Turners & Growers, a well-known company that has been doing business for more than 100 years, markets fruits and vegetables and also grows some of these crops. It needs to interact with suppliers and wholesalers round the year. It has 1400 employees, making the Auckland-based outfit a big company for New Zealand, a country with a population of just below 4.5 million.
The company's information services operations manager, Rodolfo Gandionco (pictured), told iTWire that a decision to change databases was taken after it was acquired by the German giant, Baywa. He made a presentation about the change at a workshop organised by SUSE Linux in Melbourne on Thursday.
Turners & Growers was running Oracle and SAP on Windows to manage its operations; when Munich-based Baywa acquired the outfit in 2012, a move to IBM's DB2 was proposed in order to align Turners & Growers with Baywa which runs this database on HP's Unix.
Gandionco said at the same time, Turners & Growers made a decision to switch to Linux from Windows because it was looking for efficiencies, did not want to change its hardware and wanted to avoid problems with viruses and security.
The decision to go with SUSE, Gandionco said, was because of its support for SAP, which was much better than that which Red Hat could offer.
Gandionco, who has been with Turners & Growers for nine years, said he and his team - there are 30 staff in the IT section - were given around six months to make the change.
The process began in May-June last year and there were two days on which the switchover could be effected. "We had to do it on labour day (at the end of October) or Christmas Day," Gandionco said. "Those are the two days on which we can afford to have the downtime needed to change systems."
Given that Gandionco and his team had little or no Linux experience, they had to engage other companies to help in the transition. "There were no Linux skills among members of my team," Gandionco said, with a smile.
Turners & Growers hired a company named Enterprise IT to handle the Linux part of the transition and another company, Soltius, to assist with the SAP part. It helped greatly that Enterprise had an ex-SUSE engineer on staff.
After intensive testing, Gandionco said labour day was chosen to make the switchover. "We moved the SAP ECC and business intelligence systems over that day. The smaller systems were switched later and we finished by the end of the year," he said.
He was surprised by how smoothly things had gone. "We didn't know what to expect because of the tight schedule, and we really didn't do that much testing," he said. "But then SAP has been extensively tested on SUSE, so a lot of our homework had been already done for us."
Gandionco said that Turners & Growers now planned to look at other SUSE components like SUSE Manager and SUSE Cloud. Asked why he had agreed to speak about the experience at the workshop, he said he had wanted to share an experience from the coalface with other IT people. "We had a good experience, maybe others can benefit from it," he said.