L.B. Foster wanted to build stronger customer relationships by sharing relevant information in a more timely manner. To gain this capability and support ongoing business growth, L.B. Foster worked with Protera to complete an ambitious migration to SAP S/4HANA on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for SAP Applications on the AWS Cloud. This major transformation took just 16 weeks, saving significant time, cost and effort versus a traditional migration, and has given L.B. Foster a stable, flexible, high-performance platform for running mission-critical business processes.

Overview

Established in 1902, L.B. Foster Company  specializes in innovative infrastructure  products and solutions for worldwide customers  in the energy, transportation and  construction industries. Headquartered in  Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, L.B. Foster has  offices in the Americas, Europe and Asia,  providing materials and services for major  infrastructure projects, including the restoration  of the Brooklyn Bridge and the  expansion of the Panama Canal.

The Challenge

L.B. Foster works with an international roster  of customers on high-profile engineering  projects, typically under relentless time  and budget pressures. While the company  enjoys a strong reputation for meeting its  commitments to customers, it constantly  seeks new ways to accelerate processes  and introduce new services.

George Rembold, Vice President of Information  Technology at L.B. Foster  Company, said: “As we continue to evolve  in our digital capabilities, it’s important  that we’re able to provide timely, relevant  information to our customers. We wanted  to extend our capabilities and also automate  many key functions with our key  steel providers as well as ordering processes  with our customers.”

L.B. Foster had been running SAP Business  Suite on the SAP HANA database  for several years, and had introduced the  SAP Simple Finance component as the  first step towards modernizing its SAP application  landscape. To gain the new functionality  it wanted, the company decided  to upgrade to SAP S/4HANA, in the process  replacing its legacy user interfaces  with SAP Fiori – which would also provide  better support for mobile users.

At that time, L.B. Foster was running its  SAP landscape in a private data center.  While this hosting model was reliable, the  company was eager to benefit from the  cost, flexibility and scalability advantages  of the public cloud. Equally, L.B. Foster was  bringing a new business unit into its SAP  landscape within a tight timescale that  would not permit the necessary updates  to its existing server infrastructure. These  elements cemented the case for migrating  to the public cloud on AWS.

Migrations of mission-critical SAP systems are always major projects, particularly when the hosting model is also changing. The first, almost universal, challenge is that auditing the as-is environment is timeconsuming  and costly, because every SAP  landscape contains a unique combination  of custom code, custom configurations  and integrations, and third-party applications.  Incomplete information at this stage  tends to delay migration, introducing unexpected  tasks that consume project resources  and cause cost overruns.

Another frequently encountered challenge  is “decision paralysis”. The emergence of  new technologies and approaches during  a multi-month – or even multi-year – migration  project will always add new options  into the mix. The sheer number and  variety of decisions that need to be made  can cause migrations to grind to a halt.  Similarly, SAP HANA migrations can be  rigorously defined, but simply knowing the  technical specifications does not provide  any guarantee that the final environment  will address the business needs.

Faced with an extremely tight deadline,  limited in-house knowledge of SAP  S/4HANA and public cloud deployments,  and the desire to avoid any business disruption,  L.B. Foster set out to find solution  partners that could help it migrate to SAP  S/4HANA rapidly, smoothly, cost-effectively  and at low risk.

“Given the proven success of SAP HANA on the SUSE Linux Enterprise platform, we always recommend that our customers take this route. For Protera as a global service provider for SAP-centric organizations, SUSE is a great partner to have. The SUSE technology works so well for our valued SAP customers and because the company understands SAP best practices.”

SUSE Solution

To accelerate and remove risk from its  migration to SAP S/4HANA, L.B. Foster  chose to work with Protera Technologies, a  SAP Global Partner with multiple SAP certifications  that provides complete global  IT outsourcing solutions.

“L.B. Foster partnered with Protera because  we have a very small staff and we  needed some expertise in a lot of extended  functions with SAP,” said George Rembold.

Patrick Osterhaus, President and CTO for  Protera Technologies, said: “At one stage  in the project, L.B. Foster wanted to have  a prototype system live within two weeks,  which is unheard of in the world of SAP –  these projects usually take a year. Using  the Protera FlexBridge Platform, we were  able to build a working prototype on AWS  within the deadline.”

Protera FlexBridge is a SAP Transformation  Success Platform designed to act as a  centralized workspace and data repository  for the entire process of SAP HANA migration,  reducing risk and saving up to 55 percent  in time and effort versus a traditional  SAP transformation on-premises. The solution  automates a number of key project  stages, starting with the discovery of the  as-is SAP environment. The output from  FlexBridge is a complete analysis of the  current technology, plus a target recommended  solution with gap identification.

“The assessment stage is key because it  eliminates so much of the time you would  normally need to work with consultants,”  said Patrick Osterhaus. “This is how we can  get to implementation so quickly, and help  our customers avoid excessive costs.”

Protera FlexBridge also largely automates  the prepare, explore, and deploy phases,  including automatic cloud provisioning,  Agile development support, and multiple  migration options.

Using Protera FlexBridge, the Protera  team was able to provide a comprehensive  audit of L.B. Foster’s existing SAP Business  Suite on HANA landscape, enabling the  engineering firm to understand all the required  changes for upgrading and migrating  its solution, the available choices and  their likely impact on the project, and the  cost and timeframe associated with each  upgrade option.

L.B. Foster had initially considered a greenfield  implementation of SAP S/4HANA.  Based on the detailed analysis by Protera,  the company recognized that it could instead  complete a migration of its existing  landscape faster, at lower risk and lower cost.

The underlying operating system is a key element  in any SAP landscape. For L.B. Foster,  it was vital to choose an OS that would  maximize the performance and availability  of its SAP applications, while ensuring that  it could reap the full cost and flexibility benefits  of the public cloud. L.B. Foster’s existing  HANA database was running on SUSE Linux  Enterprise Server for SAP Applications,  while its SAP Business Suite was running  on Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

“Protera showed L.B. Foster how SUSE  Linux Enterprise Server is specially tuned  for SAP HANA and SAP S/4HANA, and how  the SUSE Linux Enterprise Live Patching  capability is a clear differentiator,” said  Patrick Osterhaus. “The tight integration  between SAP and SUSE technologies and  the close relationship between the two  companies also contribute to the dominance  of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server  in the SAP market. We gave L.B. Foster  the confidence that this is by far the most  widely used platform for SAP S/4HANA.”

“Protera introduced SUSE to the environment  which made us feel very comfortable,  understanding that Protera had a  strong relationship with SUSE,” said George  Rembold. “It provided us with a very flexible  platform and allowed us to quickly  move forward on many of our projects.”

“While Red Hat requires you to separately  license the OS, the high-availability components,  the storage components and  the networking components, SUSE Linux  Enterprise Server for SAP Applications  provides everything in an integrated package,”  said Patrick Osterhaus. “Equally, in a  world in which Red Hat has been acquired  by IBM, SUSE remains truly open and independent,  so customers are free to choose  their platform.”

Using Protera FlexBridge, the Protera team  simultaneously migrated L.B. Foster’s systems  to the AWS Cloud and performed the  SAP S/4HANA technical and functional  conversions. When a software licensing  issue delayed the migration project by  four weeks, Protera reprioritized tasks in  the project workflow, then accelerated  the transformation once the license finally  came in, ensuring that the overall project  deadline did not slip. The new systems  were almost immediately used by the L.B.  Foster finance team to perform critical  financial reporting, and have since been  opened up to a further 200 users in four  locations across three time zones.

“L.B. Foster carried out the migration just  before the year-end close, which shows  the confidence they had in SUSE and  Protera,” said Patrick Osterhaus.

Using virtual instances of SUSE Linux  Enterprise Server for SAP Applications on  AWS gave L.B. Foster exceptional agility  and speed during the planning and migration,  enabling the organization to rapidly  prototype new SAP environments by spinning  up new virtual resources in the cloud.  Both during the project and on an ongoing  basis in production, the ability to pause  or remove virtual resources enables L.B.  Foster to make significant cost savings by  comparison with fixed assets in a private  cloud environment.

The Results

“On behalf of L.B. Foster, we executed  a 100 percent successful SAP migration  to the public cloud on AWS and an SAP  S/4HANA upgrade in just 16 weeks,” said  Patrick Osterhaus. “Our decision to base  the new cloud landscape on SUSE Linux  Enterprise Server for SAP Applications  was certainly an important element in the  speed and success of the migration.”

L.B. Foster executed this major and complex  SAP migration and conversion project  with its own existing team, and did not  need to hire in a large consulting team. As  part of its FlexBridge offering, Protera provided  a key business functional resource  to guide the company through the various  business processes.

A further success factor was Protera’s “rehearsal”  capability, enabled in part by the  use of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for  SAP Applications on AWS. These technologies  allowed the L.B. Foster team to  take snapshots of production SAP environments,  rapidly spin up copies of these  production snapshots, rehearse the SAP  S/4HANA conversion steps, and identify  and resolve potential issues – all managed  within the Protera FlexBridge Platform.

With the migration complete, L.B. Foster  uses SAP S/4HANA on SUSE Linux  Enterprise Server for SAP Applications  to handle core ERP functions, including  financials, order-to-cash, procure-to-pay,  build-to-stock, and make-to-order.

L.B. Foster currently has five applications  rolled out on SAP S/4HANA, and these will  grow to 21 in the coming months. The performance  of SAP S/4HANA and the power  of the new SAP Fiori user interfaces make  it easier for L.B. Foster employees to rapidly  access information and make business  decisions wherever they are. Ultimately,  this means that the company can offer  better service to its customers, supporting  them by ensuring that the right products  and services are delivered at the right time.

“The platform that we are running SAP on  with Protera and SUSE helps us deliver  relevant information to our customers in  a timely manner, with the connectivity  between us fully secured and supported,”  said George Rembold.

Mission-critical services need bulletproof  support; the new SUSE Linux Enterprise  Server for SAP Applications landscape on  AWS uses the SUSE Linux Enterprise High  Availability Extension to keep applications  running at all times. Meanwhile, SUSE Linux  Enterprise Live Patching allows L.B. Foster  to apply critical patches and updates to the  OS kernel without taking down production  systems, practically eliminating the need for  planned downtime. SUSE provides support  services for the SAP landscape, integrating  with Protera’s AppCare Platform, which provides  24/7 SAP managed services support  by experienced SAP-certified technical staff  for L.B. Foster’s SAP S/4HANA landscape.  As L.B. Foster continues to move functionality  to SAP S/4HANA and decommissions  other systems, it will make significant cost  savings on infrastructure. At the same time,  the company benefits from the flexibility  and speed of a fully virtualized environment  in the public cloud on AWS, together  with the front-end advantages of greater  mobility and usability through SAP Fiori.

“While we don’t yet have exact figures for  L.B. Foster, our other customers typically  report savings of around 60 percent in  infrastructure costs by migrating to the  public cloud,” said Patrick Osterhaus. “Our  customers find that they can frequently  shrink their SAP landscapes by 70 percent  at times of lower demand, which translates  into significant cost savings.”

Protera continues to use the FlexBridge  Platform to manage L.B. Foster’s SAP  landscape on the AWS Cloud, and is working  on an intelligent scheduling function  that will include auto-scaling to meet peak  demands at month-end, for example.

Choosing SUSE technology to support its  customers’ SAP environments gives Protera  a stable platform that enables it to focus on  higher-level objectives rather than being distracted  by low-level technical issues.

“Protera is able to provide us a lot of inhouse  knowledge and capabilities,” said  George Rembold. “SUSE will provide us  the capabilities to rehost some of our current  operating systems to a platform that’s  flexible and can take us into the future. This  is the beginning of our relationship with  Protera, SUSE and AWS. As I look forward  to what we are doing in the future, we have  many different environments that we want  to bring to that platform.”