Gas Company Goes All-In on AWS, Migrating in Just Three Months
Linke is an APN Premier Consulting Partner
Madrileña Red de Gas (MRG) has slashed operating expenses and service delivery times by going all-in on AWS with the help of AWS Partner Network (APN) Partner Linke. MRG is the third-largest gas distributor in Spain, supplying nearly one million people in the Madrid region. It replatformed its critical SAP systems from Windows to Linux and used AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Amazon WorkSpaces to migrate non-SAP applications in less than 100 days.
Complexity on the Rise
As well as keeping homes and businesses warm, Madrileña Red de Gas (MRG) is responsible for maintaining nearly 6,000 kilometers of gas pipelines and managing gas-related emergencies.
MRG is a regulated business, which means that it gets a fixed remuneration per connection point. It must also comply with rules about gas balancing — accounting for the gas entering its network and ensuring accuracy of the final metered consumption. This is a complex procedure that requires significant amounts of time and computing power. Moreover, the company needs to ensure that the network remains within safe operating limits.
Inflexible Hosting Is a Business Blocker
MRG has never had a large IT team. The business used a local hosting provider to manage its infrastructure from the time it launched in 2010. After nearly eight years, it was time to assess the arrangement. Glen Lancastle, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Information Officer at MRG, says, “Our application portfolio had almost doubled to deal with our business challenges, but we were limited by the power of the physical machines they ran on. Expanding beyond what our contract stipulated was time consuming and expensive.”
A few times a year, MRG must recalculate customer tariffs. “It was just a case of pressing a button and waiting,” says Lancastle. “We had no way to manage the job or increase the compute power, so we could be waiting a week, with all the impact that would have on our other processes.” As well as being unable to boost capacity, MRG couldn’t reduce costs by using resources more efficiently. Archiving and cleaning its large customer database, for instance, didn’t save the company any money on hosting because of the fixed costs it had agreed with its provider.
SAP Specialist Linke Shows the Way to the Cloud
MRG knew that Amazon Web Services (AWS) would provide it with the flexibility and scale it needed, but the company lacked the in-house skills and capacity to migrate. Around 80 percent of MRG’s business uses SAP applications — including SAP Utilities (IS-U), SAP BusinessObjects BI, and SAP ERP — which all run on Windows. For this reason, MRG was looking for a partner with expertise in moving and managing large cloud SAP environments. “We also explored the option of traditional managed hosting with larger organizations,” says Glen Lancastle. “But most had restrictions about expansion that put us off. AWS allowed us to pay only for what we use and scale as we required. We felt AWS shared our vision for technological innovation.”
To manage the migration, MRG selected APN Premier Consulting Partner Linke, an SAP and Migration Competency Partner. Lancastle says, “Linke had experience of moving large enterprises to the AWS Cloud, although we were the first utility company in Iberia to go all-in on AWS. We had some discussions with Linke and AWS, where they demonstrated how they manage similar customer environments, continually reducing complexity and cost while improving performance, optimizing capacity, and resolving issues. It was the proactive managed service we needed.”
Linke Migrates Utility to the Cloud Within 100 Days
The migration had to be completed fast. MRG’s contract with its existing provider had less than 100 days left to run, and Linke moved 90 percent of workloads within two months. A key factor was the use of AWS Elastic Beanstalk to automate the allocation of resources required for each non-SAP application. This left ample time to optimize the more complex applications, such as SAP, to run in the cloud. To help with this, Linke used Amazon WorkSpaces, which provides access to some legacy apps via a virtual desktop.
“The AWS migration was my first contact with an agile methodology for infrastructure,” says Lancastle. “At our daily meetings, I would often be surprised that the Linke team was already working on elements I had on my agenda. Linke also invested considerable time in understanding the business impact of everything it did and how its actions affected end users.”
Cloud Lowers Opex, Boosts Agility
The most immediate benefit for MRG has been the flexibility it has gained in the cloud. It can shrink or grow resources on demand according to business need, resulting in around 10 percent lower costs. “We can also get services to our internal users faster,” says Lancastle. “If a business unit needs a rapid response to an issue, we can get a proof of concept ready in a few days because we can spin up the necessary infrastructure so quickly. Before, it could take months.”
The execution times for transactions and batch processes on SAP systems at MRG have improved too. Employees can now access customer data, certify orders, or list suppliers in around half the time it used to take, enhancing productivity and service levels.
MRG has also taken the opportunity to reframe its service-level agreements with Linke to focus on user experience rather than IT metrics. “We’re not techies, so knowing that a server has a certain uptime or is performing at a certain level means nothing if my end users are suffering,” says Lancastle. “Linke guarantees the key transactions we need will happen at certain speeds—it’s up to Linke to provide the AWS resources to enable that. It’s a new type of relationship that works really well for us.”
MRG Looks to the Future with Confidence
With the migration complete, MRG can focus on reducing costs and redesigning some apps to work better in the cloud. Lancastle says, “We’ve taken back control of our application hosting, but we’re also excited about the opportunities for innovation. AWS technologies for big data and machine learning, for example, have lowered the barrier to innovation for small teams like ours.” One project in the pipeline is a new serverless architecture using AWS Lambda and AWS Fargate, which could host MRG’s virtual office services, mobility applications, and meter-reading services.
MRG also sees an opportunity to save money in running its contact center, which was previously outsourced. It was looking for a solution that could deliver a better omni-channel experience and discovered Amazon Connect. “We didn’t even know about Amazon Connect when we signed up,” says Lancastle. “Now we have a cost-effective call center tool that we control. It’s a great example of how the breadth of services from AWS gives us ways to continually improve our operations.”
About Madrileña Red de Gas (MRG)
Madrileña Red de Gas (MRG) is the third-largest gas distribution company in Spain, serving close to one million customers in and around Madrid. Founded in 2010, it employs 150 people and manages nearly 6,000 kilometers of gas pipelines.
Linke helps enterprises on their cloud journeys with AWS. The company has extensive experience in deploying, migrating, operating, and automating enterprise applications, specializing in SAP workloads on AWS. Through Linke’s innovative products, enterprises can extend SAP applications, enabling more efficiency, agility, and integration with AWS.
Published June 2020