* 100 SAPS is defined as the ability to process 2,000 order line items per hour.
Founded in 1913, Sumitomo Chemical is one of the core members of the Sumitomo Group. Today it is a major chemical manufacturer operating in a wide range of sectors, including petrochemicals, energy and functional materials, IT-related chemicals, health and crop sciences, and pharmaceuticals. Sumitomo Chemical has multiple R&D and manufacturing centers within Japan, as well as countless offices and group companies both nationally and around the world.
Under the corporate slogan "Creative Hybrid Chemistry for a Better Tomorrow," Sumitomo's flexible "outside the box" thinking in pursuit of sustainable development allows it to combine the wide range of technologies it has cultivated over its history into new solutions for creating value.
In March 2016, Sumitomo Chemical unveiled its medium-term Corporate Business Plan for the period through fiscal 2018. Business innovation and work style reform suited to the IoT age were two of the new basic policies announced. To achieve this, the IT department determined that a shift toward competitive IT would be needed. They identified three goals:
1) Realize dramatic business innovation through digitalization that addresses the changes to the business environment that the IoT era will bring
2) Further strengthen cybersecurity measures, including for control systems, and support the Sumitomo Chemical Group's business through stable and cost-effective system maintenance and operation
3) Go beyond "defensive IT" measures such as stable system maintenance and operation and establish new structures and nurture human resources as necessary to execute "competitive IT" measures that can support the Sumitomo Chemical Group as it pursues business expansion and innovation
Naturally, they would not be able to ignore the "defensive IT" measures already in place. On the contrary, those measures would need to be strengthened, both in terms of cybersecurity and simply to provide the robust, stable system environment the business required. Sumitomo Chemical also has a policy of proactive business expansion through mergers and acquisitions. To support these changes, the IT infrastructure had to be able to flexibly accommodate rapid merging of IT systems and expansion of business scale. "IT has a crucial role to play today in supporting globalization and ensuring compliance," says Yasuo Tosa, Associate Officer of Sumitomo Chemical's IT Innovation Department.
To realize these goals, it would be necessary to improve the efficiency of the "defensive IT" into which Sumitomo Chemical had invested so much time and resources. The company decided to pursue a cloud solution, hoping that efficiency gains would allow resources to be redirected to new "competitive IT" measures. "With the cloud, not only do you get a system infrastructure that always reflects the latest technology, but the natural affinity with IoT and AI solutions makes it easier not to fall behind in implementing those technologies. We also determined that once a secure access environment could be established from any location or device, information sharing on a global level could also be implemented smoothly. Ten years ago we might have had doubts about cloud solutions but, today, using the cloud for our IT infrastructure was really a necessity," says Tosa.
Sumitomo Chemical has used SAP ERP as its backbone system since 1997. As the update deadline for that system loomed, the company first considered upgrading the servers used in their on-premises environment. Hardware upgrades every five years are time-consuming and costly, however, and delaying the move to the cloud for another five years would have put the company at risk of being left behind by the changing times. In the end, Sumitomo Chemical selected AWS as their new IT infrastructure for SAP ERP.
Hoping to realize global information visualization, system/information cooperation with clients, and speedy support for business and organizational restructuring, Sumitomo Chemical chose to run SAP S/4HANA on AWS as their application infrastructure. Deployment began with overseas subsidiaries and is still underway. During the lead-up to the switch to SAP S/4HANA, the company is gradually transferring its existing SAP ERP instances to AWS, with plans to update to SAP S/4HANA when the time is right. Some debate the advisability of storing data outside the company when adopting AWS, but Sumitomo Chemical decided that "what matters is the trustworthiness of where the data is stored, and AWS can be trusted as an IT department." "External attacks are a risk no matter where your data is stored. AWS has multiple security certifications and an impressive track record. Considering the increasing sophistication of attacks, we decided that leaving data storage to AWS would actually be safer, offering a higher security level than we could provide on premises," says Tosa.
Sumitomo Chemical was also impressed by AWS's track record of running SAP ERP and SAP S/4HANA instances. AWS's worldwide network of locations and ability to distribute instances by region also factored into their decision.
In light of server operational needs such as service stoppage and maintenance, as well as the EU's personal information protection laws, Sumitomo Chemical divided the world into three time zones: Europe, US, and Asia Pacific (Japan). Production environment instances are distributed among the three. It also implemented centralized control and monitoring from Japan. Sumitomo Chemical's head office in Japan shares an SAP ERP instance with 31 group companies around the country. The project to migrate this instance to AWS began in April 2016, and global template-based deployment of SAP S/4HANA on AWS for the United States, Europe, India and certain group companies in Japan is proceeding in parallel.
Sumitomo Chemical began investigating migration to AWS in fall of 2015. In May 2016, the company started SAP ERP migration to AWS for group companies in the European region. The SAP ERP instance operated in Japan is among the largest in the world, with a SAPS exceeding 200,000. The modules used are Human Resources, Accounting, Supply Chain, and Plant Maintenance, as well as the analysis tool SAP BW. The system has around 5,700 users within Japan alone.
"We originally planned to migrate this system to AWS according to the hardware update timetable, in August 2017. But migrating our IT infrastructure to AWS had many merits from a business perspective: it would let us rapidly deploy the latest technology, share data freely and securely, respond to business changes quickly, and improve our security level. Given that it would also reduce running costs, we decided to bring the migration timetable forward eight months and migrate the main SAP system in December 2016, followed by peripheral elements in July 2017," says Tosa.
The migration was performed over the three-day weekend starting on December 23. To complete the task quickly, engineers synchronized databases in advance using the log shipping method, which involved regularly forwarding the database-transaction log for the existing server to AWS. To secure the necessary network bandwidth during the migration itself, they temporarily expanded AWS Direct Connect bandwidth to 1 Gbps. In addition, combining multiple AWS services allowed the migration to be completed in just three days, and, starting December 26, 2016, one of the largest SAP ERP instances in the world began production operations on AWS.
"The Japanese SAP ERP instance runs a huge number of batch operations, as indicated by its SAPS of 200,000. But after the migration to AWS, it ran much faster than it did in our on-premises environment. Job processing time was cut by around 40%. What's more, this was achieved with server specifications that were actually slightly lower than planned. Overall, the results far exceeded our expectations. Migrating to AWS also let us realize disaster recovery construction, which was difficult on our on-premises environment," says Tosa. The company uses functions provided by Amazon AMI and Amazon S3 for copying data between regions to construct a disaster recovery environment at a data center physically separated from the production environment.
"We're satisfied with the technical support we received from AWS. Using Professional Services proved a big advantage during the migration. The timely advice we received from Enterprise Support and the suggestion from our AWS Technical Account Manager that we use reserved instances helped us complete the migration project quickly and at a lower cost," says Tosa.
More than 10 engineers also participated in an AWS training program, including members of Sumitomo Chemical Systems Service, the group company that actually performs operational and administrative work at Sumitomo Chemical. The company sent its employees on the assumption that understanding how AWS works would be important to future IT policy development. "The work an IT department does changes with time, and engineers need to change with it. My impression is that as we use AWS more widely, the members of our IT department are starting to think differently, too," says Tosa.
Alongside the SAP ERP migration to AWS in Europe and Japan, Sumitomo Chemical began operating SAP S/4HANA on AWS, which uses a global template system, in October 2016 for one Japanese subsidiary and November 2017 for North American group companies. Going forward, the company plans to deploy SAP S/4HANA in Europe and India.
"Companies that don't use IoT, AI, and RPA will eventually be left behind by competitors. That's why at Sumitomo Chemical we've already started work on several proofs of concept and are exploring options for further development. Rather than preparing everything by ourselves, if good services are available in the cloud, I intend to be proactive about using them. I look forward to receiving major support from AWS on 'cloud-first' operations and new applications of technology," says Tosa.
Learn about how the AWS Cloud can support enterprises on the Enterprise Cloud Computing on AWS page.