About Blue Ocean
Founded in 2003, Blue Ocean Systems provides SAP Business One business management software to small and midsize companies. The business has 15 years’ experience in SAP implementation and delivers services ranging from business process reviews to post-implementation technology support and continuing support. The company’s customers operate in a range of industries and sectors, including manufacturing and wholesale, transport and logistics, and services.
In the first quarter of 2016, Blue Ocean Systems started analyzing new business opportunities presented by SAP Business One Cloud. The product would allow Blue Ocean Systems to deliver enterprise resource planning (ERP) capabilities such as financial management, sales management, and inventory control, while allowing small and midsize businesses to reap the rewards of using a cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) product.
Rather than dedicate capital based on its usage of the SaaS product, Blue Ocean Systems could rely on the SaaS provider to update, patch, and maintain the software and supporting cloud infrastructure.
While SAP Business One was available in SAP HANA in-memory and Microsoft SQL Server database versions, Blue Ocean Systems decided that any service it provided would run on SAP HANA. The company knew that SAP HANA provided the best in-memory performance and functionality for its customers.
Blue Ocean Systems had to provide SAP Business One in the Cloud, cost-effectively to micro-businesses. Furthermore, the business needed to make sure the SAP Business One applications would be available and respond quickly so customers could perform key ERP activities efficiently.
To deliver the service, Blue Ocean Systems needed an infrastructure that could support the provisioning of customers in minutes rather than the 5–10 days required in a traditional physical infrastructure; scale cost-effectively to support up to several thousand customers; and achieve availability exceeding 99.9 percent to meet business requirements.
Why Amazon Web Services
“We needed a cloud platform that was SAP Business One–friendly, SAP HANA–friendly, and that we could get up and running as quickly as possible,” says Arun Devan, managing director at Blue Ocean Systems. The business had gained experience in running SAP Business One in the AWS Cloud through projects for a Chinese oil trading company and a Canadian loyalty program operator. “Our choice was very easy as AWS had seized first-mover advantage to work with SAP to develop a platform optimized to support SAP Business One,” says Devan. In particular, AWS supported the SAP HANA database environment that the Blue Ocean Systems SAP Business One cloud deployment would rely on. “SAP requires that the hardware used to support SAP HANA is certified appropriately,” explains Devan. “AWS has the relevant SAP certification for several Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instance types, and that provided the flexibility we needed to deliver SAP Business One in a multi-tenant AWS Cloud environment.”
Blue Ocean Systems targeted May 2016 to start building its SAP Business One cloud service in the AWS Cloud. However, the business needed help from a partner skilled in AWS to deliver the project. “We needed a partner with deep insight into and experience with AWS,” says Devan. “Our review found Cloud Comrade was the best fit.”
Cloud Comrade, an Amazon Partner Network (APN) Consulting Partner, then set up the AWS infrastructure for SAP Business Cloud. Together with the AWS Support team with the Business Support Plan, Cloud Comrade helped Blue Ocean Systems resolve issues with a relatively complex application landscape and implement the necessary security for the applications and infrastructure.
Blue Ocean Systems and Cloud Comrade completed the initial AWS deployment in six months. According to Devan, Blue Ocean Systems continued to evaluate the commercial opportunities that SAP Business One on the AWS Cloud presented throughout the deployment, prompting extensive fine-tuning. Cloud Comrade used AWS CloudFormation and Amazon Machine Images (AMI) to trial different architectures that allowed dynamic scaling as more of Blue Ocean Systems’ customers were onboarded.
Using the right combination of Amazon EC2 instances to run the SAP Business One HANA database, applications, and services would be crucial to the success of the Blue Ocean Systems offering. These instances would need to run the SAP Cloud Control Center, primary domain controllers, system landscape directory, and SAP licensing server, as well as reverse proxies, SAP HANA Business One service units.
AWS launched a new generation of memory-optimized Amazon EC2 instances on November 2016, and this enabled Blue Ocean Systems to access a new r4.16xlarge EC2 instance with 64 vCPUs, 488 GiB, and 20 GB networking performance. Powered by hardware running dual-socket Intel Xeon® E5 Broadwell processors, this instance was ideal for the requirements of the SAP HANA database. “Cloud Comrade made us aware of the new instance types, and we had a scaled-up trial running within five days,” says Devan. “We were one of the first businesses in the world to deploy the SAP HANA in-memory database on r4 EC2 instances.” The SAP HANA database holds master data and transactional data such as vendor and customer information, sales and purchase data, human resources, and customer relationship management information. Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) backs up SAP HANA for user data, which is then moved to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) for longer-term storage.
Blue Ocean Systems has reaped a range of rewards from deploying SAP Business One with an SAP HANA database on the AWS Cloud. The Blue Ocean Systems service received a considerable boost in October 2016 when SAP began a campaign to bring customers in Southeast Asia onto the SAP Business One HANA Trial. “Once SAP kicked off the campaign, our service took on a life of its own,” says Devan. “Thanks largely to the AWS infrastructure, we scaled seamlessly to take on 400 new customers in just six weeks - considerably more than our expectation of 100 to 120 new customers in three months.” Each customer was provisioned in just 20 minutes rather than the 5-to-10 days Devan believes would have been required in a traditional infrastructure.
Being able to choose memory optimized Amazon EC2 instances on AWS enables Blue Ocean Systems to support more customers on the r4.16xlarge instance and achieve a lower cost per customer, which Devan describes as “crucial to the success of the campaign.” The AWS r4.16xlarge instance supported the SAP standard allocation of about 4 GB RAM per customer in Blue Ocean Systems’ SAP HANA in-memory database environment.
“The larger the instance type we used, the more of these 4 GB RAM blocks we could allocate and the greater the efficiencies we could achieve,” explains Devan. “The Intel architecture supporting the AWS r4.16xlarge instances and the instances themselves enabled us to optimize our EC2 usage to lower our AWS costs by 25 percent.” AWS enabled Blue Ocean to future-proof it's investment and quickly deploy SAP HANA 2.0 on AWS r4.16xlarge instances.
Devan is emphatic that Blue Ocean Systems could never have launched the service in a traditional data center. “We would have had no idea how much hardware we would need to invest in upfront in that environment,” he says. “Deploying this service was only possible on an all-in-one platform that could ramp up with support from SAP and AWS.”
Blue Ocean Systems is also meeting the availability requirements for systems that customers relied on for business-critical activities such as finance and procurement. The business is achieving infrastructure availability of 99.95 percent for the SAP Business One HANA system running on AWS, which Devan describes as “higher than our customers would be expecting.”
Devan is excited about the benefits AWS can provide beyond those achieved to date. “SAP HANA and the overwhelming power of in-memory technologies are delivering business intelligence and ERP systems to businesses on a single platform,” he says. “Delivering these technologies on the AWS Cloud means we can provision compute and associated resources in minutes and take advantage of a much more budget-friendly operating expenditure model.
“We can also offer highly competitive user-based pricing that enables businesses with as few as one or two customers to gain access to enterprise-class ERP and business intelligence capabilities.”
Blue Ocean Systems is now poised to expand its service into markets beyond Southeast Asia, including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. “AWS has enabled us to provide a competitive SAP Business One system with SAP HANA to the market and gives us a powerful platform to extend regionally and beyond,” says Devan. “We are extremely pleased with the capabilities and performance of the AWS Cloud.”
“AWS has enabled us to provide a competitive SAP Business One cloud system with SAP HANA to the market and gives us a powerful platform to extend regionally and beyond.”
Arun Devan, Managing Director, Blue Ocean Systems