The authors want to thank Maxx Williams, manager of applications management at HNI Corporation, for his contributions.
In the last few years, we’ve seen rapid digitization of the economy and changes in consumer behavior. These changes significantly impact the bottom line, competitiveness, and brand perception of businesses. To keep pace with the changing market, businesses need the agility of the cloud and a continuous focus to modernize their technology stack to serve their customers better and create value. This goal is an even greater charter for industries that have traditionally relied more on manual processes. Integrating and streamlining workflows to have a greater visibility into the business and delivering consistent employee and customer experiences have increased urgency.
HNI, a leading manufacturer of workplace furnishings, was founded in 1947 in Muscatine, Iowa. The company offers a broad collection of workplace furnishing solutions that support work environments from home offices to large commercial campuses.
Figure 1: Select HNI product lines: HON and Allsteel
Like many other manufacturers, HNI faces increased demand volatility, rising supply chain costs, and customers that expect products and services to be delivered instantly. Adding to these challenges are the elevated demands on global operations, a complex technology landscape that comprises legacy systems, and an array of multicloud solutions from multiple vendors. The intricacies of IT systems often lead to a slow response to change and inhibit the ability to innovate quickly.
To better serve its customers and bring efficiencies across the entire organizational value chain, HNI decided to transition to the cloud. To successfully move to the cloud and apply existing multivendor technologies, HNI utilized an array of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) services and FlexDeploy, a DevOps platform from Flexagon for end-to-end software development and delivery.
Goals for the move to the cloud and modernization of the technology stack
HNI’s primary goal in transitioning to the cloud was to gain agility and efficiency while using existing investments in multiple vendor technologies, including Oracle. They wanted to migrate their mission-critical Oracle E-Business Suite, Database, middleware, and Business Intelligence (BI) workloads to the cloud.
Scaling application integration across their rapidly growing footprint of hybrid on-premises and multicloud systems was essential to gain deeper visibility and control of their business. To optimize the speed and productivity of application integration and make the best use of their existing investments, they were interested in using Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC)’s out-of-the-box adaptors for Automatic Data Processing (ADP), Salesforce, and Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS).
Finally, HNI knew they needed to enhance their software development cycle, reducing manual and scripted processes to manage software delivery. They wanted to move away from the traditional waterfall methodology to agile development and an automated release pipeline, focusing on collaborative, cross-functional teamwork.
The suite of Oracle and Flexagon products used
OCI’s ability to seamlessly integrate and extend cloud environments with other third-party cloud vendors made it easier for HNI to consume services, not only from Oracle and Flexagon but also from other cloud vendors like Salesforce and ADP. Utilizing OCI helped HNI better manage and optimize its multivendor environment to meet the requirements of its business. HNI utilized the following services from Oracle and Flexagon:
- Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI): A deep and broad platform of public cloud services that enables customers to build and run a wide range of applications in a scalable, secure, highly available, and high-performance environment. With OCI, HNI easily migrated its EBS enterprise resource planning (ERP) stack to the cloud.
- Flexagon FlexDeploy: Flexagon’s DevOps platform for continuous integration, continuous delivery, and release automation enables enterprises to deliver better software faster. Customers can enable automated release pipelines to accelerate software delivery and reduce errors and failed deployments while reducing overall costs. HNI used Flexagon’s FlexDeploy platform with native support for Oracle E-Business Suite and Integration Cloud to drive automation, governance, and visibility across its toolchain and environments.
- Oracle E-Business Suite: HNI migrated its Oracle E-Business Suite to OCI without requiring significant rearchitecture, reintegration, or business process changes, resulting in a solution that’s more flexible, more reliable, and delivers higher performance at a lower cost than deployments running on-premises or with other cloud providers.
- Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC): A platform that integrates across cloud and on-premises applications. It simplifies connectivity between on-premises and third-party enterprise applications. The platform offers enterprise-grade security, no hand-coding required, and governance capabilities. OIC naturally fits in as a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) ready to communicate with systems important to HNI, such as ADP, Oracle EBS, and Salesforce.
- Oracle Identity and Access Management (IAM): Oracle IAM solutions secure access to enterprise applications for both cloud and on-premises deployments. HNI upgraded to Oracle IAM 12c running on OCI. The identity solution included Oracle Internet Directory, Oracle Access Manager, and Oracle Identity Governance.
- OCI FastConnect: Network connectivity allows customers to connect directly to their OCI virtual cloud network (VCN) through dedicated, private, high-bandwidth connections.
Technical implementation on OCI
One of the primary products used is FlexDeploy, a DevOps platform for continuous integration and delivery (CI/CD) and release automation and orchestration. FlexDeploy makes it simple for enterprises to drive continuous innovation through quality software, achieving greater customer value, lower cost, and less risk.
HNI’s QA processes are managed through release pipelines that streamline and orchestrate the end-to-end software delivery process. Release pipelines define each stage and include automated and manual gates and steps to enforce rigor and repeatability for managing change across the pipeline. A pipeline defines a set of stages or environments, which contain a series of gates and steps. Each gate blocks entry into the steps until some condition is satisfied, such as an approval, schedule, or test result meeting some quality metric. The steps define the implementation of delivering the snapshot into the stage. After a stage successfully completes its run, it moves to the next stage and begins running its defined gates.
In the following pipeline example, we’ve defined three stages: Development, QA, and production. Before a release can enter the QA stage, it must satisfy the defined gates, which include an automated quality check and approval. It waits until the defined window, which in this case is every day at 12 p.m. These gates are fully configurable and allow for as much control as HNI wants.
Figure 2: Pipeline example for FlexDeploy
The test automation framework allows HNI to integrate automated testing seamlessly into their delivery lifecycle. They can configure test strategies across environments, including unit, functional, performance, and other quality tests. Results of the tests are actionable immediately after failure, increasing the speed of problem resolution. Visibility to test results through dashboards and reports leads to informed short- and long-term decision-making and continuous improvements.
The FlexDeploy platform is technology-agnostic, providing a framework for automation across the software delivery lifecycle with built-in features and integrations with tools across the toolchain. Plugins for technologies (Oracle and otherwise) provide the smarts to build on that framework for a specific technology, such as Oracle E-Business Suite, Oracle Integration Cloud, or Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition. Integrations with tools such as ServiceNow, Jira, CyberArk, and test tools connect the larger delivery lifecycle into one pipeline.
FlexDeploy supports many commercial tools across a wide variety of technologies, including database, middleware, OIC, E-Business Suite, and other applications running in the cloud or on-premises. The following diagram shows how HNI is using FlexDeploy.
Figure 3: HNI’s architecture on FlexDeploy and OCI
HNI currently runs FlexDeploy on a virtual machine (VM), but the company is considering using Oracle Container Engine for Kubernetes (OKE). FlexDeploy runs on Oracle Enterprise Linuxon OCI and communicates with the OCI and PaaS services using an agentless architecture with both REST APIs and SSH. HNI uses FastConnect for secure and highly performant connectivity between on-premises services and OCI. FlexDeploy runs on Tomcat and uses a file system-based artifact repository. An Oracle database running on OCI is used to store FlexDeploy’s configuration and run information.
FlexDeploy is driven by a browser-based UI, REST APIs, and Webhooks. Integration with source control and other tools across the toolchain are important to HNI, and FlexDeploy uses native integrations to these tools and uses either REST or SSH for communication depending on the technology. FlexDeploy integrates with OCI IAM services to provide a seamless approach to tying FlexDeploy security into HNI’s Oracle-based security services.
HNI uses Oracle E-Business Suite, SOA Suite, and Business Intelligence, all of which run on OCI. Oracle Integration integrates key applications, such as E-Business Suite, ADP, and Salesforce. They also have development, test, and production environments for EBS, SOA/OSB, BI, and OIC. FlexDeploy communicates with the OCI and PaaS services to manage the build, deploy, and release automation activities.
Many organizations with Oracle E-Business Suite need to make customizations to meet their business requirements. Deploying these changes in test and production environments can be tedious, error-prone, and time-consuming because of the nature and complexity of the change process. Additionally, many are using manual approaches to track, manage, and document these customizations, which are resource-intensive and ineffective. For HNI, FlexDeploy streamlines the deployment process of E-Business Suite changes by applying automation, best practices, and DevOps techniques. It allows users more visibility into and control over the change process through controls, automation, and reporting capabilities. FlexDeploy provides options for deploying EBS objects, supports ADOP patching phases for R12.2, provides post-cloning optimizations, supports the EBS upgrade process, and more.
Oracle Integration Cloud (OIC) allows organizations to develop integrations in the cloud. OIC can connect cloud or on-premises applications, though these integrations are maintained directly in the cloud and not in any source code management (SCM) system. FlexDeploy provides build, deploy, release automation and delivery lifecycle management to eliminate the manual deployment process for OIC. FlexDeploy can easily communicate with OIC instances, export and import integrations, and manage any associated connections in a single operation to simplify the integration deployment. So, when OIC is paired with the FlexDeploy DevOps platform, customers get the benefits of OIC for integration, with the benefits of FlexDeploy for automation, control, and visibility to change.
HNI was able to achieve a seamless transition to the cloud and modernize its technology stack using multiple technologies from Oracle and Flexagon at the same time with the following benefits:
- Oracle IAM helps engineers to administer user identities and access to several applications, including E-Business Suite, to provide a simplified user experience through a single sign-on approach.
- With OCI and Oracle Integration Cloud, HNI achieved a 50% reduction in development costs and a 50% improvement in project delivery time resulting in improved time to market.
- With FlexDeploy, HNI reduced deployment time by 60 times and deployment-related errors by 98%, decreased support by two hours a night, eliminated manual tasks, and increased developer productivity by 90%.
HNI continues to optimize processes and technology investments to support an expanding business in a challenging and rapidly shifting market. Plans for their cloud evolution include further using OCI, PaaS, Oracle Integration Cloud, and software-as-a-service (SaaS), while utilizing FlexDeploy’s comprehensive out-of-the-box solution for OCI. As the company focuses on meeting customers’ changing needs, it relies on cloud technologies and partners like Flexagon and Oracle to help achieve those objectives.
For more information about Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and Flexagon, see the following resources: