2 page Case Study - Posted 10/29/2013
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Database Standardisation Eases IT Support, Cuts Costs for Paper Merchandiser
“After consolidating our SAP and Integration environments on SQL Server and Windows, our annual IT operating costs fell by 25 percent.”
Richard Hudson, IT Manager, Spicers
Spicers is one of Australia’s premier paper merchants. Based in Melbourne, the company purchases an extensive range of coated, uncoated and specialist papers from domestic and international manufacturers, and sells them to local printers and publishers.
At the heart of the firm’s logistics operations is a highly automated warehousing system that helps manage stock as it is received, repackaged and despatched to customers. Based on a core SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, the platform also generates
finance reports, and enables staff to track stock pallets via radio frequency locators.
To improve IT support and reduce costs, Hudson wanted to consolidate his IT around fewer technologies and clear a path to the cloud. “When we needed external IT support, the diversity of IT skills required restricted our choices to just a few top-tier technology
suppliers,” he says. “For our internal IT team, the technology mix made maintenance and upgrade planning extremely complex.”
In early 2012, Hudson examined alternative database and operating system combinations. “We were always impressed by SQL database performance and the relative ease of support. When we analysed all the costs, the most compelling option was to redeploy on a
purely Microsoft stack.”
Between March and October, Spicers switched its core SAP ERP system to run on cost effective HP ProLiant BL460c servers, with the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. At the same time, Spicers reconfigured their SAP databases to run on Microsoft
SQL Server 2008 Enterprise, and upgraded their SAP planning and business intelligence modules.
“We used the standard SAP Windows-SQL migration pack, which made the migration very straightforward,” says Hudson. “With the help of a local SAP specialist, Clarity Consulting, we completed the project without any incident or interruption to business operations.”
With the data compression capabilities in SQL Server, Spicers were able to dramatically reduce total data storage requirements. “The compression features in SQL—as well as better archiving—enabled us to reduce storage requirements to less than one terabyte.”
“We also reduced our hardware needs,” he adds. “We replaced three of our existing Windows servers with the new commoditised HP blades, and when we virtualised all the servers in our single Windows enclosure, they were sufficient to run our entire IT. This
meant we could dispense with all the old proprietary servers which we previously needed to run SAP and the Oracle databases.”
By migrating SAP systems onto Windows with SQL databases, the Spicers IT manager simplified his firm’s complex IT environment. As a result, overall IT costs are lower, SAP performance has improved and IT support is easier to resource.
IT costs reduced by 25 percent:
Standardisation has enabled Spicers to reduce costs. “With fewer servers, our power bills are dramatically lower,” says Hudson. “We’ve returned servers that were previously on loan, and with the data compression in SQL Server 2008 R2, we’ve also reduced our
storage costs. After consolidating our SAP and Integration environments on SQL Server and Windows, our annual IT operating costs fell by 25 percent.”
SAP reporting five times faster: Reporting performance has improved dramatically. “We have employees who run their own SAP reports: they all noticed their reports are running faster than before,” says Hudson. “Some SAP profitability
analysis reports that used to take five minutes now take less than one minute, and one report that used take an hour now takes exactly five minutes.”
Less complex IT support needs:With all SAP systems and business applications running on one operating system, and using a single database technology, the firm’s entire deployed IT has become easier to support. “Now,
we aren’t dependent on a highly-specialised mix of IT skills,” says Hudson. “When we look for IT partners, we can go to tier-two and tier-three companies and purchase equally good support at a lower cost. Our upgrades are easier to plan, and with consistent
disaster recovery processes, we have increased operational resilience.”
Easier transition into the cloud:With standardised IT infrastructure, Hudson can more easily pursue opportunities in the cloud. “With all IT on one operating system and using one database technology, we can move into
the cloud as soon as we are ready,” says Hudson. “This makes us far more versatile, and puts us in better shape for the future.”