Now we have large, certified SAP instances in the public cloud, many public service enterprise IT leaders are seeing the value of migration. But they are also concerned migration takes a long time and risks business disruption.

Our recent experience of migrating New South Wales (NSW) Government’s complex SAP environment, used by 44 agencies, proves that these concerns are no longer warranted. SAP migration is no small endeavour – and requires support from experienced teams. But it can now be achieved successfully in under six months.

Accenture Enterprise Services for Government (AESG)

AESG is an enterprise-grade portfolio of 300 high-performance business processes offered as-a-service, enabling agencies to operate functions such as finance, procurement, HR and payroll from a single system, providing the engine room for successful shared services in government.

The service started life in 2015 with an SAP solution on the private cloud with just a few NSW agencies - it now has approximately 44 agencies across multiple clusters. Back then, having the capability and capacity to provide on-demand services for SAP was considered cutting edge – even if it took a few months. Now, people expect capacity to be provisioned automatically without a cap.

The private cloud also limited our opportunities to optimise and innovate. To provide NSW agencies with access to relevant and up-to-date technology to solve their business challenges, AESG has had to stay ahead of the technology curve.

So, with the public cloud offering an opportunity to improve and future-proof the AESG service, we conducted a thorough option assessment and decided to move it to Microsoft Azure.

We estimated the move would improve speed of deployment changes from months to hours; for example, accelerating capacity fulfilment time from 8-12 weeks to 1-2 days. It would also allow us to ramp up security capabilities, give us the flexibility to meet bespoke requirements, support additional services on demand and onboard shared services for non-SAP products.

So, the migration project came with lots of upside – but also many challenges. With 44 NSW agencies in the environment, we were dealing with ~40TB of data, 400+ interfaces, 34 access methods, 47 non-production systems and 41 production systems. The migration required us to conduct 2,600 test scenarios and seven simulated runs.

At the time, or since, we don’t know of anyone who’d successfully migrated a multi-tenanted SAP environment to the public cloud – let alone one as complex as AESG.

Plus, we had no options for a change or development freeze at any point. AESG produces ~35,000 payslips for the NSW agencies a month – payroll simply couldn’t stop. At the same time, more NSW agencies were being onboarded during the migration. We ended up onboarding a large new cluster in NSW during the change.

Despite these challenges, we not only successfully migrated our multi-tenanted SAP environment to the public cloud in under six months – we also had zero defects at go live. In fact, we had zero major incidents or disruption raised at any time during the migration. A significant contributor to this level of success was due to the excellent support from the NSW Government agencies and its leadership groups.

Total migration and remediation time took just 14 hours for all technical activities. The cutover window was only 48 hours, including 24 hours for testing and 10 hours for contingency.

So, how did we do it?

Firstly, we didn’t do it alone. This was a hugely collaborative effort with Microsoft and from our NSW clients.

For example, our design was formed by working closely with a Microsoft architecture team including teams in the US, drawing on all the innovation bubbling away in their labs. This resulted in a hub and spoke model (VDC) where everything was centralised, including a security hub with opportunity for us to provide a multi-security classification across our platform. So, when another NSW agency wants to join, they’ll have a sharable subscription for security – getting the same level of security as all the other NSW agencies including BYO subscription, without giving up control or change in SLAs.

We also adopted a low-level migration strategy, essentially migrating from the source hypervisor (VMWare) to our target hypervisor (Azure). Since the application didn’t have to be rebuilt as it would have been if we used SAP Standard Migration tools, we needed few changes from source to target, minimising the chances of issues and defects.

Our three critical success principles were:

  1. Prepare and plan – We spent months before design and build, considering the financial viability of the business case, using a proof of concept approach to evaluate best practices and holding multiple workshops with Microsoft and our NSW Government clients. As part of the business case, we followed a very structured process to pick our new AESG hosting platform, using Accenture’s cloud readiness assessment framework.
  2. Seize automation opportunities – We compressed the timeframe and reduced errors by automating 30% of remediation tasks, including changing post migration application task and identifying errors in the log. We estimate this reduced the manual effort during production/non-production cutover and the pre-cutover task by about 60%. We needed fewer FTEs and had a better mix of skill levels during the cutover execution.
  3. Use the right tools – Rather than using the ‘latest and greatest’ tools, we sought out those that were fit for purpose. The lightbulb moment was realising we could use a low-level migration tool to move the SAP applications from VMWare on the private cloud to Azure. We evaluated all the major low-level migration tools on the market, including Azure Migrate (ASR), which we ended up using as the tool of choice for both migration and site recovery. But we also used other tools such as HSR and RSYNC.

With the migration complete, we have started to adapt the environment to what cloud has to offer, with higher degrees of automation and bringing in Accenture self-healing systems framework. The Azure platform for AESG is now one that we can expand into other department and government jurisdictions with relative ease.

To learn more about this work and how to modernise your core operations, contact our team.

Gururaj Ramachandra

Solution Architect – Health & Public Service, Australia

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