It takes two hours to set up an end-to-end infrastructure in AWS, whereas on-premises it took three days.
Jon Ingham DevOps Manager

Travis Perkins plc is a leading United Kingdom builders’ merchant and home-improvement retailer made up of 21 businesses, including Wickes, Tile Giant, and Benchmarx. A member of the FTSE 100 Index, it achieved revenues of US$6 billion in 2015. During its 200-plus years of trading, it has supplied more than 100,000 product lines―from kitchens and bathrooms to painting and decorating materials―to professionals and individual customers. The company has a network of more than 1,900 outlets and employs about 30,000 staff across the United Kingdom and Ireland.

With a 500-person IT team, Travis Perkins plc understands that technology is vital to the smooth running of its businesses. It has two large data centers built and operated in house, but as part of a five-year plan, the firm wanted to move from this traditional IT model and go all-in on the cloud to empower a continuous-deployment cycle. “For us, it’s about technology leading the business,” says Jon Ingham, DevOps manager at Travis Perkins plc. “We wanted to adopt cloud services and automate our development processes to provide better services to our brands, making them more competitive.”

Travis Perkins plc uses SAP Hybris to run its digital storefronts, and decided to kick-start the organization’s data-center migration project by moving these mission-critical environments to the cloud. “We wanted to automate deployment processes in order to be more responsive to Travis Perkins and its brands,” says Ingham. Dominic Bishop, senior technical architect at Travis Perkins, continues, “With our on-premises environment, we couldn’t test, deploy, and scale quickly enough. In transitioning to the cloud, we wanted to help our businesses react flexibly to their trading patterns, as well as allow the company to become more agile in its overall operations.”

Travis Perkins plc chose to run its SAP Hybris environments on Amazon Web Services (AWS). “We did extensive research of cloud providers and found that AWS was the best fit for us,” says Ingham.

Its Insulation Giant brand was the first to be moved to AWS. Ingham says, “It is one of the smaller transactional websites in the Travis Perkins portfolio and was already running SAP Hybris, so it was a good starting point. Very quickly we were able to bring up an automated environment in AWS using Ansible automation software.”

Working across three Availability Zones (AZs) in the EU (Ireland) Region, Ingham’s team uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances and the managed Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), with Elastic Load Balancing automatically distributing loads. “One of the key services for us is Amazon RDS,” says Ingham. “The managed element has helped us to reduce overhead and complexity. For example, when managing our own databases, we regularly had support calls for clustering issues. These are now nonexistent.”

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is used to store website images, while Amazon Route 53 provides a Domain Name System web service. Amazon CloudWatch and AWS CloudTrail help monitor the AWS resources and API calls respectively. The resources for each brand sit within virtual private networks in the Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC).

After completing the migration of the Insulation Giant SAP Hybris environment to AWS, the firm started moving its other businesses to the cloud. “Next, we worked on the Travis Perkins brand site, followed by City Plumbing Supplies. Once we felt we had a proven approach, we tackled Wickes, which is our biggest retail trading site,” says Ingham. “It has over 70 GB of data and is the most precious of our SAP Hybris stacks. It was a challenging project, but we used exactly the same code that we used for Travis Perkins and City Plumbing Supplies, and successfully went live in May 2016.”

The team at Travis Perkins also takes advantage of the Enterprise support plan from AWS Support when needed. “Our [AWS] technical account managers have been very helpful in assisting with our queries,” says Ingham, “as well as advising us on how to save money by using different Amazon EC2 instances. With AWS Enterprise Support, we’ve successfully migrated our SAP Hybris environments from our in-house data centers, and as we go all-in on the cloud, we’ll be using it to help us to get the most out our infrastructure.”

“Our adoption of AWS is a great example of how we’re using IT to push the business forward,” says Ingham. “Our DevOps team is spearheading new ways of working that will be adopted across the whole organization, and senior management have been impressed with the project.”

Group Chief Information Officer Neil Pearce says, “The combination of our brilliant in-house IT teams and AWS has proven to be a powerful partnership this last year in delivering a highly capable and agile infrastructure for our multichannel businesses. I’m confident and excited about the opportunities that working with AWS affords us in creating value for our customers and giving us the flexibility in the business as we migrate more of our services to the cloud over the next few years.”

Speed of testing was a key driver for Ingham and his team. “It’s all about making quick changes to the websites without going through a lengthy deployment process each time,” says Bishop. “Using AWS, we can manage our websites through SAP Hybris in a way we weren’t able to do before. We’ve been able to get more enhancements and fixes deployed through our pipelines and into production, giving a faster service to our businesses. The speed of change and speed of delivery we can achieve have been great.” This is evidenced by how quickly the team can deliver new projects. Ingham says, “The complete set of APIs provided by AWS for automating infrastructure has allowed us to drastically reduce the time required to provision resources. It takes two hours to set up an end-to-end infrastructure in AWS, whereas on-premises it took three days. This is likely to improve even further as our use of AWS matures.”

Bishop continues, “We can easily scale our testing environments to match project requirements with the infrastructure that we have created on AWS. We’ve seen a 500% increase in available test environments compared to our on-premises infrastructure, and we no longer experience bottlenecks.”

AWS is also inspiring greater innovation in the DevOps team. In its data-center infrastructure, trying new technologies and approaches inevitably required a large upfront investment. Ingham says, “With AWS, we can trial services to see what works. This move from a capital expenditure to an operational expenditure model is crucial for our agility and is key to creating an environment in which our teams can be innovative. In addition, because of the way AWS is billed, we can terminate environments at the end of the day and bring them back from scratch at the start of the next day. This gives our developers the freedom to experiment. Seeing this in action was a big milestone for us.”

Increased performance has also resulted in savings for Travis Perkins. “We have greater performance per instance compared with our on-premises environment,” says Ingham. “For example, we’ve seen a 60% reduction in the number of instances required to run Wickes, our largest retail site. This represents savings of more than $8,000 a month for infrastructure alone.”

“Our achievements since the start of our journey with AWS have been significant for our business and set great foundations for future transformation,” concludes Heather Jenkins, head of IT engineering at Travis Perkins plc.

Travis Perkins is now looking at how it can move other applications to the cloud to achieve greater operational agility. “Wickes has been impressed with our ability to scale on demand during peak periods like bank holidays,” says Ingham. “This would not have been possible on our old infrastructure. The work we’ve done so far with AWS isn’t just something that will benefit our SAP Hybris environments. We can also take what we have learned and apply it to other parts of the business. This is only the start of our journey with AWS.”

To learn more about how AWS can help run SAP Hybris in the cloud, visit our SAP details page.