Macmillan India has provided publishing services to the education market in India for more than 120 years. The publisher’s primary business involves commissioning, editing and printing, and distributing textbooks and course materials to education providers from primary school to tertiary institutions. The company also offers curriculum-based instructional modules, video clips and animations. Macmillan India is part of the privately owned Holtzbrinck Group, has more than 500 employees and is headquartered in Gurgaon in northern India.
In 2011, Macmillan India installed a new senior management team, changed its business strategy and restructured operations in India as a single market instead of four separate geographic regions. The reorganization prompted Macmillan India to update its SAP Business Suite enterprise resource planning solution, which the company uses to manage the sale and distribution of textbooks across India.
“Efficient distribution is the key to our success,” says Rajesh Pasari, Finance & Operations Director for Macmillan India. “We need to have textbooks available in time to market and order before students start school in March. “Any outage of our SAP solution disrupts tasks such as order processing, couriering, and parcel tracking. This means students won’t have textbooks by the time classes start.”
The infrastructure in the on-premises data center in Chennai had several problems that affected system availability:
• The servers were five years old, nearing end of life, and breaking down frequently.
• Storage and networking equipment had reached capacity, compromising application performance.
• The virtual private network experienced regular outages, limiting remote access to its SAP solution.
• Utility shortfalls meant that electricity was only available for nine hours a day during peak periods in summer.
• Construction work on roads and buildings frequently damaged the leased line that connected the data center with Macmillan India’s other offices, causing system outages and affecting productivity.
These issues meant that the SAP solution operated with 90 percent or less system availability, when the company needed 99 percent or more availability. Macmillan India realized this situation was unsustainable and started looking for alternative infrastructure options.
After analyzing various solutions, MacMillan India found that migrating its infrastructure to an external cloud service, and specifically to Amazon Web Services (AWS), would enable the company to achieve its objectives and avoid the expense and management load of employing in-house IT administrators.
“Our analysis revealed we could almost eliminate our capital costs and cut our operating costs about 30 percent by moving to the AWS Cloud,” says Navnit Pandita, IT Infrastructure Head for Macmillan India. “Also, compared to the other cloud providers we reviewed, AWS offered superior storage management and snapshotting capabilities.”
Macmillan India then set about moving its core applications—the SAP modules, a Drupal online learning system, and a customer relationship management (CRM) system—from the Chennai data center to AWS. The company engaged Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) to design an SAP solution on AWS that would meet technical and cost requirements and comply with Indian government regulations.
Macmillan India and PwC initially moved several SAP modules—including SAP Business Intelligence (BI), SAP Sales and Distribution, SAP Materials Management, SAP Financial Accounting and Controlling and SAP Human Resources—to AWS and tested SAP performance under a range of scenarios. Once satisfied with the outcome, PwC completed the migration and the new system went live in production on May 2013. “Overall the project only took about six months, even working around the start dates of courses in India,” says Navnit.
Macmillan India runs its SAP solution in production using Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 on two Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) m2.2xlarge instances. One instance runs the company’s SAP Business Suite enterprise resource planning solution while the other instance operates the SAP BI module. Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) provides block-level storage for file systems and provisioned IOPS for the SQL Server database. Daily snapshots are taken for the EBS volumes and stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) reliably. To recover information in the event of a disaster, the company leverages multiple Availability Zones and launches environments from images and snapshots.
Macmillan India secures its SAP applications by provisioning an Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) private subnet to run both Business Suite and BI instances. Clients, typically Macmillan employees, can use site-to-site IPsec to access SAP using private IP addresses. Conditional public access through FTP and SMTP, (generally available to contractors such as external IT support staff), is provided over an Amazon VPC NAT instance in a public subnet. Figure 1 demonstrates the SAP solution on AWS.
Macmillan India benefits from the AWS pay-as-you-go model, which allows the company to consume only the resources needed to support peaks and declines in demand. “Deploying SAP Business Suite on the AWS Cloud, confirmed our original estimate of savings,” says Navnit. “We have lowered our capital expenditure by nearly 100 percent. Furthermore, we expect to realize reductions in operating costs of about 30 percent year over year by not having to purchase on-premises equipment or employ in-house infrastructure administrators.”
The company has reduced the time needed to provision a new environment from six weeks to 30 minutes, which engineers can scale up and down at the click of a mouse. Furthermore, Macmillan India can automate its backups and meet recovery time objectives. “Our unstable hardware and unreliable electricity supplies made it difficult for us to set realistic service level agreements around data and system recovery,” explains Navnit. “Now, thanks to AWS, we can commit to bringing systems back online within four hours if there is a problem.”
Additionally, Macmillan India has been able to take advantage of robust security and data protection controls to protect its environment. “Amazon VPC gives us control over access to our environment,” says Navnit. “There is no public access to our instances and we have encrypted our data in transit and at rest.”
For users, connecting remotely to SAP applications using the virtual private network is now fast and reliable, improving their confidence in the service. “Availability for our SAP applications has improved from 90 percent to almost 100 percent since moving to AWS,” estimates Navnit
Overall, Macmillan India is extremely pleased with the flexibility, cost-effectiveness, and performance of the AWS infrastructure. “Timeliness and meeting deadlines is an essential element of our business,” says Pasari. “Using AWS has enabled us to get our textbooks into the hands of students before the start of term and allowed us to work on our plans for delivering more learning resources over the internet.”
To learn more about how AWS can help with your SAP solutions and other business application needs, visit http://aws.amazon.com/business-applications/.