Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: The Cloud v. Data Center Decision

​From the links to the on-premise data centre with Callaway

Callaway talks about the drive behind creating an on-premise datacentre and implementing company-wide infrastructure changes.

callaway-golf-player-black-and-white.jpg
Image: Callaway

Founded in 1982, Callaway Golf Company designs, manufactures, and sells golf equipment and accessories, and also licences its own technology, with a global footprint spanning 70 countries. The Carlsbad, California-based company is also listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Like any company, Callaway is aware of the necessity to innovate, as it now finds itself competing with born-on-the-web businesses, It's also not immune to demand from customers.

With Callaway's motto "Demonstratably superior, pleasingly different" coined by the company's founder Ely Callaway many years ago, Michael Nevlida, senior director of Global IT Infrastructure and Support Services at Callaway, said this slogan has now been expanded to cover everything -- including IT.

Speaking at America's SAP Users' Group (ASUG) conference in Orlando, Nevlida explained that after a few challenging years, Callaway started a turnaround in 2012 and has since successfully completed its transformation into a digitally capable enterprise.

Callaway set itself the goal to "operate and continuously evolve a stable, feature-rich computing infrastructure that enables Callaway's global business functions with reasonable total cost of ownership and zero unexpected downtime".

In response, the company decided to build its own data centre.

"We are a company that is not too big and not too small, so we are just big enough to reach the tipping point of buying our own stuff," Nevlida told ZDNet.

"That's why we built our own data centre, because we were doing a co-location for a long time and honestly it was very expensive. It was cheaper for us with a payback of less than three years to build our own data centre -- plus it was also a showcase opportunity and Callaway is all about branding."

Another deciding factor in building its own data centre was the capable IT talent Callaway already had.

"We have a mature IT team, but if you are a new company that didn't have a mature IT team or didn't have an existing investment ... you probably should instead go to the cloud," he said.

"We also had a 7TB database we had to shrink. If we were growing, we probably would have experienced higher cost in moving to the cloud.

"For us it was the right direction to take."

As part of Callaway's digital transformation, the golfing supplies giant set out to restructure its infrastructure and spoke with partners at all levels of IT.

However, Nevlida explained that a lot of the partners he approached were proposing a scale-out architecture, which Callaway wanted to move away from.

Taking a risk

He said he was willing to take more risk, and decided he was going to adopt SAP HANA.

"It was contrary to our own experience, and it was also contrary to what those partners were recommending because to them, scale-out architecture was guaranteeing their success as a partner, but to us it was going to cost us for more servers," he said.

"So ultimately we did all of it by ourselves."

Nevlida met with server vendors who had enough expertise to help Callaway put SAP HANA onto its servers.

"Before the databases were ready, we needed to work out what we needed to buy," he said. "We had not implemented HANA before so we didn't really know how to implement it."

After another discussion in-house around cloud versus the data centre, Callaway picked Lenovo to help the company run everything itself.

"We did our crossover on the weekend. We started immediately and got up and running before Australia and the rest of Asia came online on Sunday," he explained.

"In Palo Alto and San Diego we built the highest revenue in a day than any day in the year -- it was pretty much flawless.

"It's easy to forget how revolutionary this was. We were the third company only to put APO [Advanced Planner and Optimizer] on SAP HANA -- everyone had done BW [Business Warehouse].

"There was a little bit of a risk there."

Nevlida said that there was minimal user involvement in setting everything live, likening it to the way a car comes with a working engine already inside.

"Once it's done, there's really little user involvement, we just had to make sure we didn't break anything," he said.

"But we did go global so we had to have people in every site, in every region, ready to make sure we didn't screw anything up."

The IT lead was pretty confident his system was going to work, however, so talked down the notion that it was a big, hairy, audacious goal.

"We had to do something a little bit more aggressive, so we had to take the risk," Nevlida added.

"All in all we did something big as a team -- we came here to do big things."

It was a big challenge, Nevlida said, reminiscing it was rather stressful at the time, but said it was well worth it.

"IT had done something demonstrably different and noticeably superior," he said, adding it also translated into huge cost savings as far as the bigger picture is concerned.

Disclosure: Asha McLean travelled to ASUG/Sapphire Now as a guest of SAP.

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