Fender’s CIO Talks Tuning Up SAP with a Migration to AWS

The rise in business has prompted the global guitar maker Fender to think of more efficient ways to use its SAP resources.

Moving from company-controlled computing resources to the public cloud can be a challenge. Although Fender has already embraced the cloud for other aspects of its operations, there has been some reluctance to make its SAP solutions part of that equation. The growing demand for guitars in the midst of the pandemic has prompted the company to rethink this approach.

Michael Spandau, CIO at Fender, spoke with InformationWeek about the needs that led the guitar maker to work with Lemongrass to run SAP on AWS.

hHow did the processes run in Fender and what led to the changes you were seeking?

In terms of cloud computing, we were one of the first cloud users. When AWS got started, we started using their computing systems. Several years ago, we started offloading production servers into their environment. We have a longstanding relationship with those working at AWS.

We have a cloud-first strategy; We are very comfortable using the cloud. But when it comes to SAP, they are truly our crown jewels. We manage the logistics. We manage the financing. We run the manufacturing. We manage human resources. We run everything on SAP. We are a global company – about 3,000 employees – and everything depends on this system. We were very hesitant to move this particular system, which was running on a shared facility in the AWS cloud.

What has changed? Since the pandemic, we’ve seen very significant growth in business. Since the pandemic, 60 million new players in the United States alone have chosen the guitar for the first time. Our SAP systems have had a hard time keeping up with the demands of the business. We had to do something.

Michael Spandau, Barrier

The two options were to return the platform or migrate it to an AWS environment. We found lemongrass. They had extremely profound technical skills. They convinced me and my team that we should be able to do this. We worked on this project for about 12 months. Over the course of three weekends, we migrated all of our SAP loads to the AWS cloud. We upgraded the systems. We migrated to SAP HANA. We switched operating systems.

The result was significant performance improvements. It will run some specific reports, business intelligence reports that will run 10, 20, 30 plus minutes [in] second. It has really had a very positive impact, especially on our users, employees, and executives who use business intelligence. Lots of reports like MRP, typical systems that run for extended periods of time run faster.

It’s really a combination of AWS infrastructure on one side and HANA database on the other.

Since then we have changed the scale of the production system. We’re starting with very large cases provided by AWS. We were able, in a stepwise approach, to reduce this volume. These are very elegant and very practical tools for managing usage, waste, and, quite frankly, spending.

What are some past concerns about performing a SAP resource migration to the cloud?

Frequencies were several things. One of them was security. Cloud availability and stability. Only technical knowledge to do the migration. We were working on a very old version of SAP. Doing the migration in an acceptable time frame was the big challenge and Lemongrass was the only company that convinced us they knew how to do it.

You can’t stop SAP for a week, two weeks, or three. this is not possible. The company has ceased operations. This can be done in a short period of time. Lemongrass was the first company we felt so strongly that they knew how to do it.

I had no doubt that once we were in the AWS environment, things would improve significantly. We were fully aware of all the tools that AWS has to offer. The frequency axis was this very narrow window that we had. I think a lot of other companies suffer from that.

What is the scope and scale of the Fender operation?

The barrier works on SAP – we use it in manufacturing. We use it in our global supply chain. We have offices in Europe. We have offices in Japan and Australia. We have offices in Mexico and Latin America. All of them are based on SAP and SAP working. It is one example. It is not a multi-state thing. Everyone interacts with the system and works with it. From a financial perspective, it’s critical. Invoices and cash audited, it all depends on SAP.

Were there any surprises along the migration route? What else will open that door?

This will help us with only the operational part of these SAP instances. For example, we just acquired a new company, PreSonus. They work on an Oracle ERP system. We have plans to migrate them to SAP. We are literally copying the sandbox so they can get a feel for the system. It’s something we’ll really struggle to set up with our higher environment using AWS.

This can be done within a day. That’s how powerful these tools are.

The other part I’m looking forward to – SAP is a rules based system. What I’m looking forward to is working with AWS, taking this huge amount of intelligence, from the transaction data that we have in the SAP system and using this data set with Amazon’s machine learning and AI algorithms to provide insight that we can’t do today with the classic tools we have.

Were there any trade-offs to be made in immigration?

The only drawback is a major outage on Amazon’s service. I think one [recent] The power outage really affected SAP instances. Having said that, we have had some interruptions in our own environment. But there we had more control. Other than that, there were only benefits. We use Reserved Instances to manage cost. Purely from a pricing perspective, it’s a very attractive solution.

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