G&T Conveyor, a manufacturer of airport baggage-handling equipment, wanted to save money by moving away from an Oracle-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution. It also wanted to replace outdated Cognos reporting software. G&T will deploy the Glovia G2 ERP system that is now being offered on Microsoft SQL Server 2012, which G&T will also use for all of its reporting. By doing so, G&T will save 83 percent annually over a comparable Oracle, IBM, and Cognos solution. The company will reduce the burden on its IT department and gain a solution that easily communicates with its other software packages. It will also use self-service business intelligence features to empower project managers, accountants, and shop floor personnel to do more with data. With more information available more quickly, G&T will improve its efficiency and bidding, thus strengthening its competitive position.
The G&T Conveyor Company manufactures baggage-handling equipment and other airport equipment. G&T experienced rapid growth in the 2000s, and it is now part of the Five Star Airport Alliance, a collection of companies that provides airports and airlines with systems, software, maintenance, and terminal services. Privately held and based in Tavares, Florida, G&T has about 1,000 employees.
||Moving to SQL Server 2012, we will realize an 83 percent annual savings versus continuing with an Oracle/IBM solution and increasing our Cognos licensing to match the Microsoft functionality.
“Data is at the heart of our business efficiency as we strive to be a market leader,” says Orin Owen, IT Director at G&T. “When our salespeople are out talking to airports or airlines, we need to know from our data about our production capabilities, our costs, and how quickly we can deliver for our customers.”
Since 2005, G&T has managed data with Glovia enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. Glovia International, a subsidiary of Fujitsu based in El Segundo, California, has long sold ERP systems for all sizes of manufacturing companies around the world. “All of the Five Star business units use the Glovia system for accounting, and the manufacturing units also use it to define what we produce on our shop floor,” says Alexandros Nipirakis, IT Software Development Manager at G&T. “Because the knowledge in the ERP system represents our main intellectual property, the solution is incredibly important to us.”
G&T has generally been happy with the Glovia G2 ERP. “In the past two years, as we’ve gotten the solution customized to our business, we’ve seen a significant return on investment,” Nipirakis says. But G&T was frustrated that Glovia G2 ran exclusively on the Oracle relational database. To make its ERP system work effectively, G&T had to run the database on an IBM AIX platform. “We had a separate service contract for a machine with a separate operating system, all just so that we could run Oracle,” Nipirakis says. That drove up expenses. It was also hard to staff because the systems required a separate skill set.
Meanwhile, G&T ran several other databases on the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 data management software. All of its employees manage their time using Kronos Workforce Timekeeper, and some engineers use a product lifecycle management (PLM) solution. Both solutions kept data in SQL Server 2008 R2, and G&T found it difficult to communicate between this platform and the Oracle platform.
G&T generated more than 400 reports, several of them designed to simply export data from Glovia G2 to Microsoft Excel 2010 spreadsheet software, which accountants and project managers use intensively. The company generated the reports using IBM Cognos 7.4, which it needed to upgrade. Cognos 7.4 was slow, difficult to maintain, and no longer being supported; furthermore, IBM charged a significant licensing fee for each report user. “We had to justify giving people access to reports,” Nipirakis says.
G&T thus had two primary needs. It needed a new, more efficient reporting system that could better distribute data to users. And it wanted an ERP system that didn’t force it to use an Oracle database.
Glovia was well aware of these concerns. “We’ve seen growing market demand for availability on Microsoft technologies,” says James Gorham, Executive Vice President for Sales and Delivery at Glovia. “Many companies told us that we were forcing them to adopt Oracle technology that they otherwise would not want. Often they were using other Microsoft products and had Microsoft development skills that they wanted to use for data management.”
||SQL Server 2012 Enterprise, which is less expensive than Oracle, also gives us the reporting services, analysis services, and integration services that Oracle doesn’t.
IT Software Development Manager
In February 2010, Glovia decided to make its G2 product available on the next generation of Microsoft data management software. It had already converted the G2 user interface to Microsoft technologies including the Silverlight browser plug-in. “Converting the database was a natural choice for our next step,” says Anil Sharma, Vice President of Product Development at Glovia. In November 2011, as Microsoft announced the coming release of SQL Server 2012, Glovia asked if G&T would be interested in deploying the new solution.
G&T was delighted. “Glovia G2 is less expensive than its competitors. It provides more functionality, and it’s easily customizable,” Nipirakis says. “We never considered moving away from Glovia.” Running on SQL Server 2012 would address the primary drawback of Glovia G2 for G&T.
Meanwhile, G&T considered upgrading its reporting solution to the latest version of Cognos. But the price was high. “It was probably $50,000, at minimum, to buy the latest Cognos software and relicense our users,” Nipirakis says. “It would be silly for us to do that when SQL Server Reporting Services comes free with SQL Server 2012.”
By February 2012, the G&T IT department was preparing for the upgrade. “Converting 400 reports, plus several small in-house applications, is not a small undertaking,” Nipirakis says. But using the Microsoft SQL Server Migration Assistant (SSMA) tool, G&T simplified the migration of Glovia databases from Oracle to SQL Server 2012. Thus SSMA freed up the development team to work on custom applications and reports. The company plans to go live with the ERP and reporting solutions in the last quarter of 2012.
The new Glovia G2 solution uses SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services to generate about 100 reports, some of them very complex. It takes advantage of the Power View feature to facilitate interactive data exploration, visualization, and presentation. It uses SQL Server 2012 Integration Services to assemble data from multiple sources. And it offers interoperation with Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 for document sharing and workflow.
At G&T, the 110 ERP users will see little difference, because the user interface will remain largely unchanged. But behind the scenes, G&T will eliminate its IBM AIX server and will store the ERP data in SQL Server 2012 Enterprise, which will run on virtualized HP ProLiant DL380 server computers. SQL Server 2012 will also store other data, including time and attendance data from Kronos, which will be used by about 1,000 employees companywide.
G&T will use SQL Server 2012 Integration Services to combine data from its time and attendance and PLM platforms with ERP data. With SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services, it can slice and dice that data. And it will use SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services to run all of the reports it needs, including ones on ERP data that it developed many years ago, before Glovia reports were available. G&T is particularly excited about Power View. “We may be able to mitigate the need for many of our existing reports if we can provide our end users with tools to do self-service business intelligence,” Nipirakis says.
G&T is also excited to explore interoperation between SQL Server 2012 and other Microsoft products. “Many of our Cognos reports simply dump Glovia G2 data into an Excel 2010 document for our accountants,” Nipirakis says. “Now the accountants may be able to import it directly.” Similarly, G&T will explore managing Glovia G2 workflows, such as the complex workflow that pushes an item from design to build, using SharePoint Server 2010.
G&T will use SQL Server 2012 to save money and reduce its IT burden while improving data communication. With SQL Server 2012, G&T will also be empowering users and improving the company’s competitive position.
Saves 83 Percent Annually
||With SQL Server 2012, Glovia G2 becomes a better solution for our needs, because it can integrate better with existing applications such as our time and attendance package.
Because it can run the Glovia G2 solution on SQL Server 2012, G&T can eliminate both its Oracle database and the dedicated IBM AIX infrastructure that solution required. Furthermore, Nipirakis says, “SQL Server 2012 Enterprise, which is less expensive than Oracle, also gives us the reporting services, analysis services, and integration services that Oracle doesn’t.”
G&T also saves money by using SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services to replace Cognos. Not only is it not paying for separate reporting software, but the Microsoft licensing model also allows access to reports for more users.
Adding up those benefits, Owen summarizes, “Moving to SQL Server 2012, we will realize an 83 percent annual savings versus continuing with an Oracle/IBM solution and increasing our Cognos licensing to match the Microsoft functionality.”
Reduces IT Burden
Along with those hard-cost savings, there is a reduced burden on the IT department. “When powered by SQL Server 2012, Glovia G2 will be easier to install, maintain, and tweak,” Nipirakis says. “Tasks that you had to go through many hoops to do in Oracle, you can do by just right-clicking in SQL Server 2012.”
Furthermore, the remaining IT workload can fall to a variety of Microsoft-qualified employees, rather than one Oracle and AIX expert. “Maybe 15 percent of my time has been spent on the AIX operating system, which we are eliminating,” Nipirakis says. “Additionally, I’m one of the only people around here who know much about Oracle, but we have several people who can be very knowledgeable about SQL Server 2012. The business can better use my capabilities developing applications than maintaining AIX and Oracle.”
Finally, the self-service reporting capabilities of SQL Server 2012 will also reduce the burden on IT. “We probably have 70 different project management reports, many of which are very similar to each other,” Nipirakis says. “With Power View, I can provide project managers with the data model and say, ‘You guys slice and dice it however you want.’ That’s a lot easier than essentially having 70 pieces of software that I have to manage.”
Improves Data Communication
Moving all of its data to SQL Server 2012 will make it easier for G&T to integrate data among systems. “In the past, it was a real pain to communicate between the Oracle platform and the SQL Server 2008 R2 platform,” Nipirakis says. “Now we can easily communicate between servers to grab data.”
Owen agrees, noting that the result is to improve the effectiveness of the company’s ERP solution. “With SQL Server 2012, Glovia G2 becomes a better solution for our needs, because it can integrate better with existing applications such as our time and attendance package.”
G&T is using SQL Server 2012 to empower its users to make the most of data. Nipirakis says, “With the features of SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services, especially Power View, our project managers, accountants, and people on the shop floor can make their own reports that are useful to them. They no longer have to run to IT and say, ‘We need this report.’”
Nipirakis sees this as a direct result of switching from Oracle to Microsoft. “The Microsoft stack is much better at putting data in front of people than the Oracle stack, especially with the self-service reporting tools that come free with SQL Server 2012 but cost extra for Oracle.”
With an improved ERP and better data availability, G&T can make better business decisions. “With SQL Server 2012, we can get more information faster and have a better idea of what we’re doing,” Owen says. “For example, we can have more accurate and more immediate information about our labor costs on the shop floor. That can help us optimize our processes and become more efficient. It also helps us optimize our bids, to charge the right price for our products. Both of those actions improve our competitiveness.”
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