About Brooks Brothers
Founded in 1818, Brooks Brothers is one of the leading fashion retailers in the United States. The company is known for its shirts, suits, sportswear, and accessories for men, women, and children. Headquartered in New York City, Brooks Brothers was the first ready-to-wear fashion retailer in America, and it has outfitted 39 of the 44 American presidents.
Brooks Brothers frequently launches new business initiatives, which helps the company stay competitive in the retail industry. The organization needed a more agile way of quickly testing these new projects. “When we embark on a new initiative, as with anything in the retail industry, it has a short timeframe from the initial idea to solving business needs, as driven by consumer preferences,” says Philip Miller, director of infrastructure and technical engineering at Brooks Brothers. “We’re very good at deploying technology that will exist for the long term in our data center, but we’ve struggled to spin up resources for testing new projects. We wanted to become more agile in moving concepts into an environment we could easily access and possibly move into production.”
The organization was also seeking a more cost-effective way to manage its SAP HANA in-memory database management system, which would support a new customer relationship management (CRM) application. “We wanted to save money when we implemented the CRM system on SAP HANA, and we also wanted to be able to test out new projects on that platform,” says Miller.
Scalability was another challenge for Brooks Brothers. “Increasingly, we want to deliver our solutions at a global level,” Miller says. “As we do that, we must make sure we have enough compute resources and memory.”
As the company began searching for a new technology solution, it also needed to ensure strong security. “Security is extremely critical for us, especially given the sensitivity of customer information in retail,” says Sahal Laher, executive vice president and CIO. “We can’t take any chances with our system security. It needs to be robust and bulletproof.”
Why Amazon Web Services
To realize agility and cost savings, Brooks Brothers decided to move its SAP HANA platform to the cloud. After considering solutions from leading cloud providers, the organization decided Amazon Web Services (AWS) offered the best solution. “AWS perfectly met our needs for agility and scale, and they have the best reputation in the marketplace,” says Laher. “Also, we knew AWS would be able to provide us with solutions beyond SAP.”
Brooks Brothers started its cloud journey by moving its SAP HANA systems to AWS, using the AWS SAP HANA Quick Start Reference Deployment guide. With the Quick Start guide, Brooks Brothers was able to easily deploy and build out its SAP HANA cluster using AWS CloudFormation scripts. “Without the CloudFormation templates, we would have had to install a Linux box, configure it, and then install the HANA application on top of that,” says Miller. “Using AWS SAP HANA Quick Start, we only needed to push a few buttons to get a functioning SAP HANA solution.”
Once its SAP environment was up and running, Brooks Brothers built its CRM application on AWS. The application, used daily by 80 employees, contains all of the organization’s customer contact information. The company’s SAP HANA environment, containing all SAP applications, is built on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances leveraging Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) volumes. Also used is Elastic Load Balancing for distribution of incoming network requests and on Amazon Simple Storage Service(Amazon S3) for backup and SAP application data storage.
For security, the organization uses AWS Direct Connect, which establishes private connectivity between AWS and the Brooks Brothers data center, AWS Identity and Access Management, which gives the company secure control over internal access to AWS services and resources, and finally encrypted Elastic Block Store volumes to meet strict audit requirements. For workloads needing even higher security, Brooks Brothers plans to take advantage of the AWS CloudHSM service, which uses dedicated Hardware Security Module (HSM) appliances in AWS.
In the near future, the company will migrate its applications for fashion management, advanced planning and optimization, and finance to the AWS cloud.
Brooks Brothers now has the agility it requires to test and launch new projects in a short time frame. “With our SAP and SAP HANA systems on AWS, we can spin up instances in a matter of hours, which wasn’t an option in our previous world,” says Laher. “It would previously take weeks to set up a test environment on SAP HANA, including getting approvals to do the project and ordering and setting up the appliance.”
As a result, the company can fully evaluate new retail initiatives before putting them into production. “As we balance innovation with execution, we need to look at how viable some of our retail projects are before taking the plunge and getting them up and running,” says Miller. “Now, by running SAP on AWS, we can spin up instances, install solutions in a sandbox environment, and give our teams exposure to those solutions very quickly.” Adds Laher, “Using AWS to support our SAP environments, we can be more nimble, which opens up many more possibilities for our business. We can get new initiatives to production faster, and if some things aren’t providing the desired business results in pilot mode, we can quickly shut those down.”
Brooks Brothers is also reducing its operational costs. “Using AWS, we can rapidly join the blueprinting, fit gap analysis, and functional design specification work in an environment that looks like a proof-of-concept platform, without investing thousands of dollars in new hardware in the data center,” says Miller. “That frees up capital for us to invest in other parts of the business that can drive more revenue.”
The organization can now scale its applications globally whenever necessary. “The geographic network capacity in AWS is very important to us,” Miller says. “For example, with AWS Direct Connect, interregional communications will traverse the AWS backbone, which is always going to be bigger and more widely distributed than what we could ever offer.” And expanding SAP applications to more users will also be simple. “At the drop of a hat, we can scale to the point where we can get more capacity without any downtime,” says Laher. “Using AWS, we can work toward a single-instance global model where we can install once and deploy anywhere.”
The company can also ensure strong security for its CRM solution and future SAP applications. “All our customer data is sitting on the AWS cloud, which shows how confident we are in the security we get from AWS,” says Miller. “Additionally, we didn’t need to hire someone just to work on security for our new applications. When we wanted to enable second-factor authentication, we were able to deploy it in AWS very quickly.”
As it moves additional business-critical SAP applications to AWS, Brooks Brothers expects to continue to save time and money and be able to direct more energy toward its goals. “Using AWS helps us concentrate more on our priorities,” says Laher. “Instead of putting our resources into maintaining our infrastructure, we can focus solely on initiatives that can elevate our business and add more value to our customers.”
“Using AWS to deploy and operate our SAP environments, we can be more nimble, which opens up many more possibilities for our business. We can get new initiatives to production faster, and if some things aren’t providing the desired business results in pilot mode, we can quickly shut those down.”
Sahal Laher, Executive Vice President and CIO