Land O’Lakes Plants Cloud Seeds

Agribusiness moves toward SaaS and PaaS.

By Philip J. Gill

November/December 2015

Consumers know Land O’Lakes, Inc., best for its eponymous dairy products, but the 94-year-old agricultural cooperative—the third largest in the United States—is also a leader in animal feed, crop seeds, and crop protection as well as business services for its member-owners. The company’s IT division is integral to all of its operations.

“We have one of the broadest views of any enterprise function at Land O’Lakes,” says Michael Macrie, CIO for the Arden Hills, Minnesota–based company. “We help with everything from setting up new sites with data lines to innovating in the cloud with our customers.”

Land O’Lakes
Headquarters: Arden Hills, Minnesota
Industry: Agribusiness
Employees: 10,000
Revenue: US$15 billion in 2014
Oracle products:
  • Oracle Exadata Database Machine
  • Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud
  • Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine
  • Oracle Fusion Middleware solutions
  • Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition
  • Oracle Transportation Management
  • Demantra Demand Management
  • Oracle CRM On Demand
  • Oracle Taleo Recruiting solutions

Although Macrie credits cloud computing with supporting business processes and delivering other benefits—faster deployment and greater scalability, for instance—Land O’Lakes isn’t shutting down its data centers just yet.

“The hybrid cloud is the world we live in right now,” he notes. “At our core we are still an on-premises IT organization—probably 60 percent of our IT spend is still on-premises systems and applications. But over the last three years, we have moved aggressively into SaaS [software as a service] in the cloud and as of today, about 40 percent of our IT spend is SaaS.”

Early Adopter

Over the last few years, Land O’Lakes has consolidated key applications on on-premises Oracle engineered systems, including Oracle Exadata Database Machine, Oracle Exalogic Elastic Cloud, and Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine. Those servers host Oracle Database 11g, Oracle Fusion Middleware components, Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne solutions, Oracle Human Resource Management System, Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition, Oracle Demantra Demand Management, and Oracle Transportation Management, among other software, and support 8,000 active users and 600 terabytes of data.

About the same time its IT team started to consolidate on Oracle engineered systems, Land O’Lakes leaders started to consider which of its on-premises systems they wanted to migrate to the cloud. “Today,” Macrie adds, “we have a SaaS-first mentality—we will move to a SaaS platform instead of upgrading what we have on premises. In the cloud, for instance, we use a number of providers and systems, including Oracle CRM On Demand and Oracle Taleo Recruiting solutions.”

Our data center continues to get smaller and smaller. ”–Michael Macrie,
CIO, Land O’Lakes

Macrie sees a strategic move away from the data center to the cloud, one category or layer of applications and systems at a time. “The front-office systems, the sales systems, and even some of the back-office systems are all moving to the cloud as quickly as possible,” he says. “I think you’ll also start seeing financials move, and after that some edge products, such as Oracle Hyperion solutions and Oracle Transportation Management. Those will be good milestones for the cloud.”

As Land O’Lakes moves to the cloud, Macrie says, his team is using a combination of cloud and on-premises technologies to do the integration. For instance, they’re using Oracle Fusion Middleware to integrate the company’s cloud and on-premises transactional and business intelligence systems.

With an eye on the future and the need to integrate cloud applications, Land O’Lakes has also explored platform as a service (PaaS). “Until recently, we were unsure of the viability of the PaaS platforms out there, but as they have matured, we are looking at them in a different way,” says Macrie.

Land O’Lakes recently looked at new PaaS offerings from Oracle Cloud Platform, including Oracle Integration Cloud Service, to integrate its on-premises and SaaS systems (some from other vendors), and Oracle Process Cloud Service, to model business processes and to securely expose them to the company’s mobile device users.

As the company continues its journey to cloud, on-premises consolidation and the SaaS-first strategy haven’t increased IT costs. “Our data center continues to get smaller and smaller and the price per terabyte and every other metric in the data center continues to go down,” Macrie says.

Moving completely from a hybrid cloud to a full public cloud will take time, however, in part because Macrie believes all of the services Land O’Lakes needs aren’t quite cloud-ready. “Over the next few years,” he says, “I do not see anyone delivering strong enough capabilities for us to deploy all of our critical manufacturing, plant operations, and control systems in the cloud.”

As infrastructure, platform, and software services continue to evolve, Macrie says, cloud industry leaders will deliver the systems that Land O’Lakes needs. “When you look at core manufacturing operations moving to the cloud, there really are only two or three companies that can deliver, Oracle being one of them,” he says.

Next Steps

 READ more about Land O’Lakes.

 LEARN more about Oracle Cloud Platform.

 SIMPLIFY integration with Oracle Integration Cloud Service.


Photography by Luana Azevedo,Unsplash