The Tile Shop’s Cloud Transformation Journey

Guided by Protera and Deployed on Microsoft Azure

Published: 01/30/2024

Reading time: 6 mins

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Key Takeaways

⇨ Learn about The Tile Shop’s move to the cloud and what drove their decisions.

⇨ Understand why the company selected Microsoft as a service provider and Protera as a partner.

⇨ Explore the benefits The Tile Shop gained from moving to the cloud, including how they are using FinOps best practices to manage cost.

The Tile Shop, a specialty retailer of manufactured and natural stone tiles, embarked on a transformative journey, transitioning from traditional infrastructure to cloud for a more efficient, innovative, and AI-driven environment. This transformation, powered by SAP on Azure and in partnership with Protera, was discussed in a recent SAPinsider webinar hosted by SAPinsider’s VP of Research, Robert Holland, with Eric Pawlowski, Director of Infrastructure and Cybersecurity at The Tile Shop, who shared insightful details of this journey. The webinar explored how the company’s modernization plans led to a successful migration and fast-tracking innovative opportunities for the business, the driving factors behind The Tile Shop’s move to the cloud, how the company selected Microsoft as a service provider and Protera as a partner, the benefits experienced from moving to the cloud, and how the company is using FinOps best practices to manage cost.

Drivers for Cloud Adoption

The Tile Shop needed a drastic infrastructure overhaul as the company’s computing and storage systems were nearing the end of their life cycle. An ageing on-premise data center that required significant upgrades, including the high costs to maintain the data centers along with security concerns prompted The Tile Shop to explore the idea of moving to the cloud. This began with migrating productivity tools, including a shift from Skype to Teams and adopting Office 365 in 2021. A few drivers for cloud adoption for The Tile Shop were:

Aging On-Premise Data Center: With the realization that traditional data centers fall behind cloud solutions in terms of scalability and flexibility, The Tile Shop decided to transition to cloud. Instead of enduring the substantial costs of maintaining on-premise data centers or undergoing frequent hardware updates, the company chose to migrate to the cloud.

Scaling for Growth: In today’s market, where business agility is crucial, companies cannot afford to be hindered by costly and outdated infrastructure. The Tile Shop realized that cloud supported scalable growth by enabling swift deployment of applications and services, alongside flexible development practices and also offered the advantage of easily scaling operations to match the fluctuating demands of the business, optimizing operational costs.

Maximizing SAP S/4HANA in the Cloud: SAP S/4HANA in the cloud offers streamlined and agile access to SAP systems. Organizations operating in sectors like retail and manufacturing often operate across multiple locations that require seamless connectivity to maintain smooth operations. Operating across more than 140 locations in the United States, The Tile Shop aimed to enhance efficiency by integrating its essential systems. This integration provided access to cloud-native functions and features, substantially enhancing their business operations and results.

Choosing Microsoft Azure and Protera

While there are several leading cloud providers in the market, The Tile Shop’s substantial investment in Microsoft products made Azure a natural choice for their next steps. The transition to Office 365 laid a foundation of trust and familiarity, vital in selecting Azure for hosting their SAP environments. However, while Azure ensured integration and support, they recommended The Tile Shop collaborate with Protera. This partnership was instrumental in enhancing their cloud transformation journey and maximizing the potential of their SAP cloud environments.

As Pawlowski says, “During our transition, Microsoft introduced us to Protera, leading to discussions about Protera’s experience with other SAP clients. We explored how Protera could assist The Tile Shop in moving our complex ERP system, SAP, to the cloud. After successfully conducting a disaster recovery test and verifying everything functioned smoothly, we collaborated with Protera on a Statement of Work (SOW), which we completed early in 2023. This collaboration led to the successful migration of all six of our SAP environments to Azure, a process we completed in September of the same year.”

However, for The Tile Shop, the shift to a cloud environment involved much more than just transferring SAP systems. It encompassed the entire framework, including the platform, ecosystem, user interface, and overall experience. Protera played a pivotal role in the cloud transition, especially in moving the Tile Shop’s complex ERP system to the cloud.

“Protera has demonstrated their expertise across a broad range of clients, from large corporations to smaller businesses, particularly in handling complex SAP environments. Their hands-on approach was instrumental for us at The Tile Shop, starting from the development of a detailed proposal for executive approval to the meticulous planning of the entire project. Their technical proficiency in SAP was a key factor in bridging the knowledge gap we had. The level of detail in their planning, including specific dates and timelines for each phase of the project, was remarkable. Having a partner like Protera, who brings a wealth of experience and can adeptly guide through complex processes, is invaluable. This is particularly true for enterprises transitioning to the cloud or undergoing significant ERP transformations and aiming to future-proof their platforms. Looking ahead, we are excited to continue our collaboration with Protera. As we evolve in our cloud journey, there are numerous opportunities to further our SAP capabilities and leverage the multitude of tools and features that the Azure cloud platform offers,” comments Pawlowski.

Protera employed key strategies to help The Tile Shop maximize their cloud environments for enhanced business performance:

Leveraging Existing Licensing: Using full potential of existing cloud provider licenses, such as Azure’s E5 and Defender platforms, to extend security policies and technical controls directly to end users across different teams and locations.

Cloud-Native DevOps Integration: Aligning development goals and objectives with cloud-based DevOps platforms and pipelines to accelerate the realization of value.

Enhancing Scalability: Employing cloud and S/4HANA features to rapidly scale operations up or down, aligning costs with current business needs and optimizing operations.

Security, Governance, and Risk Management: Implementing proactive, always-on security strategies using advanced applications and tools provided by cloud services which helped in mitigating risks and establishing robust governance.

Benefits

The partnership with Microsoft Azure and Protera brought numerous advantages, including improved stability, flexibility, and enhanced security to The Tile Shop’s operations. The cloud infrastructure allowed for rapid scaling, efficient testing, and proof of concept without the delays associated with traditional hardware setups. Additionally, the integration of security and monitoring tools into a single platform streamlined their operations significantly.

Governance and Automation: The Tile Shop leveraged Azure’s governance and automation capabilities to maintain control and efficiency. Different subscriptions for production and development environments enabled appropriate access levels and cost controls. This flexibility allowed the Tile Shop’s staff to experiment and innovate while ensuring the protection and stability of production systems.

Cost Management and Optimization: Financial considerations were a significant part of the cloud migration strategy. Using Azure’s FinOps best practices, The Tile Shop managed costs effectively through reserved instances, savings plans, and optimized storage solutions. Azure’s Advisor tool provided valuable insights for cost-saving and optimization, demonstrating Microsoft’s commitment to customer success.

As Pawlowski comments, “Since completing our cloud migration in late September 2023, our focus has been on cost management, crucial for both budget adherence and job security. With reserved instances, we committed to a fixed monthly spend for our servers over three years, resulting in cost savings of 60-72% on our virtual machines. For instance, running our SAP S4 HANA database as a reserved instance saves us 71% monthly. We also optimize costs by shutting down certain environments when not needed for extensive training and by assigning the appropriate storage types – hot or cold – to different data categories. Our S4 HANA database, for instance, uses high-performance storage, while archival backups are stored on more economical cold storage. Microsoft Azure’s Advisor feature in the portal is a valuable tool for optimizing cloud spend. It provides recommendations not only on cost savings but also on security and best practices, ensuring optimal performance of cloud assets.”

The Tile Shop’s journey to the cloud, underpinned by the collaboration with Microsoft and Protera, highlights the transformative potential of cloud technology to revolutionize business operations. The shift to SAP on Azure not only streamlined The Tile Shop’s operations but also positioned The Tile Shop for future growth and innovation.

 

This discussion can also be viewed on-demand.

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