Shipping container firm Seaco migrates SAP platform to AWS cloud to improve ERP performance

The shipping container company is keen to move away from legacy IT environments.


Shipping container firm Seaco has enhanced its ERP system after moving its SAP platform to the Amazon Web Services public cloud, part of a wholesale data centre migration.

After experiencing problems with its seven year old SAP software, decided to move from its UK-based co-located data centre to AWS, completing its move this year. This offered improvements over its legacy environment.

“We saw immediately some pretty impressive response times and improvements,” Brendan O'Neil, Director of IT Services, Seaco, told delegates at the 2015 AWS Summit in London. “For example, our batch jobs were running over 90 percent faster in some cases,, and our billing cycle - which was a real pain point for us over the years - we managed to bring that run time down by 70 percent.

He added: “In the disaster recovery environment we reduced our RPO [recovery point objective] - which is the point which you can receive to -  from 12 to one hour. And the RTO [recovery time objective] - which is the time it takes to do that from - from three days to two hours. 

“That is a huge gain to give the business. And we will develop and improve that even more.”

There are also costs savings resulting after replacing all its on-premise infrastructure.

“We know that we have a a solid platform, we are 100 percent on the cloud - we don’t have any data centres. We actually sold the last bit of kit last week.”

Original SAP deployment 

Seaco first began using SAP in 2007, but soon ran into difficulties. “It wasn’t a particularly smooth transition, but we did manage to go live,” he said.

“We weren’t invite to tell our customer success story at any SAP customer summit, but over the next couple of years we developed the infrastructure a little bit further, and in 2009 installed some additional infrastructure to deal with the growth that we had and some large projects along the way, such as a change of ownership in 2011.”

By 2013, the firm had approximately 110 servers managed by a third party in two colocation data centres in the UK, and had become reliant on their partner to manage that platform. 

“It was about that time we started seeing some issues,” O’Neill said.

Performance was a particular problem. “We were having problems with our billing cycle overrunning. Also additional cost - this was expensive in terms of maintenance and outsourcing. “ 

And finally, it is not a particular agile situation to be in when you have bare metal servers to try to meet the business needs. 

“So we knew we needed to change something. So the options we looked for were refreshing the infrastructure like for like with more update servers, converged infrastructure, infrastructure asa  service , and hybrid of all three. We decided to go with AWS.”

Moving to the cloud

Seaco's ERP migration coincided with all of the company’s systems being moved to the cloud. For example this mean moving its Exchange servers in favour of Office365 software as a service.

The cloud move also allowed some other applications to be decommissioned.

“We needed to look at various ways of moving these applications, not every application was simply lifted and shifted,” O’Neill said.

“Others we left behind and decided not to use them - in one particular instance we looked at SQL quite closely and realised we had 60 data bases we didn't need to migrate so a lot of that was left behind.”

The SAP move began with a proof of concept in 2014, and the move was completed this year after setting up a disaster recovery environment and transitioning over over 10 hours.

The firm's AWS-hosted SAP systems include ERP, CRM, Business Warehouse, Enterprise Portal, Business Intelligence, Gateway, Content Server and Solution Manager.  

One of the other benefits was the ability to create internal expertise, working along with consulting firm Lemongrass.  “We were very interested in in-sourcing, and moving away from the outsourcing engagement that we had, and start building own team so that we had an internal capability,” he said. 

“So we needed somebody to do that with, and we chose Lemongrass as our partner. We wanted more than someone to just pass that work over to. We wanted a mentor, to build an internal team and pass that knowledge on to us. Lemongrass had the knowledge and experience of running SAP on AWS.”

He added: “We have an internal capability now - we don't need our outsource partners, we can run our platform ourselves. The IT team is much closer to the business and that is a real gain for them.”

SAP migration to AWS

Seaco’s project is one of a small but growing number of examples of moving SAP’s flagship enterprise software to the largest infrastructure as a service cloud provider.

Last year, News UK IT director Chris Birch told an audience of customers at the 2014 AWS Summit in London about the ‘millions of pounds’ of savings the company had achieved through such a move.

 “In December [2013] we started to prepare for moving our enterprise applications into the cloud,” News UK IT director Chris Birch told an audience of customers at AWS Summit in London on Tuesday. 

“We are talking about ERP systems, logisitics, distribution and manufacturing systems - this includes all the hardcore apps that were developed in-house or from third parties decades ago, which do not have the autoscaling of some of the systems built for the cloud."

Commenting on the deal this week, TechMarketView analyst Kate Hanaghan said more such deals may follow, albeit slowly. 

She said: “The question is: How many other enterprises are ready to make the same leap as Seaco? The answer: There are many that are very interested in doing so, but only a relatively small number that will be likely to make the commitment this year.”

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