Woolworths uses Microsoft Azure to prepare Amazon's arrival

By @mik_mapa on
Microsoft
A sign marks the Microsoft office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. January 25, 2017. Reuters/Brian Snyder

Woolworths has decommissioned its in-house technology and shifted to Microsoft Azure as it prepared for Amazon's arrival. The partnership was created to help the grocery giant modernise its back office.

"To cater for the [business'] extensive growth, the team made the decision that rather than continue to host the service internally, we would seek a cloud alternative," Sujeet Rana, Woolworths customer technology general manager, wrote in a statement.

The grocery giant used Azure during the Christmas shopping season and the infrastructure successfully pulled it off. Rana said that Azure's system was able to blend into the background, allowing customers to focus on the shopping experience.

He said that they were confident that the Microsoft cloud technology could handle the daily demands of the giant supermarket. He said that they hoped the cloud would not require them to do direct intervention as they wanted to avoid spending energy keeping the infrastructure running. They wanted to focus on shopping experience.

Rana cited that it was beneficial for the company to use cloud for shopping experience. The Microsoft infrastructure could automatically be scaled up as the number of customers logging on increased. Rana admitted that Azure could provide such feature, which was impossible to happen with the grocery chain's previous in-house infrastructure.

“[Infrastructure is] not the area that provides us with our competitive advantage. By using Microsoft’s Azure infrastructure and tools, more of our teams’ energy and time can be focused on the areas that do – whether they be the application layer, system performance or user experience,” Rana said.

Rana said that the grocery giant has started using Azure apps and services. Azure SQL, traffic management, AppInsights, Application Service EnvironmentVMs and Blob were among the apps and services.

“Azure also allows us to take a genuine DevOps approach to innovation so we can do true blue/green deployments thanks to the platforms active/active setup. It lays the foundation for our A/B testing so we can do live comparisons of different service iterations and provides far easier rollback options,” Rana said.

Woolworths' merchandising activities relied on a SAP system. The grocery giant has 500 major applications supporting 25,000 point-of-sale units, 11,000 back-office workstations and 7,000 self-service checkouts. It has 6,500 servers that supported its applications, 3,200 in-store servers and 250 distribution centres' servers.

Amazon planned to enter Australia through its supermarket AmazonFresh. The supermarket would launch fresh food catalogue offering eggs, dairy, meat fruits and vegetables. Customers could also buy beauty products and cleaning supplies. Customers may use buying options via app, in-store kiosk or drive-thru lanes. 

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