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The retail industry has changed profoundly over the past decade. Retailers are no longer measured merely by the merchandise they sell, but also by how well they can meet the emerging habits of the online shopper. Consumers expect to have a seamless shopping experience that is available 24/7 across channels, all the way from the mobile application until the product reaches their home.
As a result, retailers are under mounting pressure to evolve with changing demand, constantly coming up with new features and technologies. In this new digital reality, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the cloud offers retailers capabilities that are essential to thrive in the market.
This blog addresses the challenges retail companies face on their path to the cloud, and details how NetApp® Cloud Volumes ONTAP can help overcome these challenges by looking at several retail success stories.
Retail Challenges in the Cloud
Because of the nature of their business, retailers are charged with storing, maintaining, and making efficient use of a massive amounts of information. This includes customer behavior and preferences, financial transactions, inventory, graphics, and videos. Storing data on-premises is an option, but it is expensive, requires maintenance, and makes it difficult for companies to scale.
In today’s fiercely competitive retail industry, retailers must do everything in their power to protect their bottom line. One of the ways they are doing this is by following the growing trend for enterprise workloads to be located in the cloud. In 2017, Forrester reported that one-fifth of retailers had moved their core business applications to the cloud, and the industry as a whole was expected to spend over $10 billion on cloud services in 2018.
The cloud frees retailers from the constraints of their physical and geographical environments, providing infrastructure that can easily scale up and down to meet company needs, and also provide the insights needed to analyze important metrics, such as customer buying behavior, to drive innovation even further. But while many retailers recognize the immense business value of migrating to the cloud, doing so in practice still raises quite a few challenges.
Although cloud migration benefits offer retailers the opportunity to cut their in-house storage costs significantly, merely migrating to the cloud is not enough. Retailers must learn how to make the best use of these resources if they are to prevent costs from racking up nonetheless. For example, data archiving needs to be done using the appropriate cloud storage type.
Besides initial migration to the cloud, which can be costly, data transfer costs can pile up dangerously during peak activity such as weekends and holidays. The advantage of the cloud is that if managed properly, it allows retailers to scale and provision storage resources as needed. So, companies that dynamically use their resources to reflect the rise and fall in customer demand for example, can hugely benefit from the pay-as-you-go cloud vendor subscription model.
Retailers are also expected to deliver a seamless around-the-clock customer experience across all channels. This requires a hybrid solution that creates a single data fabric between on-premises and multiple cloud vendors. Having one unified and highly available data sharing solution is important, not just for the end-customer but for business optimization. For instance, integrating real-time inventory and order processing data are crucial to restock inventory efficiently, and this requires a solution that can analyze data from disparate sources.
Finally, like many other enterprises, it is crucial for retailers to protect their data from security breaches as well as data loss. Retailers are privy to lots of sensitive information, and even after moving to the cloud, they must still ensure that their data is secure. With the introduction of GDPR and similar regulations worldwide, retailers are subject to fines and governmental scrutiny more than ever before. In addition, retailers must have a sturdy backup and disaster recovery plan, because any form of data loss or downtime can be hugely damaging to the company, costing it millions of dollars.
Retail Success Stories with Cloud Volumes ONTAP
Cloud Volumes ONTAP is a multicloud storage management solution delivered seamlessly across on-premises data centers and public cloud vendors, including AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. In this section we look at four retail companies that reaped many benefits in subscribing to Cloud Volumes ONTAP.
Officeworks: Boosting Storage Efficiency and More
Officeworks, a prominent Australian-based office supplies retailer employs over 7000 team members and manages more than 160 retail stores. In 2016, Officeworks decided to break away from its legacy environment and refresh its cloud strategy, using its AWS resources more efficiently. It chose Cloud Volumes ONTAP for the job.
Cloud Volumes ONTAP enabled Officeworks to easily lift its on-premises data into AWS. This included 50 million files that are accessed through CIFS, SMB and NFS through Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s file sharing features. Officeworks also moved its DR and dev/test data to ONTAP instances.
In addition, Officeworks uses Cloud Volumes ONTAP’s data tiering feature to automatically transfer infrequently used data to lower-cost Amazon S3 storage, and to move data back to AWS EBS performance tiers as needed. In this way, Officeworks enjoys a thin layer of high performing storage, backed by a broader lower-cost tier of cold data.
This saved the company from having to buy additional on-site storage just for cold data. In fact, by migrating to the cloud Officeworks no longer need worry about running out of space on-premises and can scale or downsize its resources as needed, boosting performance and reducing costs. Officeworks also leverages FlexClone® data cloning capabilities to test and develop new features.
Multinational Fashion Retailer: Increasing Online Presence with the Cloud
One Cloud Volumes ONTAP user is a global fashion retail company with multiple successful clothing brands. It operates through over 3000 stores in more than 90 countries worldwide. The multinational retailer turned to NetApp to help them adopt a cloud-first strategy, increasing their online business through e-commerce sites for each of their clothing brands.
Since the company views itself as a competitor of Amazon, AWS’s parent company, it chose Azure as its cloud provider with Cloud Volumes ONTAP for data management. With NetApp Cloud Manager, the company can now orchestrate its data flexibly across hybrid environments, integrating with its on-premises environment, to provide a simple, seamless experience for its customers across all of its various brands and online offerings.
Online Clothing Retailer: Database Workloads and Disaster Recovery
This Cloud Volumes ONTAP user is a fashion and cosmetics retailer with over 3500 employees. It sells its own line of clothing and accessories together with 850+ brands which it ships all over the globe. The company first turned to NetApp to adopt a cloud-only strategy in search of a storage platform for its mission-critical Retail stack.
The company implemented NetApp’s solution, and has since reaped significant benefits. Cloud Volumes ONTAP disaster recovery (DR) capabilities are applied to the multinational retailer’s local as well as full regional failure scenarios. Setting up a DR copy with Cloud Volumes ONTAP is quick and easy. The replication process is extremely fast and cost-efficient, leveraging NetApp Snapshot™ technology to replicate data from the primary dataset to the cloud-based copy, syncing them incrementally.
The company’s storage costs were lowered even more due to the fact that Cloud Volumes ONTAP deduplicates and compresses the data before it is transferred. And the company has gained superior manageability of its data through NetApp Cloud Manager which provides visibility, monitoring, and management capabilities across storage systems on-premises and in the cloud, reducing complex tasks to a few mouse clicks.
International Retail Giant: Cloud Migration with a Hybrid Cloud Strategy
One of the highest generators of revenue worldwide, this multinational retail corporation operates a chain of department stores, grocery stores and hypermarkets, with over two million employees. The retailer giant was looking for a solution that could support its hybrid cloud strategy, supporting its choice of cloud providers: Azure and Google Cloud. In addition, it needed a DR solution in Azure for its SAP HANA data.
Cloud Volumes ONTAP enabled the company to migrate its workloads to the cloud, successfully replicating its HANA data and restore services in Azure. With NetApp SnapMirror® data replication technology, the company could efficiently and reliably replicate its data and migrate it from their on-premises data centers to Azure. The same technology also allowed the retailer to set up a seamless and automatic DR solution.
Retailers are beginning to recognize the importance of migrating to the cloud in order to survive in an industry governed by the online shopper. Moving operations to the cloud is no trivial matter, and retailers must address challenges that span security, technology adoption, and storage costs.
As we’ve seen in these retail success stories, Cloud Volumes ONTAP alleviates many of these burdens, offering an array of tools such as storage efficiencies, easy migration, and a simplified interface to manage intricate multi-cloud storage infrastructures.