But the servers were due for replacement, and he faced budget issues, unpredictable future workloads due to rapid and uneven growth. Mr Miller also wanted to avoid technology lock-in, and to spend more time delivering business value and less on 'keeping the lights on'.
Furthermore, he was tired of buying hardware years in advance of actually needing it. "It's just a yesteryear model," he observed.
So he turned to the idea of running the applications on a cloud provider's platform instead.
It was important to start by accurately determining all the current costs, he said, in order to provide a true comparison.
He also worked closely with a specialist from SAP to determine an appropriate hosting model and software stack, after determining that the company would stick with the current ERP system. The review settled on a hypervisor, operating system and database.
Page 2: How the project progressed.
When it came to choosing a provider, he wanted a company with good SAP expertise, a good technology match with Frucor, green and resilient data centres, enterprise-class hardware, and low network latency (most of Frucor's SAP users are in Auckland). Mr Miller said he was "confident about Fujitsu."
The implementation started with bringing the existing software stack up to date. That sounds simple, but it involved applying 100,000 updates to SAP due to the previous very conservative policies. Consequently, testing was a "massive" effort, and 55% of the time needed for the project was spent tidying up the environment.
Implementation was carried out in a staged manner, from operating systems running directly on the hardware to operating systems under hypervisors, and then to operating systems under hypervisors in the cloud.
Staff changes were minimal. Two roles were terminated, and two new ones were created.
Mr Miller drew attention to several lessons he learned from the project. Find out what they were on page 3.
'¢ User buy-in is important. That's always true with IT projects, but even though the changes were all behind the scenes, user involvement was needed during the preparation and testing stages, and a number of 'sweeteners' were provided to reward cooperation. Mr Miller suggested such projects should be timed for quieter seasons.
'¢ Adequate bandwidth between the existing site and the cloud data centre is important for a smooth transition. The company providing Frucor's connectivity was not prepared to be flexible, and so the company had to resort to flying staff members carrying hard drives between Auckland and Sydney.
'¢ Careful negotiation with incumbent providers will help ensure their cooperation and expertise during the transition. Frucor paid for three months parallel support after the changeover so any problems that might have arisen would be given prompt attention.
'¢ Make sure each vendor knows about the others' support processes. That was one of the reasons why Frucor chose to use SQL Server with SAP.
'¢ Minimise unnecessary changes. Mr Miller noted that changing telcos around the same time as moving the systems to Fujitsu's cloud added to the workload.
'¢ Use a third party to manage the transition. This was "one of the most important decision I made for the success of the project," he said.