ERP systems are at the heart of just about every medium and large company, and I know from personal experience that ERP downtime can hurt the business and even the stock price.
Syngenta is a company that hosts its business-critical applications in what it describes as “costly traditional data centers” and transforms them into a cloud environment it believes is reliable, future-proof and scalable.
Syngenta is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of seed and crop protection solutions, with operations in more than 90 countries and headquarters in Basel, Switzerland. I recently discussed migrating SAP to the public cloud with Christian Bayer, Syngenta’s Global Head of ERP/SAP and Data & Analytics, and partner Infosys.
Syngenta has made a strategic decision to adopt a cloud-first IT strategy. So Syngenta decided to end a long-standing data center hosting partnership and move everything possible to the cloud.
The most important and risky part of migrating to Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the ERP platform with more than 50 SAP systems, including four core ERP systems and multiple SAP peripheral systems, providing the Core IT backbone.
Before Christian Bayer took responsibility, there were several serious outages in the core ERP system. Part of the reason is outdated technology, which has a track record of not keeping up with hardware updates. Second, hosting in their shared data center environment involves shared components that are complex and tricky for providers to manage.
Christian Bayer’s cloud-first strategy is to get to a place he can control to “guarantee it (ERP) becomes as reliable as water in a tap”. This is a very big goal.
There are other benefits to Sygenta’s move to the cloud. First, it has greater flexibility and scalability to support seasonal farming operations. Syngenta accounts for 80% of sales in less than six months a year, depending on the hemisphere. In the previous hosting model, servers were partially idle during the off-season of the year. The flexibility Syngenta can gain from the cloud is attractive to seasonal businesses.
In addition, Syngenta is migrating from the existing SAP system to S/4HANA.
Last but not least, people expect cost savings. SAP’s move to cloud-enabled infrastructure resulted in 28% annual cost savings and a return on investment within a year and a half. These are impressive savings achieved basically through “lift and shift” with some modernization and version upgrades. I’d be surprised at any idea of saving money in the cloud, as it rarely becomes a reality, but it makes sense since on-premises infrastructure has to account for 80% peaks throughout the year.
The most significant benefit comes from the flexibility in the cloud. The speed with which new test systems can be created allows Syngenta to deploy only a three-tier SAP environment for development, quality assurance and production, and launch further test systems when needed.
Multi-cloud spreads risk
Like many companies I’ve spoken to, Syngenta runs workloads in AWS and Microsoft Azure. Azure is used for business applications only because most are based on Microsoft technologies. AWS hosts the ERP, all R&D, and the data lake.
Understanding fully managed cloud infrastructure reduces risk. Not entirely without risk, as evidenced by power outages in the Frankfurt area due to overheating.
However, using AWS best practices for building and designing managed cloud infrastructure offers opportunities for future enhancements such as multi-region setups, additional layers of security, and improved connectivity to network architectures. With a highly available ERP environment, the focus is now on network infrastructure site and cloud data center connections and network hubs. The entire network architecture is equally important to ensure a resilient IT infrastructure.
AWS Migration – Old World to New World
The project took a year and a half to complete, migrating more than 50 applications and more than 600TB of business data to the cloud. There are several systems that need to be upgraded to the latest version, some have been retired (for example, BW BI Accelerator) and they are not compatible with the cloud. Other applications either need to be discussed with SAP to enable support for AWS (eg Business Objects Financial Consolidation (SBFC)) or are in the process of migrating to cloud-enabled versions such as Master Data Management (MDM to MDG).
Connecting to more than 300 third parties from a cloud data center was a major undertaking involving the migration of FTP servers and VPN tunnels.
The smooth operation of the transition phase and the modernization of the integration layer with more than 1,500 interfaces are key phases of the project. Syngenta says Infosys manages this seamlessly.
The SAP PO environment was modernized and upgraded to the latest version (7.5) and migrated to AWS via infosys. This initial step is done in three phases: 1) server upgrade and migration to AWS, 2) outbound interface migration and verification, and 3) inbound interface migration and verification. This phase was the foundation for the rest of the migration project, which took more than a year but established a successful platform.
Infosys has been a strategic partner of Syngenta SAP for over 19 years.
Long-term partnerships have involved many major transformational projects. Christian mentions that Infosys “will always do everything in its power to get you over the finish line and never let you down” – a strong endorsement.
Syngenta partners with Infosys to bring Agile DevOps to SAP support, the first company to introduce the capability in SAP at scale
Vibhuti Dubey, Senior Vice President and Head of SAP Services at Infosys, emphasized “Our main goal was to execute this complex transformation in a risk-free manner. We arranged for our architects to help with the project through wave planning, leveraging our extensive experience and leveraging Infosys Cobalt, a suite of services, solutions and platforms , as a force multiplier for cloud-driven enterprise transformation”
The Syngenta IT team and Infosys performed system validation and testing to minimize the need for business involvement.
Syngenta’s migration is an impressive story. I’ve talked to many clients and very few people save money through the cloud. Syngenta is a highly seasonal business, so the ability to add and remove compute capacity at will, without limits, saves costs. Syngenta can follow the demand curve and doesn’t always pay for peak utilization.
Syngenta can scale infrastructure to support peak seasons while also supporting reliability. Christian pointed out, “When was the last time Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook were down? From a hardware perspective, we should expect near 100 percent availability.” All sites were down, but not many.
Syngenta continues to modernize its platform. Gradually, old systems are being replaced by new technologies. Finance spearheaded the successful launch of S/4 Hana Central Finance. Each business unit targets a single global SAP instance. In partnership with Infosys, the migration to S/4HANA has begun.
Disaster recovery scenarios and the possibility of running the platform with near-zero downtime are now the next goals. The goal is to keep ERP running so that production lines don’t have to stop anywhere in the world—as reliable as water in a tap.
Note: The authors and editors of Moor Insights & Strategy may have contributed to this article.
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