seeing a 46 percent boost in performance on the application server level.”
The enhancement has had a real impact on Visy’s business operations. At the end of each month, the Visy IT team produces a report in SAP that gives senior executives the organization’s key performance indicators (KPIs). In the past, the SAP platform would process the month-end data, and an initial report would be sent to senior executives during the middle of the following day. Peano says, “With our SAP environment running on AWS, we have reduced the time it takes to produce our month-end report by half. That means getting our KPIs into the hands of executives sooner so they can make crucial business decisions faster.”
Provisioning times for SAP instances have also dropped from weeks to days since the migration to AWS. Comments Peano, “It used to take weeks to provision a SAP instance with our private cloud but, on AWS, we can do the work in a couple of days—that’s around 93 percent faster.”
Stefan Baumann, director of consulting services for BNW Consulting says, “The benefits of deploying SAP on the AWS Cloud have been tangible even before going live. When certain parts of the project were paused to focus on other priorities, we were able to simply shut down the related SAP solutions and AWS infrastructure, significantly reducing run costs, leveraging on-demand “pay only for what you use” utility computing benefits.
Visy is now looking at ways AWS can support the use of AI across its operations. Peano says, “I’ve already had discussions with AWS and an organization that develops industrial robots about how we can explore AI at Visy. Right now, we’re moving to Industry 4.0—where automation and data exchange in manufacturing will produce smart production lines. Part of my role is to ensure we are out there in front of this trend, and I believe that with the support of AWS, we can be.”