In the early 2000s, Australian agribusiness Ruralco moved its
SAP infrastructure into a hosted data centre in Melbourne. But as the company
grew, the hosting provider’s inability to scale the infrastructure and slow
system performance hindered the efficiency of staff at 40 businesses across 500
“The infrastructure wasn’t
ours and it was very difficult for the hosting provider to change configuration
of the environment – it took weeks to add memory, CPU and disk,” Ruralco’s
chief information officer, Tom Hansen toldCIO Australia.
Scalability and lack of
performance were both problems for the ASX-listed organisation, which operates
in the areas of fertilisers, wool, livestock, water, grain, real estate, risk
management, finance and insurance.
“The hosted environment didn’t have the throughput capacity to
handle concurrent requests from our people. For example, at the end of the
month, our finance department will run many reports and our previous
environment didn’t have the ability to handle those concurrently,” Hansen explained.
Last October, Ruralco gave
the data centre provider the flick and moved its core SAP environment to
Microsoft’s Azure cloud in Sydney with a disaster recovery site in Melbourne
that is mirrored every 15 minutes.
Hansen said there have been
a few benefits to moving to a public cloud environment. It’s more scalable and
delivered a 60 per cent improvement in the performance of SAP applications to
its retail network from day one.
“If we put all our
backups, batch jobs, data extractions and the like end-to-end – a lot of them run
at night at the same time– they would take up to 27 hours to run. But now they
run in half an hour,” said Hansen.
The organisation’s tech
team also benefits from a pre-production staging environment which has improved
“throughput for changes and transports into production,” Hansen said.
“Previously, we only had
one production, test and dev environment – now we have a dev, test, staging and
production environment. So we have another level there in the stack to make
sure we test our transports prior to them being moved into production.
“Moving to the cloud also
allows us to add more interfaces to the environment so we can add extra modules
and third party systems. We can also ‘pipe out’ data from our production system
into a data warehouse to ‘punch the numbers’ and to have more a real-time analysis
on that information. That extra capacity makes it a lot easier – it’s very
scalable so this makes the job simpler.”
The move to Azure has
improved the performance of Ruralco’s core SAP point-of-sale application, which
serves several of the organisation’s business units.
“Previously, if someone
needed to print an invoice at the point of sale in a regional town, performance
from our servers in Melbourne wasn’t up to the task, and the print out could
take minutes as opposed to seconds [with the new public cloud infrastructure in
place],” said Hansen. This bottleneck has been alleviated completely.”
All of Ruralco’s tech
infrastructure now sits in managed VMs in third party data centres. The
organisation rolled out Office 365 in 2016, which makes it easier for 3000
highly mobile staff to do their jobs, said Hansen.
infrastructure point of view, Ithink the world will be moving to that
model because it’s very scalable. You can select which service you want, whether
it’s complete management, backups and disaster recovery – depending on your
budget and environment,” he said.
Ruralco’s move to the public cloud has been “cost
neutral” compared to running infrastructure on-premise but gains in system
performance and capacity were the key drivers, Hansen said.
“Also with the new DR
environment, we are very pleased where we have ended up.”