Woolworths sees future in hybrid cloud

The supermarket chain has initiated a private cloud project dubbed ‘Storm Front’

Woolworths is using converged infrastructure as the foundation of a transition to private cloud, but the the ultimate destination will be a hybrid setup that leverages multiple public clouds, the supermarket chain’s infrastructure chief, Matt Chamley, today told the Sydney leg of EMC Forum 2014.

Hybrid cloud will be based on private infrastructure and multiple public cloud providers, with a zoning construct developed by the IT team profiling the needs of discrete existing workloads.

“We’ve defined zones based on how we would host those workloads,” Chamley told the conference.

“So we have the internal zone zero, which is the existing mess of our network. Zone one would be our internal private cloud. And as we scale out we go into different zones for domestic-based virtual data centres, domestic-based bespoke environments, international VDCs, international bespoke environments and then software-as-a-service type offerings.

“And understanding those characteristics, we’ve actually gone through our enterprise applications and identified candidacy for each of those zones.”

For Woolworths, cloud can deliver increased agility as the supermarket giant competes with much smaller but fast-moving Internet-native retailers. The challenge is to “turn the oil tanker into a speedboat,” Chamley said.

“Ultimately for us the challenge of resolving today’s issues is all about cloud adoption... ultimately the cloud for us though is about extracting the value proposition of converged infrastructure to the next level where we truly are above the technology and looking at the value of services.”

“To do this we’ve initiated an internal project called Storm Front, and Storm Front is our first stepping stone into a true private cloud infrastructure,” Chamley said.

The key infrastructure component for this is Vblock converged infrastructure from VCE, Chamley said. VCE is a joint venture between EMC, VMware (owned by EMC) and Cisco.

Woolworths has deployed two Vblock 720 systems across two data centres. The use of converged infrastructure has vastly simplified capacity planning and patch management, Chamley said.

Woolworths’ “Frankenstein-like” legacy environment comprised HP Proliant servers, and EMC DMX and Clariion storage arrays.

The switch to converged infrastructure has cut capacity provisioning time from 6+ months to 6-7 weeks, Chamley said.

Software-defined networking will be another important part of Woolworths’ private cloud efforts, the infrastructure manager said.

Read more: Telstra reveals private cloud offering

“We’re evaluating a couple of options at the moment but at this stage we’re really intrigued by the Cisco ACI [Application Centric Infrastructure] story,” Chamley said.

The supermarket chain has upgraded to ACI-ready switches and is looking at deploying Cisco’s Application Virtual Switch.

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