AWS allows you to start small and grow when you need it. SAP on AWS is really the way to go.
Rod Villahermosa IT Infrastructure Manager, Ayala Land
  • Ayala Land needed a cost-efficient, secure, and highly available IT infrastructure to support its SAP workloads
  • The company migrated its SAP workloads to the AWS Cloud
  • Saves 24% on IT comparing to on-premises data centers and improves processing speed for report generation by 40%
  • Deploys servers in as few as 4 hours, compared to up to 5 months with on-premises servers
  • Automates daily backup and storage, reducing total IT headcount
  • Scales seamlessly and automatically to accommodate spikes in traffic

Ayala Land is the diversified property-development arm of the Ayala Group, the largest and oldest conglomerate in the Philippines. The business employs more than 4,300 people, and its vision is to enrich the lives of all Filipinos. Ayala Land caters to various market segments by creating sustainable, high-quality commercial and residential real estate across the country.

Ayala Land began using SAP in 2001 to integrate and streamline business processes such as procurement and real estate sales and leasing, and to better manage its various databases. Since 2001, its user base for the software has grown from 200 to 1,700. Its virtualized data center comprised more than 200 servers, 20 of which were dedicated to SAP. Servers had to be refreshed every five years, and the procurement, delivery, and provisioning cycle for new machines is long—up to five months on average. Thus, the business must plan well in advance to ensure it does not run out of server capacity and wait idle while the procurement process progresses, wasting valuable time that could be spent advancing business goals.

When management announced its goal of achieving 40 billion pesos (about US$777 million) in net income by 2020, Ayala Land’s chief information officer, Annie Alipao, and her team conducted an analysis of what that would mean for their data center requirements. They determined the need for roughly 3 TB of storage for the SAP application if they maintained their own data centers, up from the current 1 TB. They also were planning to upgrade to SAP HANA, an in-memory database platform offering more accuracy, better performance, and more sophisticated analytics capabilities than Ayala Land’s existing SAP architecture. The switch would necessitate replacing current hardware with SAP HANA–compliant machines, which would be quite costly.

Alipao began experimenting with cloud technologies in 2015, migrating to Microsoft Office 365 and then migrating Ayala Land’s Sales Reservation System onto the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud. Pleased with the low latency and fast performance, Alipao started advocating to move everything to the AWS Cloud by 2020, completely eliminating on-premises data centers. She says, “We are a lean team, and moving to the cloud will not only saves us a lot of time and money, but address growth of the business as well. It’s less of a headache and allows us to concentrate more on our strategic initiatives.” As of August 2017, Ayala Land had fully migrated its SAP workloads onto AWS.

Rod Villahermosa, IT infrastructure manager at Ayala Land, was tasked with evaluating cloud providers. He had a test account with Rackspace for a year and tried out SoftLayer as well. “We didn’t really like SoftLayer because it was a ‘bare metal’ type of rental, unlike AWS, which had its management console in place,” Villahermosa explains. The AWS console was intuitive and user friendly, requiring less time to provision resources. “We had several criteria, including ease of use, availability of a direct connection, and security, and AWS was a clear winner,” he says. The final decision came when local telcos offered an affordable solution using AWS Direct Connect to give the Philippines access to AWS Singapore instances.

The team chose to run its SAP HANA database on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) memory-optimized R4 instances, a special AWS instance type designed to accommodate enterprise applications such as SAP. The company relies on Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) to provide persistent block-storage volumes for all its Amazon EC2 instances, those running SAP and others dedicated to separate business applications. In addition, Ayala Land takes advantage of Amazon CloudWatch (CloudWatch) to monitor all instances and automatically invoke AWS Lambda (Lambda) scripts, and it uses AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) to strengthen security.

Using AWS, Ayala Land now has lower costs, less data center maintenance, better performance, and more efficient provisioning of resources. Alipao presented to the company’s IT Steering Committee on the total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis comparing the resources required to hit the 2020 revenue goal of 40 billion pesos. The company would spend 24 percent less by using AWS cloud architecture versus on-premises, HANA-compliant hardware.

AWS architecture also helped alleviate the stress associated with unpredictable spikes in database usage. “If you run out of storage, that’s scary,” Alipao says. “I always had to track things to ensure we had the right capacity to address growth. Because of the lead time required to procure and provision new servers, we basically were oversized, meaning we had resources we didn’t need because of the fear of running out of storage. That cost of maintaining unused servers is not even factored in the 24 percent savings in our TCO analysis.”

Eliminating the need for daily database replication, which is now done automatically using CloudWatch and Lambda, has allowed Villahermosa to free up valuable resources. He has already retired 90 TB of storage in this year alone. “In terms of administration and management, my team does not have to monitor SAP for backup as much as we did before, because AWS does everything for us,” he says. "Because of this, we have retired our EMC VNX system.”

Villahermosa and his team handled most of the cloud migration on their own. “There’s so much documentation and resources available on the AWS site that we could basically learn by ourselves; it was pretty easy,” he says. Ayala Land also used AWS Support with the Business Support Plan. Villahermosa is impressed with the response time, as an AWS representative contacted him within minutes and offered thorough explanations addressing his queries.

Processing speed has also improved since migrating to SAP HANA on the AWS Cloud. Each month, the company runs an aging report on 20 mall properties, with more than 150,000 line items. With its previous system running SAP on-premises, the report took 5 days to produce, including time required for downloading and manually consolidating data. With HANA on AWS, the report is generated in just 2 minutes, thanks to the low latency offered through AWS Direct Connect and the processing power of R4 memory-optimized instances. Villahermosa has tracked average latency at 30–40 milliseconds.

Furthermore, the speed of procurement has also improved. Alipao explains that in the past, the procurement process alone could take up to two months, followed by a 45-day delivery lead time and additional time for deployment. Using AWS, new resources can be added in 24 hours if needed. Villahermosa says, “If instances are simple, I can set them up with the AWS console in as little as 4 hours.”

Ayala Land chose AWS over competitors because of the positive references it received from other AWS customers running both HANA and SAP ECC 6 —the version of SAP Ayala Land used prior to HANA. The flexibility of AWS offerings was also a deciding factor, with options designed for any size of business. “AWS allows you to start small and grow when you need it,” Alipao says. Her team is happy with their new setup and promotes SAP on AWS to other lines of business within the Ayala conglomerate.

“SAP on AWS is really the way to go,” she concludes. “It helps me sleep at night.”

Learn more about how AWS can ensure availability of business-critical applications such as SAP.