Smitty’s Supply, Inc. is the largest privately owned and operated manufacturing distributor of custom oils and lubricants in the United States. Challenged with an opaque and out-of-support on-prem infrastructure and reeling after a ransomware attack, Smitty’s needed a dependable new infrastructure that it could trust for the future. Without deep cloud expertise in house, Smitty’s also required a hands-on cloud services partner able to spearhead its migration, perform ongoing cloud management, and provide effective in-depth training for internal personnel. On a tight two-month deadline, Mission completed Smitty’s migration of their Microsoft Windows workloads to AWS ahead of schedule and under budget, while also delivering training and equipping the enterprise with a transparent and resilient cloud infrastructure built for Smitty’s future.
“Mission's close working relationship and continuous engagement model ensured that our migration to AWS was a clear success, and that their ongoing cloud management continues to be advantageous and cost-efficient."
IT Department Manager
A series of three precipitating events spurred Smitty’s migration to cloud infrastructure. First, Smitty’s relied on legacy on-prem Windows Server-based systems running on out-of-support VMware solutions. The infrastructure had become a sprawling “spaghetti network” and was increasingly challenging to manage. This infrastructure also created roadblocks that hampered efforts to easily incorporate newer technologies.
Second, Smitty’s had been the target of a ransomware attack; it completely shut down the company’s systems for three full days, and reduced them to 50% capacity for another week. While Smitty’s didn’t lose any data nor pay the ransom, the downtime did impact the business continuity. For example, Smitty’s remained contractually obligated to fulfill the orders of certain larger national customers; this required the enterprise’s warehouse teams to work overtime to meet those obligations while flying blind without digital systems available. Ultimately, those three days of downtime required eight months of recuperation. Smitty’s began to consider infrastructural changes that would enable superior disaster recovery.
Lastly, Smitty's internal understanding of the inner workings of its legacy infrastructure became an increasing (and time-intensive) challenge to maintain and troubleshoot. “Our archaic solutions were due for an overhaul," said Kibbons. "I wanted to rip out everything on-prem and replace it with something we’d have documentation on and a full understanding of.”
Smitty’s initially explored Dell EMC VxRail as a replacement on-prem system that could improve recovery. However, the lubricants manufacturer was soon drawn to the idea of achieving a fully future-proof system through more widespread cloud transformation, and migrating its Windows workloads to the cloud. Without the requisite internal cloud expertise, Smitty’s also sought a managed cloud services provider able to offer continuous engagement in directing and managing the project soup to nuts, as well as ongoing training and support to educate Smitty’s team on cloud infrastructure best practices.
To initially vet cloud providers, Smitty’s contacted AWS because of its reputation as the leading cloud provider, as well as Microsoft Azure as the company behind its existing Windows Server-based infrastructure. Smitty’s also contacted a managed service provider that held the highest partner level with all three major clouds and had no particular specialization among them, in order to receive an objective opinion on which cloud offered the best fit. That company recommended that Smitty’s select AWS.
Smitty’s was also able to receive AWS Windows Rapid Migration funding that effectively made the cloud platform cost-free for the first few months. In an analysis projecting total costs over three years and accounting for all credits offered by AWS and Azure, AWS was the more affordable cloud solution, and also $30,000 less expensive than the proposed Dell EMC VxRail on-prem system.
“Cost-wise, migrating to the AWS Cloud meant a massive savings if we had an attack and needed to recover from it,” said Kibbons. “With normal operational costs there was a smaller savings, but what AWS primarily offered us was less downtime and more consistency. Really, it was that reliability that sealed the deal.”
AWS recommended Mission as a managed cloud service provider particularly well-suited to Smitty’s use case, given Mission’s expertise migrating Windows workloads to AWS and its deep experience in supporting enterprise customers like Smitty’s. Smitty’s initially worked with Mission’s team to establish an understanding of the proposed AWS infrastructure as well as the project timeline and costs, while similarly working with a potential Azure provider to produce an alternative proposal.
“I asked lots of questions of both the Mission team and the Azure provider,” said Kibbons. “I then evaluated them by which team answered questions the best, invested the most time in us, and was most responsive. When our board of directors asked what partner I recommended, Mission was the easy choice based on their understanding of our goals and their response times. I also realized that we wanted an AWS-exclusive provider that really knew and focused on AWS. That was Mission.”
"But with Mission, their experts have the depth of knowledge to educate me in AWS as we work through issues together, or to simply hand me solutions. I get immediate responses, and any hiccups are solved fast."
IT Department Manager
In May, Smitty’s board approved the plan to enlist Mission to migrate and manage its infrastructure on AWS, with a target delivery date of July 15. The deadline made for a quick lift-and-shift project timeline, especially considering Smitty’s enterprise size and the potential difficulties of its complex (and out-of-support) network. However, Mission was confident in meeting the proposed timeline.
The project required migrating 24 VMware source servers, the majority of which were running Windows Server 2012 or Windows Server 2016. Smitty’s also needed five applications migrated, including a large and complex ERP solution. Mission utilized CloudEndure to achieve a seamless migration of all requisite servers, as well as deploying Snowball, AWS’ petabyte-scale data transport solution, to transfer the large data volumes. In total, Mission migrated 30 terabytes of data, and built eight new servers running Windows Server 2016 that modernized Smitty’s systems.
Throughout the project, Mission demonstrated continuous engagement with Smitty’s in order to complete migration work and provide education on what they were doing and why. These aspects of Mission’s cloud management services proved invaluable at key moments in the migration, especially when moving Smitty’s ERP system.
“Our ERP is the lifeblood of our business,” said Kibbons. “It’s also an archaic system from 1995. We’re actually their only customer using that software in the cloud, meaning our use case was fully untested. But Mission helped make it possible. When it came time to perform the migration, we ran it over Saturday nights when our production and shipping systems could be shut down long enough to move our huge servers. Our main AWS cloud consultant at Mission was more than willing to pull all-nighters on the weekends to get this done right. After all that effort, we actually hit failures each time because of how novel our particular situation was. But rather than saying it just wouldn’t work like a lot of partners would, our Mission analyst was on the phone with me continuously, troubleshooting and teaching me what was going on. Mission didn’t give up. In fact, they taught me the process so thoroughly that on the third attempt I tried and completed the ERP migration myself, with Mission on standby in case I needed anything.”
Results and Benefits
Racing to meet the tight deadline, the Mission-led migration of Smitty’s infrastructure and applications to AWS was actually completed ten days ahead of schedule. Smitty’s current monthly AWS spend – even before cost optimization – has also come in below the initial quoted projection. These successes made transformation to AWS the first project in the company’s history to be completed ahead of schedule and under budget.
With Smitty’s systems running smoothly on AWS and supported by Mission, the enterprise has the disaster recovery safeguards in place to withstand security threats like the one it previously encountered. Smitty’s internal team now has the beneficial peace of mind to set its sights on new projects and improvements, rather than maintenance and putting out fires. Smitty’s cloud transformation, backed by Mission’s continuous engagement and AWS training, has also brought new transparency to those systems and yielded key learnings. Files believed to be lost have been rediscovered. Connections and group policies that were the source of issues are now understood and remediated. Due to Mission’s support, Smitty’s now has full command over its infrastructure, enjoys smooth and resilient operations, and is well-positioned to advance its cloud-based capabilities going forward.
“I had working sessions with Mission twice a week, where they would show me things in AWS: this is what this does, this is why it does it,” said Kibbons. “That constant back and forth really helped illuminate the inner workings of AWS. I could also be very hands off if I wanted. Any time I was in a time crunch, I could send a message about a problem, and 20 minutes later Mission had it fixed. If we have a situation where a server is down and I don’t know why, I feel safe knowing that Mission understands everything about that server, because they helped us put it there. It’s not a mid-grade professional services arrangement where I have to start from scratch each time I begin a ticket with a stranger to help me fix something. With Mission, I’m asking people I know and trust, because they’re the people who built the thing.”
“Our Mission-led AWS migration was the first project to come in ahead of schedule and under budget in the history of our company.”
IT Department Manager
Smitty’s will soon complete its first AWS cost optimization workshop, with Mission leading the fine tuning of the enterprise’s AWS usage. Based on its smooth migration to AWS and the business’ close working relationship with the Mission CloudOps team, Smitty’s plans to rely on Mission for ongoing AWS management as well as for upcoming large-scale projects that can benefit from using AWS as their backbone.
- Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2)
- Simple Storage Service (S3)
- Security Hub