A Better Sense of Direction

Customers count on Oracle Cloud Platform to simplify IT.

By David Baum

July/August 2015

Surdell and Partners, a marketing and advertising agency that offers data analysis services to its clients, was originally part of a much larger ad agency. An onsite team at the firm, founded in 2005, previously used Java to build applications for clients and Oracle Database 10g to store client data. “We kept everything on premises, in our data center,” says Adam Kanzmeier, Surdell and Partners’ director of customer intelligence and strategic consulting.

The cloud is really about doing what we have always been doing, but doing it better, more professionally, and faster than we ever could before. ”–Adam Kanzmeier,
Director of Customer Intelligence and Strategic Consulting,
Surdell and Partners

The company that Surdell and Partners split from in 2005 had about 500 employees, and the new company started with about 30. “We suddenly had a lot more control over the things we wanted to do,” Kanzmeier recalls, “but we had to figure out how to do those things with a lot fewer resources.”

And that meant streamlining processes and costs. Instead of developing everything in Java, the team at Surdell and Partners started using Oracle Application Express, a web-based software development environment that runs in Oracle Database. And after several years of hosting in-house the software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps and databases it used for data analysis, the firm decided to move them into Oracle Cloud.

“We took a good look at the available solutions,” Kanzmeier says. “Oracle was still the right choice, but we wanted to find a better way to develop and deploy apps quickly. IT infrastructure and hosting are not our core competencies. We would prefer to let somebody else handle that for us.”

For independent software vendors and SaaS providers such as Surdell and Partners that choose to develop and host their solutions in Oracle Cloud, the savings realized are multiplied by the number of clients that use their solutions. Surdell and Partners handles advertising and marketing programs for large retailers and other types of business-to-consumer companies in the United States and internationally. It does all the things a full-service ad agency does: create ads, run marketing campaigns, and track results. But what differentiates the firm is its comprehensive use of market intelligence.

“We gather lots of data from our clients to figure out which offers actually work,” Kanzmeier says. “This entails SaaS solutions for managing spending, campaigns, and promotions. We analyze marketing data to figure out how we can do what we do a lot better.”

Migrate to the Cloud

Cloud computing is now broadly accepted as an economical way for companies to share a pool of computing resources. Some 87 percent of the businesses that participated in a recent Computerworld study said they look to cloud initiatives to lower capital expenses, and 84 percent of them do so to reduce operational expenses. Many of these companies are moving key workloads to public clouds to take advantage of rapid implementation options, dynamic scalability, and subscription-based pricing models.

“Cloud computing is about getting there quickly,” says Dom Lindars, a cloud architect at Oracle. “It’s about allowing IT teams to focus on strategic activities rather than having to deal with database administration or application maintenance. Most teams save a lot of money by automating or eliminating these administrative tasks.”

Surdell and Partners
Headquarters: Omaha, Nebraska
Industry: Advertising
Employees: 30
Oracle products and services: Oracle Database Cloud Service, Oracle SQL Developer, Oracle Application Express

The Oracle Cloud platform makes Oracle’s proven database and middleware technologies available in an on-demand, subscription-based, fully managed environment. Customers are assured full portability of applications and data between on-premises and cloud environments, with the flexibility to change their hosting arrangements at any time.

For example, Surdell and Partners is adopting Oracle Database 12c and its Oracle Multitenant option, which enables their Oracle database to function as a multitenant container database, with separate pluggable databases for each client. A single multitenant container database can host and manage hundreds of pluggable databases—a major step forward in cost and convenience. That setup works well for the firm’s SaaS solution, which processes and aggregates reams of client data about retail promotions every night, and then makes the results available through a shared marketing calendar that tracks retail offers and promotions.

“The cloud is really about doing what we have always been doing, but doing it better, more professionally, and faster than we ever could before,” Kanzmeier says. “Retailers want to know immediately how their campaigns are working. We look at their projections for each ad and then we match the projections with actual sales to see how well each ad is doing. Each client now has a portal, which is basically a window into our Oracle Database, which we built as an Oracle Application Express interface.”

Using Familiar Tools

Surdell and Partners found the migration to Oracle Database Cloud Service to be relatively straightforward. The firm used Oracle SQL Developer and Oracle Application Express to move its data and business processes to Oracle Cloud. At press time, the firm had already migrated one key application and was in the process of migrating all its production applications to Oracle Cloud, Kanzmeier says.

In addition to the simplicity that comes with moving IT infrastructure off premises, his team has seen indirect benefits. “We get instant credibility when we tell clients that our solutions are based on Oracle Cloud,” Kanzmeier says. “That takes a lot of the anxiety out of their purchase decision. From a security perspective, from a compliance perspective, and from a network-testing perspective, knowing that it is all based on Oracle technology allows us to sidestep technical issues that tend to drag down SaaS negotiations. It speeds up the process of getting new solutions in place.”

The cloud makes these decisions easier for corporate finance teams as well. Instead of approving large capital expenditures for computer hardware and other infrastructure, they simply remit a monthly fee based on Oracle’s subscription model. Retailers can scale the service up or down on demand, so they no longer have to worry about paying for extra capacity that might get used only during busy periods, such as the holiday shopping season.

These financial benefits are compelling, but Kanzmeier says he mainly likes the cloud because it lets his team be more nimble. “We can provide reliable, sustainable solutions in a very short amount of time, giving clients the capacity they need for value-added activities,” he says. “That’s a big deal for them—and for us, too, since it is what we stand for as a brand.”

All in the (Cloud) Family

Oracle Database Cloud Service integrates with other Oracle platform-as-a-service solutions, such as Oracle Java Cloud Service, to deploy applications in the cloud; Oracle Documents Cloud Service, to create content-rich processes; and Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service, to create analytic applications.

Oracle Java Cloud Service capabilities include a full-featured Oracle WebLogic Server 12c or Oracle WebLogic Server 11g instance that integrates with Oracle Database and Oracle Real Application Clusters. Optional capabilities include clustering of application server instances, clustering of databases, in-memory database functionality, high availability, elastic load balancing, and fully managed services for backup, restore, patching, scaling, and server management.

Zamil Industrial Investment Company
Headquarters: Dammam, Saudi Arabia
Industry: Engineering and construction
Employees: More than 10,000
Revenue: US$1.46 billion in 2014
Oracle products and services: Oracle Database Cloud Service, Oracle Java Cloud Service, cloud support services

This integrated family of cloud services makes perfect sense for a large, dispersed organization such as Zamil Industrial Investment Company, a global building and construction conglomerate with facilities in 55 countries. Zamil Industrial develops products ranging from transmission towers to climate control systems. The company has major IT divisions in Saudi Arabia and India.

“We want to establish one IT model for our entire business and consolidate IT investments as much as possible,” says Zamil Industrial CIO Zaki Sabbagh. To fulfill this goal, the company signed up for Oracle Database Cloud Service. Now its document management data resides in the cloud. “We have consolidated all document management data into one instance,” he says. “In addition, all network projects, e-mail, supplier management—any initiatives that impact more than two business units—are handled at the corporate level.”

After implementing one on-premises Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) instance across 13 global business units, Sabbagh turned his attention to moving business applications and data to the cloud. He used Oracle Java Cloud Service to create an application for sharing engineering documents and an information system for managing engineering projects.

“We started in 2013 with a five-year plan to move everything to the cloud except our ERP system,” he says. “As of now, we have more than 15 systems and environments—Oracle and non-Oracle—in the cloud. It was a very quick win for us. The savings have been excellent in terms of administration, backup, and systems management. We no longer need to license so much hardware and software, let alone bother with installing, patching, and configuring.”

More Data and Better Apps—Fast

Oracle Java Cloud Service is a central component of Zamil Industrial’s cloud infrastructure. The service makes it easy for workers at 13 different sites globally to exchange insights and share files.

For example, Zamil Steel, a subsidiary of Zamil Industrial, has engineering teams in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, India, and Vietnam. Previously, they used FTP to upload and download documents, with nominal communications and haphazard version control. Now they use a simple Java application to exchange their engineering documents. Files can be edited on premises and automatically backed up to the cloud. Zamil Industrial also purchased 20 TB of Oracle Cloud storage as a backup system.

“For each site, we migrated Oracle Database to Oracle Database Cloud Service with the help of Oracle SQL Developer,” Sabbagh says. “We did not need to modify anything in our databases in order to migrate to the cloud. We then migrated our web services from Oracle WebLogic Server to Oracle Java Cloud Service and had the same advantage—no need to apply changes to the existing code.”

Zamil Industrial plans to use Oracle Documents Cloud Service to make it even easier for employees to store and exchange their documents in the cloud. Sabbagh says this cloud service will give them one global repository, with high security and automated backups. The company also plans to use Oracle Mobile Cloud Service and Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service to generate analytical reports for display on handheld devices.

“No company can ignore the cloud anymore,” Sabbagh says. “It’s not an option. It’s a direction.”

Next Steps

LEARN more about Oracle Cloud Platform
 Oracle Database Cloud Exadata Service

WATCH the Oracle Cloud Platform 2015 launch event
 videos on demand


Photography by Samuel Zeller,Unsplash