We shut down our data center in Hangzhou and migrated all our applications to AWS, so as to save infrastructure costs while providing stable and reliable services through AWS.
Calvin Ho Group Manager of Enterprise Architecture, Cloud Service & IT Operations, Swire Coca-Cola
By migrating our entire IT infrastructure to AWS, we achieved digital transformation of our IT systems, which can serve millions of retail customers or even hundreds of millions of consumers rather than the previous 10,000 sales representatives.
Ke Li Manager, Cloud Service & IT Operations, Swire Coca-Cola

For 200 years, Swire has grown into a highly diversified business group working in the aviation, beverage, food, industrial, marine services, and property industries, guided by a commitment to operational excellence and a forward-looking approach. Swire Coca-Cola, a division of Swire, has the exclusive right to manufacture, market, and distribute products of the Coca-Cola Company in 11 Chinese provinces, the Shanghai Municipality, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and also an extensive area of the western US—representing a total customer base of 728 million people.

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Swire Coca-Cola depends on technology for its complex business operations and has a complete set of IT systems to cover business-critical functions, including: production, logistics, finance, data analysis, human resources, IT management, SAP, data warehouse, supply chain management, customer relationship management (CRM), and a self-service vending machine system. The majority of these systems are based on mobile apps, which are important tools for the more than 10,000 sales representatives visiting their customers daily. The sales representatives use their mobile terminals to connect to the IT systems and complete daily tasks such as placing orders, checking inventory, prices, and displays and managing hundreds of thousands of IoT devices. Similarly, for the delivery team, the IT systems provide a full range of services including intelligent voice-based warehouse product sorting, product loading sequence, and optimal route planning to improve efficiency.

With so many critical workflows dependent on its IT systems, over the years, Swire Coca-Cola built its own strong data center infrastructure. In total, it operated three data centers, equipped with minicomputers, X86 servers, high-end storage, network security, management equipment, complete redundancy and disaster recovery architecture, more than 600 servers, and hundreds of systems to support its business. The company also deployed solutions from a variety companies such as IBM, Oracle, SAP, Avaya, Cisco, and Microsoft.

Riding on the global wave of mobilization and digitalization, Swire Coca-Cola has taken digital transformation as its strategic direction. In the digital age, the company’s IT systems need to serve millions or even hundreds of millions of consumers, in addition to its internal employees. As the types of businesses and number of users the IT systems had to support rose exponentially, the company saw a need for a more robust, flexible, and scalable IT architecture to quickly adjust resources in response to rapid changes in the market—especially during promotions, peak, and slower seasons. With its legacy IT architecture lacking the required scalability and flexibility to suit such needs, Swire Coca-Cola made the decision to migrate to the cloud.

After deciding on its strategy to pursue a cloud computing–based digital transformation, Swire Coca-Cola made another bold decision to close its three on-premises production and disaster recovery data centers and migrate all of its business systems, including SAP and its CRM, to the cloud. According to Dominic Wheeler, CIO of Swire Coca-Cola, the company saw an opportunity to rid itself of the traditional burdens of IT and enable the company’s IT team to work on accelerated innovations and enhance competitive technologies by shutting down its data centers and migrating all its business systems to the cloud, rather than adopting a hybrid cloud approach. When the tenancy of its data centers was about to expire, Wheeler proposed shutting down the data centers altogether and migrating completely to the cloud. The company’s business and leadership teams approved the bold strategy.

While migrating to the cloud was a bold, forward-thinking decision, the implementation required a refined and practical approach to ensure a smooth transition from the company’s legacy on-premises data centers to the cloud. Ultimately, Swire Coca-Cola worked out a migration plan with almost no impact on business—a plan that ensured enhanced function and performance of all IT systems and confidence in its success from every department—through comprehensive project management and design. After several rounds of planning, Swire Coca-Cola chose AWS for the migration and to help its IT team carry out its ambitious digital transformation project.

“AWS is the world's leading cloud computing service provider. It offers advanced technologies, diversified services, and the ability to lead into the future, as well as the solutions to address the complex application environments of enterprises. At the same time, the company has a customer-oriented corporate culture, with its rapid response to customers and high efficiency in leveraging various resources to resolve problems and achieve goals,” said Calvin Ho, group manager of enterprise architecture, cloud service & operations at Swire Coca-Cola.

Swire Coca-Cola’s cloud migration strategy was approved at the end of 2017, and its implementation initiated in early 2018. All systems were migrated to cloud in November 2018, and the legacy data centers were closed in March 2019. By then, Swire Coca-Cola has successfully migrated all its systems to the cloud.

The entire migration process was simplified with a plan to carry it out in stages. The first step in the plan was network planning and testing. In its legacy data centers, Swire Coca-Cola had adopted a complete network topology design and network security settings for the entire business. Upon migration to the cloud, the security settings could not be changed, and applications couldn’t be migrated until proved safe through tests. In other words, applications could only be migrated to cloud after multiple rounds of tests. Applications that were loosely coupled with the core SAP systems—such as the development testing and the big data analysis systems—were the first to be migrated, and the planned approach was verified by their successful migrations. Eventually, the core SAP systems were migrated successfully. During the migration, online and offline systems ran in parallel until the total migration was completed in November 2018.

While the Swire Coca-Cola and AWS teams encountered challenges along the way, the ultimate success of the migration made it all worth it. For instance, the two teams worked together to overcome the difficulty of migrating the SAP systems to the cloud. Swire Coca-Cola's legacy data centers ran a complete set of SAP systems, using traditional clustering technology to configure high-availability (HA) architecture, as well as disaster recovery synchronization and switching functions based on storage replication. After migrating to the cloud, those capabilities would still be needed. However, as those services and concepts for traditional technical solutions don’t correspond directly to those on the cloud, the AWS and Swire Coca-Cola teams had to brainstorm alternative solutions. The AWS team, taking advantage of the capabilities of the AWS Cloud and the resources and assistance of its local and global teams, chose appropriate tools and leveraged overseas experience to conduct multiple rounds of stress tests and work out a solution that improved the system performance post-migration.

Swire Coca-Cola introduced a large number of third-party tools, such as SIOS HA, Veritas HA, F5, CheckPoint, Veritas NBU, CPM, CloudEndure, in the process of migrating to the cloud, which presented huge challenges for a migration project of this scale. Through the testing phase, the team found that the performance of some tools was not stable and assistance should be provided to migration tool developers to conduct software debugging. Some tool developers were small in size and had no team in China, and they had to develop tools according to the specific needs of Swire Coca-Cola. However, with the full support of the AWS Professional Services team, sales team, solution architects, and corporate support service team, this difficult task was successfully completed.

Ke Li, manager of cloud service & IT pperations for Swire Coca-Cola, concluded that full migration to AWS Cloud not only improved the performance of application systems but also delivered benefits to the company in the following three areas. First, the company can respond to business requirements quickly. Under its legacy data center model, it took a few months to prepare software and hardware resources, as it involved a long process of project establishment and approval, equipment selection, arrival, installation and deployment. The same process can be now completed within a few days on the cloud. Second, the company can enable business growth with new technologies. With the AWS Cloud services, technologies like in-memory database, serverless architecture, IoT, and AI can be quickly deployed to support business development. Third, the migration also reduced the operational and maintenance complexity of the underlying architecture, enabling the company to flexibly expand and dispatch resources in accordance with demand during peak and slack seasons.

Swire Coca-Cola’s business systems primarily operate within the AWS China (Beijing) region operated by Sinnet. Figure 1 is a diagram of the system architecture of Swire Coca-Cola. The AWS cloud services used include Amazon EC2 Dedicated Hosts, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), Amazon VPC Flow Log, Amazon Redshift, Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), AWS Lambda, Amazon API Gateway and Amazon Elasticsearch Service. With the opening of the AWS Asia Pacific (Hong Kong) Region, Swire Coca-Cola plans to deploy its Taiwan and Hong Kong operations in the new AWS Region.

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Figure 1: Diagram of Swire Coca-Cola’s AWS-based system architecture

Swire Coca-Cola will continue to advance its comprehensive digital transformation strategy. The migration of data centers and application systems was only a starting point. The company will focus on optimizing the architecture of traditional applications to meet the demand for high efficiency, high speed, and high flexibility in the digital age. Moreover, through this process, the IT team refreshed their mechanisms and methods on operation and maintenance, saving more time to support the business growth.