Featured

4 minutes

Uniphar resolves archive system issues in Azure migration

Client

Uniphar Group

Sector

Health Services, Private Sector, Retail

Technology

Microsoft Azure

The Challenge

Uniphar Group is a trusted global partner to pharma and medtech manufacturers. From its Irish headquarters in Dublin, the company runs a wholesale and distribution service, operating as the middleman between manufacturers and pharmacies, delivering 12,000 products twice daily to outlets across Ireland. Compliance and audit trails have to be built into almost every process in such a highly regulated industry.

When it came to decommissioning a legacy electronic proof-of-delivery system in its data centre, documents still needed to be accessible for occasional queries and stored securely in the EU to meet data retention requirements. The archived data was taking up valuable storage and had become less secure because licences had reached end of life.

The system was running on Windows Server 2008 and a Windows SQL Server 2008 database, which Microsoft was no longer supporting. The decision was taken to migrate it to Microsoft Azure.

Neville John, ICT Manager, knew he wanted it to go the cloud but needed specialist expertise from Ergo to help achieve the right balance between cost, security and access. Ergo is a long-standing Uniphar partner, having worked on various projects including the move to Microsoft 365 and a warehouse automation project.

The Solution

The challenge was to rehost Windows Server 2008 and a Windows SQL Server database on Azure SQL Database in a way that would meet all of Uniphar’s needs. Ergo used competencies achieved on the Microsoft’s Azure Migration Programme (AMP) and the skills of one of its Microsoft MVPs (Most Valuable Professionals), Kevin Greene, to design and implement a solution.

Essentially it was about re-platforming a system and early conversations were about the type of environment that Uniphar would need. An Azure landing zone was initially agreed, setting parameters around scale, security, governance, networking and identity management. “You don’t move into a house without roof, so this is the first conversation we will have with customers, even before we get to discussing the workloads,” explained Kevin Greene.

Ergo went through an iterative engagement process following Azure best-practice migration methodologies and aligned with the Microsoft cloud adoption framework. A High-Level Design (HLD) was developed and presented at a workshop to Uniphar with documentation on how it would work and how much it would cost. This was followed by a Low-Level Design phase and final sign-off.

Doing a ‘lift and shift’ on the whole stack was not an option because the database was on an SQL Server with other production databases. The system’s storage and database were separated but rather than repeat the on-premise stack and put the backend database on a virtual machine, slower and cheaper archival storage was used and run as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) workload.

Ergo implemented its Azure DevOps process to build a solution where the infrastructure was essentially code. At the same time, the front end web application server was migrated to Azure and run as an IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) solution. The result was a hybrid cloud combination of interconnected PaaS and IaaS. A VPN tunnel connected to the Uniphar HQ where the archived database could be accessed as needed.

All the components around Azure scaffolding, such as subscription models and governance management, were part of the process along with a detailed migration plan and risk assessment. Once built, the design documentation was shared with Uniphar as part of the knowledge transfer and training process.

 

The Benefits

Ergo’s innovative combination of Azure PaaS and IaaS enabled Uniphar to achieve its goals, moving a legacy proof-of-delivery system to the cloud and ticking boxes around cost, security, compliance and access.

Running the system on Azure SQL Database has:

  • Extended security support for legacy workloads that had expired on Windows Server 2008
  • Replaced capital costs of on-premise storage with the operational cost of a hardware-free solution
  • Robust Azure security and governance ensure compliance with industry audits
  • Archived records can continue to be accessed easily and securely
  • Running the archive as a PaaS workload has improved the system’s performance

Ergo came up with a leading-edge solution to refactor SQL on Azure, demonstrating advanced capabilities that had helped the company win the Microsoft 2020 Country Partner of the Year award.  The Uniphar project shows how application modernisation in the cloud can take many paths to get to the desired outcomes.

“Aside from the performance benefits, there is no administrative overhead,” said Kevin Greene. “That’s the beauty of PaaS, just like Software-as-a-Service with Microsoft 365, you don’t have to look after servers anymore. It’s the perfect scenario for what Uniphar wanted from this project.”

“Aside from the performance benefits, there is no administrative overhead, That’s the beauty of PaaS, just like Software-as-a-Service with Microsoft 365, you don’t have to look after servers anymore. It’s the perfect scenario for what Uniphar wanted from this project.”

Kevin Greene

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