Founded in 1998, Electra (S) Pte. Ltd. is a Singapore-based IT service provider specializing in implementing and running SAP enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems for small to medium-sized businesses. The company employs 100 people, including 60 SAP consultants, who work on projects across Southeast Asia. Electra is an SAP partner with Gold Partner Status under the Channel Partner Program for SAP’s Business All-in-One Solution.

In the past, when Electra worked on SAP-based projects, its customers could provide their own infrastructure resources or use Electra’s hosting partner to run their SAP systems. Each approach had limitations. Dedicated hardware can be expensive and time-consuming to purchase, install, configure and maintain. In one situation, Electra’s consultants arrived at a client’s site well ahead of the hardware and were unable to carry out the tasks of the project.

At the same time, Electra began experiencing problems with its previous hosting partner. The hosting partner had a hardware and firmware failure that left Electra unable to retrieve its customers’ SAP environments for almost two weeks. This event exacerbated concerns that many of Electra’s clients had about committing critical business systems to hosted environments. In addition, Electra needed a cost-effective way to access infrastructure resources to create SAP demonstration environments. The organization often creates demonstrations to win new business, and regularly purchasing the necessary hardware would be expensive.

Following the hosting outage, Electra spent about six months evaluating its options. The company considered offering on-premises hosting with an SAP system, moving to cloud-based hosting, or turning to another partner to provide hosting capabilities. When Electra found that AWS understood SAP’s product architecture and production environment requirements, the company decided on the AWS platform. “The AWS team’s advice helped us create an SAP environment that would more than meet our customers’ requirements,” says Cakra Hendra, Consulting Manager at Electra.

Electra first used AWS on a project for a client running SAP Business All-in-One and SAP BusinessObjects Business Intelligence in a Microsoft Windows and SQL Server environment. Electra planned the migration carefully. “For an SAP system, downtime has to be very, very minimal,” says Hendra. “The process can take five to six days with some hosting providers. We believe it should take a maximum of two days.” Using AWS tools, Electra was able to migrate the customer’s SAP solution to AWS in 36 hours.

To support the client’s SAP systems in the AWS Cloud, Electra is using a combination of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). The organization is also using Amazon Glacier to provide low-cost archiving and backup for customers.

For a typical SAP project, Electra uses one Amazon EC2 instance to create a sandbox environment during the design phase; two Amazon EC2 instances during the building phase to support testing, development, quality assurance, and training; and four Amazon EC2 instances when the environment goes live to support production and reporting. Electra combines its use of Amazon EC2 Reserved Instances—which provide reserved capacity at a discounted hourly price—with On-Demand Instances that can be used if needed.

Based on the number of people needed to maintain the system and hardware costs, Hendra estimates that Electra has been able to reduce costs by 22 percent when moving a customer from an on-premises infrastructure to the AWS Cloud. According to Electra, a customer could access about 30 percent more processor and memory resources in the AWS Cloud than with an on-premises environment.

Electra has been able to achieve near 100 percent availability of the SAP systems that the company runs for customers in an AWS environment. “This is particularly critical for businesses that use SAP for key functions such as accounting, supply chain management and payroll,” Hendra notes. “We can create a backup from AWS—at weekly or at shorter intervals if required—and give it to the customer to store in their physical datacenter environment. Furthermore, if there is a problem with a customer’s system, we can bring it back up in half a day, including all the data. This can minimize disruption to their services.”

For Electra, the direct benefits are considerable: the company only pays for the number of Amazon EC2 instances and the time it uses to create demonstration environment. Each demonstration is configured to meet the needs of the potential customer. Electra stores the demonstration securely in Amazon S3 or Amazon Glacier. If a customer signs up, Electra can easily retrieve the copy.

Electra is now moving its existing customers from on-premises environments, or from other providers, to AWS. The company is exploring using AWS to support its research and development efforts and is also working on developing disaster recovery options for its customers.

Electra reports that the most significant benefit of using AWS has been the ability to create new environments quickly for use by consultants. “Overall, thanks to Amazon Web Services, we can complete demonstrations faster, our business cycle is shorter, and our sales cycle is shorter,” says Hendra.

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