Sage Software GmbH provides business software and services to more than 250,000 organizations throughout Germany. The company is a subsidiary of the Sage Group, one of the world’s largest providers of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Sage Software has approximately 700 employees in Germany and works with more than 1,000 product resellers. Sage Software’s offerings are based upon more than twenty-five years of experience, and each solution is expertly tailored to meet local customer requirements. The company’s extensive portfolio includes material management, production, accounting, business intelligence, human resource management, customer relationship management, and industry-specific solutions.

The Sage German Professional Services unit of Sage Software is responsible for consulting, training, pre-sales presentations, data migration, and replication of customer support cases. The Professional Services team needs to run parallel systems for conducting training and for customer support. For example, a Developer Consultant may need to have a training project running virtually on one machine and then start a second machine to review a customer’s issue. Additionally, team members often set up an application server and a database server in parallel so that students can work with them during a training session.

With this approach, it often took the Sage Software team at least two hours to install and configure virtual machines on employee notebooks and customers’ local computers, and despite the extensive preparation, the virtual machines often performed poorly. After an eight-hour training or consulting session ended, employees would then spend an hour converting the systems back to their original states. The company knew that there had to be an easier way.

Sage Software decided to create a cloud-based platform, the Sage Cloud Services Portal, to support its infrastructure requirements for training, consulting, and project management. Thorsten Lass, Head of Professional Services, says, “We explored our options and, in our opinion, Amazon Web Services (AWS) provided the best documented software development kit (SDK) on the market. Moreover, we saw that AWS offered a variety of technical options that could handle a project like ours. So, we chose AWS for our portal and the support we have received from them since the beginning has been very courteous and fast.”

Since developing the Sage Cloud Services Portal, Sage Software has replaced the time-consuming configuration process with a simple start command that immediately calls up all of the necessary consulting and training systems from any available computer or laptop. The Sage team programmed the new portal using the AWS SDK for PHP, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). The team used JavaScript, Ajax, and HTML5 to create the portal’s interface and to store data in a MySQL database. The portal went live after only two weeks of development and testing.

By using the Sage Cloud Services Portal, the Professional Services team is now typically able to handle the entire set-up for its training and consulting sessions within minutes. Thorsten Lass explains, “Instance actions, such as create, stop, start, and terminate, can very easily be scheduled as an event. For example, now we can terminate all instances automatically after a training class, thereby eliminating the generation of unnecessary cost.” Figure 1 below illustrates a scenario using the Sage Cloud Services Portal for image management.

Sage Software GmbH Image Management on the Sage Cloud Services Portal

Figure 1: Image Management on the Sage Cloud Services Portal

Within the Sage Cloud Services Portal, the Sage Software team also used AWS to develop a solution called Cloud Drive, which allows users and third parties to upload and share their own files with colleagues, customers, and partners. This feature expedites customers’ access to material and lightens the workload for Sage Software employees. Figure 2 below illustrates the Cloud Drive.

Sage Software GmbH Cloud Drive on the Sage Cloud Services Portal

Figure 2: The Cloud Drive on the Sage Cloud Services Portal

In addition, the Sage Cloud Services Portal lets customers try new products through a remote desktop protocol (RDP) connection for a predetermined amount of time. When the evaluation period is over, the connection can be automatically disconnected. The portal also includes a multi-tenant structure that gives Sage Software’s business partners access to relevant billing information, further reducing the company’s administrative overhead. Moreover, this new productivity is not only limited to Sage Software’s operations in Germany. Sage Software is also leveraging Amazon EC2 for its SalesLogix Customer Resource Management (CRM) system, available in the United States.

Behind the scenes, the portal is dramatically reducing the time required for Sage Software to replicate and fix system errors—consequently lifting overall quality and availability. “For this solution, we do not require any in-house IT support whatsoever,” notes Lass. “We estimate that the Sage Cloud Services Portal running on AWS saves our team more than 500 hours per year of server configuration time. We are also excited by the added flexibility and potential we are achieving. Using AWS makes it possible to address projects that in the past were abandoned at an early stage due to cost reasons. Now our projects can be easily initiated thanks to the fact that for us, using AWS largely eliminates our need for expensive software and infrastructure.”

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