Case study title
Network and Infrastructure and Cloud - Manufacturing Sector - SAS International
Client NameSAS International
SAS International: transitioning to the cloud within a highly bespoke environment
SAS International is a leading British manufacturer of quality metal ceilings and bespoke architectural metalwork. Installed in iconic, landmark buildings worldwide – including The Shard, The Gherkin (Swiss Re Building), Bloomberg’s New HQ in London and Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium – SAS leads through innovation, cutting-edge design and technical acoustic expertise. Its success is built on continued investment in manufacturing and achieving value for clients through world-class engineered solutions. In the UK, SAS operates factories in Bridgend in Wales, Birmingham in England, and Maybole in Scotland, with headquarters and warehouse facilities in Reading. The company has recently expanded its export markets and employs nearly 900 staff internationally.
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SAS has a highly-diverse IT environment; the nature of its business means that it operates many bespoke systems that are specific to the industrial sector. Historically, many systems were hosted within on-site ageing servers and with poor connectivity. Its key concern was reliability and how to boost performance.
SAS International recognised the problem, but with such specialist systems it wasn’t as easy as simply replacing them, as often an alternative wasn’t available. Modernising systems therefore meant a gradual approach – moving systems away from on-premise where possible and looking at private and public cloud alternatives.
GCI was appointed as SAS International’s strategic IT supplier in 2014, and quickly identified that a key issue was the underlying connectivity. GCI advised that before any transformational journey could begin it had to boost bandwidth and reliability. Therefore, it immediately upgraded the wide area network (WAN), putting in place 200 Mb circuits at most sites and 100Mb bearers at all others. This not only improved reliability but the bigger picture was that it enabled many core systems to be hosted via a private cloud in GCI’s data centre.
James Greene at SAS explained: “This gave us full failover, backup and business continuity. It also means that we didn’t have to manage the hypervisors associated with some of our virtualised systems. We have a lean IT team so taking this responsibility out of our hands and giving it to GCI resolved a huge headache. We also found it to be much more cost-effective.”
One such core system which became hosted with GCI was its industrial applications. SAS International previously had a legacy version of specialist software provided by Infor, however it was now able to move to Infor CloudSuite Industrial – the latest version which helps run advanced operations, strategic analytics, and provides for global growth. Furthermore, the company has now embraced cloud adoption even further and moved its productivity suite to Microsoft Office 365 with GCI supplying load balancing tools to ensure even greater reliability.
James Greene, at SAS International explains: “With GCI’s help, we have delivered a step change. From having zero systems in the cloud just three years ago, around 95% are now cloud-based. This had to be a very carefully-managed transition so as not to disrupt our complex business. The solutions we run are tricky to support and virtually everything is bespoke or heavily customised, but GCI understood this and has been with us every step of the way.
“From two to three outages a day we now have 99.999% uptime thanks to GCI. We have a lot of faith in our systems being in their hands; if there are any issues then they get fixed quickly. GCI has a very fast escalation process and gives us 24/7 coverage, and it’s a weight off our minds knowing they are there and taking responsibility for our systems.”
SAS International has further plans to keep innovating. “We have just finished a new Unified Communications implementation to give us a 100% cloud communication platform and we are working towards Cyber Essentials Plus accreditation and ISO27001 in the near future.”
“Finally, there is GDPR. Like every other organisation across the EU, GDPR compliance is a key project that we need to get right; it is our responsibility to ensure that we are secure and that our contracts are documented and detailed, and a “cloud first” strategy undoubtedly makes this easier. Thanks to GCI we are now future-proofed against further business and regulatory compliance requirements.”
Scott Riley, Chief Strategy Officer at GCI concludes: “The SAS International journey is a fantastic example of how it’s possible for even the most complex of organisations to transition to the cloud. By taking a step by step approach, SAS International have ensured that they have been able to maintain ‘business as usual’ by running legacy systems alongside the new. This hybrid strategy has ensured it’s been able to modernise without disrupting their mission-critical business processes. For an organisation of this scale to reach 95% cloud-based systems in just three years is quite an achievement for all concerned and testament to a strong partnership which has formed throughout this project.”
With GCI’s help, we have delivered a step change. From having zero systems in the cloud just three years ago, around 95% are now cloud-based. This had to be a very carefully-managed transition so as not to disrupt our complex business.James Greene Group IT Manager
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