Germany-based GUS Group is a leading provider of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Through its GUS-OS Suite, customers in process-heavy industries such as pharmaceuticals, biotech, chemicals, food and beverage, and cosmetics can operate more effectively.
GUS Group is focused on addressing the needs of these target markets—needs such as short development cycles, multi-stage production processes, and strict certification requirements. These requirements pose serious challenges for process-based companies and their IT systems because statutory and industry-related requirements and regulations are often country-specific and can change frequently.
GUS-OS Suite is currently operated locally from a data center, but with the help of a new product called the GUS-OS Digital Hub, GUS Group can now provide its customers with the opportunity to upgrade to a hybrid cloud model.
“We see the industry moving and wanted to have a tool to initiate business case discussions with our customers on the one side and be prepared for customer demand on the other side,” explains Ingo Diekmann, business development manager at GUS Group.
GUS Group has more than 200 process-driven enterprise customers and many of these companies still choose to run on-premises data centers. As a first step, GUS decided to develop a proposition to help customers take advantage of the cloud while keeping their on-premises installations by creating this hybrid model.
“We were looking for a model with a split between on premises and the cloud,” says Diekmann. “We class ourselves as process consultants because this is not standard software—it can be designed according to thousands of customer processes—and it’s no small feat to move to the cloud. This is the first step on the journey toward offering our Software-as-a-Service rather than through a perpetual license.”
The choice of which cloud provider to partner with came down to Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft Azure and although GUS Group had previous experience of working with Microsoft, AWS impressed the company across more areas, especially when it came to support.
“A few years ago, we tested Azure for an app that we were creating, but when the ERP project came about we decided to look at other providers, too,” says Markus Foempe, lead software architect at GUS Group. “We were attracted to AWS due to the breadth of documentation and by the support provided by the AWS account managers.”
The project started in the summer of 2017 and took six months to implement. And according to Foempe, the huge amount of white papers, reports, and tutorial content available from within AWS were an invaluable resource for the development team.
“When we were setting up functions in AWS, we were able to access one-to-one tutorials that provided us with guidance and best practices. Specific services were new to the team, so we followed the tutorials to learn how to implement them,” explains Foempe.
“This was a massive help, and when we then had to speak to third-party partners about tidying up certain things at the end of the project, we already had a good understanding of how all the AWS products work together.”
The product team at GUS used a number of services to create the GUS-OS Digital Hub. AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Amazon RDS for MySQL were used to manage a Vaadin-based front end, which included load balancing and auto scaling.
Vaadin is an open source platform for developing web apps, which uses web components and a Java web framework to enable the easy implementation of HTML5 web user interfaces using Java.
An Amazon API Gateway was then set up as a cloud proxy for the ERP software’s on-premises REST API, which uses AWS Lambda to make requests, which are then published to an IoT topic using AWS IoT. This was a quick and easy way to send Pub/Sub messages between the cloud and the on-premises application.
“We used Amazon Elastic Beanstalk to manage a Java application, which connected to an RDS database,” says Foempe. “And Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) was easy for us to use and work with because in Amazon EC2 instances there are many options you can configure, so using this simplified the process.”
GUS Group now provides access to on-premises data through an Amazon API Gateway, which means its customers can take advantage of the benefits of the cloud while retaining elements of managed hosting.
“We use an Amazon API Gateway and Lambda functions to send messages via AWS IoT infrastructure, which communicates with our own front end,” explains Foempe.
“With AWS Elastic Beanstalk and our Vaadin application, you get all the benefits of an HTML5 interface, which users can access in the cloud, while retaining complete control of the ERP application in their data centers.
And by using AWS API Gateway, we can even monitor a machine’s sensors, report an error or an imminent outage, and launch a maintenance order immediately in the ERP system via the GUS-OS Digital Hub.”
GUS-OS Digital Hub launched in April 2018, and GUS Group has already moved two of its customers to the new service, with around 25 more lined up for migration within the next six months.
Customers can now have their own cloud-based REST interface, which can be published to the cloud as a digital hub service at the push of a button, enabling authorized users, suppliers, and partners to use the service.
“It seems that with the development of the GUS-OS Digital Hub we’ve opened a gate for discussions about possibilities with our existing customer base,” Diekmann says.
“Talking in business cases is much more important than introducing the tool from a technology side. And, as we get more and more customers to make the shift, we will be able to feed those benefits back to our users.”
To learn more, visit aws.amazon.com/de/api-gateway/