BP selects AWS over Azure for cloud-first strategy and climate ambitions

Sooraj Shah Profile picture for user Sooraj Shah December 17, 2019
Unique partnership sees AWS providing BP with its IT infrastructure and BP providing AWS with renewable energy

Image of a BP oil tanker

BP started its cloud journey back in 2013, moving its internet presence onto AWS. But it was in 2016 when the company made a strategic decision to accelerate its push into cloud by declaring that it would become a cloud-first company.

Stewart Fry, global VP of enterprise IT&S at BP told diginomica at AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas:

We knew when we did that, that it was a bold statement. We had to ask ourselves if we really knew what that meant, and the main aim was we wanted to stop adding things onto on-premise infrastructure, and as part of that we decided to exit our mega data centres in Europe, US and Singapore. We did the economics on this being a key enabler, and that’s where we built on our relationship with AWS.

The company is about to exit its first datacentre in Houston, Texas, by working with both AWS and Microsoft Azure. The next step is to work on shifting away from its European datacentres, which are its most complex, with its biggest workloads. Fry and his team believed that because these were the largest datacentres that BP operates globally, hosting data from across all of BP’s businesses, it would make more sense to partner with either one of AWS or Azure to deliver the benefits it wants.

BP held discussions at the start of the year to decide which of the two companies were best placed from a technology perspective. AWS came out on top.

However, the technical details weren’t the only considerations for BP when assessing AWS vs. Azure. Fry explained that there’s also another challenge for companies like BP to contend with. He claimed that the world is going to need 30% more energy, which is driven by increased prosperity, a decrease in poverty, coupled with further population growth. BP needs to not only help provide this energy but do so while simultaneously balancing and reducing carbon emissions.

Fry said:

We asked, how do we enable the technology we need to reduce our emissions, whilst improving our products and creating a new low carbon business? But also, how does IT get ourselves into a far more carbon neutral position and partnership?

 When we spoke to AWS, one of their big ambitions is to help tackle their own emissions - where datacentres are a big part of that. 

A circular relationship

As part of the deal, BP would migrate all data and 900 business-critical applications hosted on its European data centres to AWS. In addition, BP would supply AWS with 170 MW of renewable energy a year – what it claims is the equivalent of powering 125,000 homes each year. AWS is aiming to become fully reliant on renewable energy by 2030, and the project will mean that BP will provide it with wind and solar capacity in Spain and Sweden over the next decade to supply energy to Amazon’s fulfilment network in Europe and AWS datacentres.  

Fry explained:

It came together really well, how AWS wants to work with us, as well as BP’s ambitions. We’ve created a circular relationship, where it would benefit all of us”.

Fry said that BP was not keen on using tools that extend the on-premise world as part of the migration to cloud; in other words it did not want to go down the hybrid path.

We have places we have to keep data locally, for legal reasons. But we deliberately tried not to create a path of least resistance, which would be to just extend the datacentres. This was a big part of our business case to eliminate the datacentres, not just from a cost perspective but the massive potential for enablement”.

This meant every application BP migrated has undergone some level of transformation – and so companies like VMware that would help companies to lift and shift from an on-premise world to the cloud did not make sense for BP.

He said:

We would have just ended up with a pretty inefficient version of our on-premises environment in the cloud with tools like VMware. We wanted to get some form of transformation and benefit as a minimum for each application, so we’ve moved everything up on the OS level to the highest we could. From a database perspective, where possible, we’ve moved off of proprietary stuff onto open sourced options. Or moved things to AWS RDS or Aurora. In other cases, we’ve completely reengineered the applications.

By shutting the data centre down, the company has managed to rationalise 30% of its applications. The hope for global energy giant is that it can now start using more cloud services, including machine learning, analytics, storage and security.

The latest deal expands on BP’s relationship with AWS. AWS has already helped to shift specific BP applications to the cloud to quickly adapt to market changes.

In its downstream business, BP had previously used AVEVA United Supply Chain to optimise its refineries, and this was all on-premise. 

The application had required BP to spend time using Excel among other tools for complex calculations. In total, these products would require BP to spend seven hours on calculations. Now, BP has deployed AVEVA Unified Supply Chain and all of the associated data into AWS, meaning the same calculations can be performed in less than four minutes.

The company has also migrated 32 of its SAP production environments to AWS, and it has moved off of proprietary databases onto some SAP IEC databases – as a result of it now getting a 30% better response time from applications.

Fry said that there is still work to do to pull data from all of the company’s applications from across its business, as these are still locked up in siloes. But the potential, now that it has shifted to AWS, is there.

Fry explained:

That’s why we’re pulling it together into a data lake and that will help us to improve the ability for our customers – such as those coming to our 19,000 retail stores every day. Another use case is taking data out of the telemetry of the plant and real-time closed loop responses to either malfunctioning kit, or responding to weather patterns and conditions, or it could be from a trading perspective – pulling together a whole variety of data sets we couldn’t do previously, so we see opportunities everywhere.”

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