About Seaco Global Ltd.
Seaco Global Ltd. is the world’s largest sea-container leasing company, with assets of more than $6 billion. Headquartered in Singapore and with offices in 14 locations and operations in more than 80 countries, Seaco provides a diversified fleet of shipping containers to supply all of its customers’ needs. The company leases more than 1.2 million shipping containers, including refrigerated containers, tanks, flat racks, intermodal containers, and two-pallet-wide containers from more than 300 locations around the globe. Seaco employs 100 people at its main Singapore office, with another 150 employees in other locations worldwide.
Seaco uses the SAP Business Suite to manage all facets of its daily operations involving hundreds of users in more than 12 countries. Seaco had been hosting specific SAP applications—including SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), SAP Customer Relationship Management (CRM), SAP Business Warehouse (BW), SAP Process Integration (PI), SAP Portal, SAP Gateway, SAP Content Server, and SAP Solution Manager—in two traditional data centers in the United Kingdom. The infrastructure in these data centers was old and slow, and outages were causing headaches for the business. It took the company four days to complete its monthly billing cycle, and the SAP systems remained unpatched for years due to the infrastructure’s lack of agility to run such a project.
When Seaco moved its headquarters from London to Singapore, the company decided to look for a new solution for computing resources. Seaco needed lower latency and higher performance than what it received through its traditional on-premises data center facilities.
Why Amazon Web Services
Seaco considered the options of opening new data center facilities in Singapore along with refreshed hardware, and also moving to a more virtualized platform using converged infrastructure. Eventually, however, the company considered cloud-based solutions as a way to save money. After comparing several cloud infrastructure providers, the company chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) due to cost, security, agility, performance, and trust. “We were looking for ways to improve critical business processes, and AWS offered us a secure, high-performance platform for growth at low cost,” says Seaco Chief Information Officer Carlos Galiano.
Seaco engaged with AWS APN Advanced Consulting Partner Lemongrass Consulting, which completed a cost assessment showing that AWS could save the company more than 50 percent in annual hosting costs. “We won the business because we demonstrated AWS could solve the billing-run issue for Seaco while delivering dramatic savings and a growth platform tor the company,” says Eamonn O’Neill, director of Lemongrass Consulting. “The price point that we were able to offer with AWS was lower than what anyone else could offer.”
Seaco also selected AWS because of its high level of security. The company wanted to make sure that its virtual private cloud (VPC) was well protected from external access and that its site-to-site virtual private network (VPN) was securely encrypted. It also wanted to store company data in the region of its choice.
Other considerations were agility and performance. Seaco needed a flexible platform for meeting the needs of a rapidly growing and changing business. In addition, it was critical that performance match or exceed Seaco’s previous hosted data center solution. By implementing AWS, the company reduced the average latency for SAP users nearly 90 percent from an average 2,700 milliseconds down to 360 milliseconds. “From a business point of view, performance was key,” says O’Neill. “Seaco wanted to make sure the experience for end users was the same, if not better. And what we found was that performance was far better and that simple, everyday transaction speeds were much faster as well.”
Another benefit was SAP's certification of its business suite for deployment on the AWS platform. “SAP certification was an important differentiator,” says O’Neill. “In a phone call, SAP executives confirmed that SAP was happy for production systems to run on AWS. That was important for Seaco to hear.”
Lemongrass developed a proof of concept and then began testing solutions for Seaco using AWS. By January 2015, all Seaco workloads had been moved to the cloud, including its SAP Business Suite and Microsoft SQL Server database. “It took about 10 hours for the SAP production environment to go live in the cloud, which is very fast,” says O’Neill. “It was a very smooth migration, and end users were very happy with the experience.”
Seaco is running its SAP environment on a combination of on-demand and reserved Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances. The company is using Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for secure, durable, highly scalable object storage and Amazon Glacier for data archiving and online backup. Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) provides persistent block level storage volumes, offering the consistent and low-latency performance needed to run Seaco’s workloads.
For networking, Seaco is using Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC) to connect multiple VPCs, which are separated for security and performance improvements. The company is using AWS Direct Connect to create dedicated connections between its headquarters in Singapore and its other offices.
For administration and security, the company is using AWS Identity and Access Management (Amazon IAM) to securely control access to AWS services and resources. It is also using Amazon CloudWatch to monitor its cloud resources and AWS CloudTrail to track changes made to the network. In addition, Seaco is using Amazon WorkSpaces as a cloud-based desktop for its employees.
With the migration to the cloud led by Lemongrass, Seaco now runs its entire IT environment in the cloud—including its SAP Business Suite and its other management tools and applications previously hosted in the UK-based data centers. The majority of these workloads are hosted by AWS in the Singapore region, with the company website hosted in the European Union.
By moving its IT environment to the AWS cloud, Seaco has saved more than 50 percent in IT infrastructure and maintenance costs, while obtaining greater business flexibility. “Our performance of SAP on AWS is off the scale,” says Galiano.
In addition, the company has significantly improved many of its core business processes. For example, in its previous IT environment, it took Seaco four days to complete its monthly billing process for the 1.2 million shipping containers it leases, presenting a growing problem for the business. By running its SAP systems on AWS in combination with virtual load balancer Mass Data Runtime (MDR) from Basis Technologies, the company has reduced the billing process to less than one day—a time savings of more than 75 percent. “We reduced our monthly billing cycle from four days to one day and have significantly reduced our overall annual IT costs,” says Galiano. “I couldn’t be more pleased with this transition.”
Migrating to AWS has also provided Seaco with a solid platform for growth. With the ability to spin up new server instances in minutes, Seaco is positioned to quickly scale capacity both up and down as its computing requirements change.
Another advantage of using the AWS platform is quicker data recovery. Company data, which in the old environment took one week to recover in a disaster recovery scenario, can now be retrieved in less than one day using Amazon EBS, giving Seaco heightened security in the event of a power failure or natural disaster. Moreover, running its systems on AWS has provided the company with greater agility. In the hosted data centers, the high cost of adding new infrastructure often led employees to postpone important software upgrades, confining themselves to older versions of software. With the ability to quickly and inexpensively provision more compute capacity, employees now have access to the latest software, opening up more opportunities for innovation.
“We are constantly looking for innovative solutions to improve our operations and be responsive to our customers’ demands,” says Galiano. “Moving our entire IT landscape to the secure AWS cloud has significantly improved our ability to respond to business requirements.”