National Foods Limited
- Improved security for business-critical ERP systems
- Reduced workload for IT administrators by 50%
- Gained a single point of contact for SAP and Linux support
National Foods planned to implement SAP ERP, and needed to select a reliable, cost-effective operating system. The company looked at Windows, HP-UX and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, before choosing SUSE Linux Enterprise Server for its superior security, easy manageability, and excellent support from SUSE and SAP.
Headquartered in Karachi, National Foods employs more than 1,700 employees and has three manufacturing plants across the country. The company sells a wide range of products—including spices, pickles, condiments and other foods—to domestic and international distributors, generating annual revenues of more than 5 billion Pakistan Rupees (US$64.1 million).
To achieve its targets for continued expansion, National Foods continually strives to increase efficiencies in its business processes. The company realized that the production planning, cost controlling, and sales and distribution elements of its existing ERP solution were not sophisticated enough to support its growth strategy.
“We decided to move to a new ERP solution, and we evaluated both SAP and Oracle,” said Zahid Sheikh, Head of IT at National Foods. “SAP ERP was a closer fit to our business requirements, so we decided to go ahead with a migration from our existing platform.”
The previous solution had run on a Microsoft* Windows operating system, but the IT team was keen to investigate other options.
“ERP is a business-critical system, so we cannot afford the risk of viruses or hacking,” said Sheikh. “With our Windows servers, we had to keep patching them to ensure that they were secure, which was time-consuming and inconvenient.”
“Overall, we probably spend about 50% less time on managing the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server environment than we did with our previous solution.”
National Foods uses HP* hardware, so it was natural to evaluate HP-UX as an alternative operating system for the new SAP* environment.
“We liked the idea of a UNIX* operating system because we thought it would offer better security,” said Sheikh. “However, our research suggested that it would be difficult to get adequate support and skilled resources for HP-UX within Pakistan. Next, we considered Red Hat Enterprise Linux, but again we did not feel confident about the local support structure.”
The company consulted its technology partner, NDS Technologies, who suggested that SUSE Linux Enterprise Server could offer the level of security that National Foods required, as well as excellent local support.
“We were hesitant at first, because there were not many companies in Pakistan running SAP on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server at the time,” said Sheikh. “But the alliance between SUSE and SAP means that an increasing number of companies worldwide are using this solution, and we were confident in the ability of NDS Technologies, SUSE and SAP to support us.”
NDS Technologies worked with the in-house IT team to install the SAP software in a virtualized SUSE Linux Enterprise Server environment, running on HP BladeSystem* hardware.
“We were able to implement 6 SAP modules within just 6 months—which as far as we are aware is a record in Pakistan,” said Sheikh. “SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is easy to deploy and highly reliable as an operating system for SAP, which helped us complete the implementation so quickly.”
Xen* virtualisation technology—which is an integral part of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server—enables the IT team to dynamically allocate processor and memory resources to different virtual servers to meet the needs of the business.
“For example, during times of peak workload, the development and QA servers can be downsized to provide additional capacity for other servers,” said Sheikh. “This flexibility means we can get the maximum performance from the hardware, which makes the solution very cost-effective.”
National Foods is already seeing significant benefits from running SAP on Linux.
“If we had chosen a proprietary UNIX solution, it would have been difficult to find people with the right skills,” said Sheikh. “By contrast, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server is very user-friendly, so it has been easy for our IT team to learn.” Features like Xen virtualisation have reduced workload for the company’s IT staff: they can now set up a new development or QA environment within a few minutes, without any need to purchase, install and configure a new physical server.
The improvement in security with the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server solution has also made life easier for the IT team, by reducing the time spent on patching and updating operating systems and antivirus software.
“Overall, we probably spend about 50% less time on managing the SUSE Linux Enterprise Server environment than we did with our previous solution,” said Sheikh. “The improvement in security also means that our core business systems are much better protected—so we don’t have to worry so much about viruses and hackers.”
The company has also purchased SUSE Linux Enterprise Server Priority Support for SAP Applications, which provides a direct connection to SUSE and SAP via SAP Solution Manager, providing a single source of support for both the operating system and the SAP ERP environment.
“Our next project is to deploy SAP BusinessObjects in a virtualized environment on SUSE Linux Enterprise Server,” said Sheikh. “We want to explore all the options for virtualisation and make our SAP environment as efficient as possible.”