Komati Fruit, the leading private producer and exporter of sub-tropical fruit in South Africa, has moved to the Microsoft Azure cloud with Netsurit, optimising costs and freeing up its own IT team to focus on business improvement instead of IT operations.
The family business exports over 5.5 million cartons of citrus annually to more than 30 countries worldwide. As a leader in the industry, Komati Fruit has always turned to technology to maximise outputs.
The purchase drivers
Komati Fruit had been with its previous technology service provider for many years, in a hosted data centre environment. The company exco realised that an IT revamp could reduce cost and complexity as well as make it easier to interact with the business on the whole.
While exploring service providers, the business was contacted by Netsurit partner Daisy Business Solutions who facilitated a meeting with Netsurit to discuss the value offering. The company first met with the Netsurit team in July 2021, when its exco wanted to explore different cloud technologies to de-risk the business from an uptime perspective.
“Although we were using Microsoft 365 for Business at the time, we believed more could be done to improve processes,” says Piet Smit, CEO of Komati Fruit. “We also use many bespoke applications for production, a factor that was always our excuse for not turning to Microsoft Azure.
“We were also comparing monthly and annual return on investment in tandem with service levels. Importantly, we wanted a more scalable technology platform that could accommodate rapid growth as we acquire new farms and offer potential per-head cost savings as we grow. Because our sites are in rural areas, we have significant connectivity limitations so we needed a solution that could meet our connectivity requirements.”
Smit says he is unaware of other local fruit growers who are running the bulk of their workloads in Azure. “Once again, we wanted to take the lead,” he adds. “Security was a key driver and having Microsoft 365 Business Premium – one solution to run the business securely from anywhere – gives us an enormous level of comfort. It comes with threat protection, data protection, and device management features that safeguard our systems and information.”
Azure’s renowned scalability is a key benefit for the organisation, as the business scales during peak packing seasons and then slows down in off-peak times. In addition, Azure Autoscaling lets the business set up automated processes that scale its virtual machines (VMs) up or down to optimise deployment costs. As a result, production is never impacted when additional resources are needed.
“The fact that we could place all our workloads into Azure and not be limited to just one data centre has made all the difference,” says Smit. “We also upgraded all our end users to Microsoft Business Premium and still showed significant savings. For a business accustomed to a traditional terminal server environment, Microsoft Azure Virtual Desktop has delivered significant speed and latency improvements and a better overall end-user experience.”
Komati Fruit shortlisted three providers, but Netsurit provided the most convincing business case. The company did not want on-premises data centre solutions; instead, the team wanted a fundamental change. Having already invested in the Microsoft ecosystem, Azure was also less expensive for the organisation.
The Netsurit team was able to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of the solution and show real-world examples of projects for other businesses across multiple industries. Netsurit also has multiple Microsoft Gold Competencies and Advanced Certifications, which added to its credibility as a provider.
As much as Komati Fruit was seeking to cut costs, the company placed greater value on credibility and knowledge. Netsurit proved to be the most expensive service provider but was chosen because the two businesses shared similar values.
“Technical ability aside, we felt we could walk this journey with Netsurit,” says Smit. “There was more to the team than just the solution we needed in the short term. They certainly portrayed the depth of skills to assist with other technical requirements in our business. Netsurit provided a dedicated project manager who not only focused on the implementation but also coordinated all our third parties who were involved.”
There were significant challenges with the local Microsoft Azure Data Centre as there were few resources available. Netsurit went back to the drawing board and chose to provision services in Azure North Europe and implement Azure Virtual Desktop to enable Komati Fruit’s users to access their applications faster.
Printing proved to be a challenge too. The print vendor’s testing during the proof of concept (POC) period was inadequate and resulted in delayed printing, which had a significant impact on the production process.
If printing doesn’t happen timeously, trucks cannot leave the premises, creating a ripple effect down the line. Transport companies have penalties in place for trucks that are delayed to the port – every day incurs a $30 000 penalty for Komati Fruit and is increasing as the rand devalues.
Working closely with the Microsoft team Netsurit succeeded in securing the relevant resources allocated to Azure South Africa North and then migrated the workloads back to South Africa. This essentially resulted in a double project for Netsurit, but there was no additional cost to the customer.
The solution components in detail
- Netsurit migrated Komati Fruit’s systems from an on-premises data centre to Azure North Europe. The team worked closely with third-party vendors and all work was completed after hours and after 14:00 on Saturdays when production slowed down.
- Once resources were available in Azure South Africa North, Netsurit migrated these workloads across. A significant amount of manual intervention was required around the bespoke third-party applications and, in some instances, Netsurit had to set them up from scratch instead of being able to use the standard migration tools.
- The project was managed from end to end for the customer in an attempt to make the transition from one provider to the next as seamless as possible. The heart of Komati Fruit’s applications works on Microsoft SQL, so Netsurit had to work very closely with the company’s third-party database administrator to make sure everything was set up correctly before scheduling each of the other third parties to do their work. Regular meetings were held to touch base.
- Azure Virtual Desktop worked surprisingly well. Although Netsurit has rolled it out for several other customers, it was interesting to see it operate in an agricultural environment across multiple regions, giving the customer significantly better speeds than its end users had experienced before.
The benefits for Komati Fruit
- The company is using some of the best technology the market has to offer.
- It has de-risked its business by removing it from a traditional data centre environment
- Certain historical complexities from a routing perspective were simplified during the migration process.
- The business is getting much better service levels from Netsurit and is spending much less.
- There has been zero downtime since the migration.
“We were sceptical going this route because we know there are many pitfalls with some of our legacy applications,” says Smit. “Not only did everything work post-migration, but it all worked much better. We are very confident that we’ve made the right call. We used to have endless challenges with our backup success rates and since the move to Azure Backups, we have better auditing and a level of comfort that our data is available offsite in case of fire, theft or other business disruption.”
Looking to the future
Netsurit is proactive in its approach and has developed a three-year technology roadmap for Komati Fruit.
“Strategically we would like Netsurit to be more involved in all our applications and to see where we can optimise and continuously improve our overall IT ROI,” Smit says. “This has been the biggest IT project we have ever undertaken, and we have stood by our decision to work with Netsurit all the way.
“The team gave 150% on this project, working extensively after hours to ensure we did not experience a moment of downtime. Everything was done timeously, and the knowledge that Inobits, Netsurit’s professional services team, brought to the table was phenomenal. It is only when you are faced with serious challenges that a relationship is tested, and Netsurit certainly passed with flying colours.”