VMware offers retailers a modern IT infrastructure—from warehouse to checkout—in the cloud and at the Edge. This allows edge computing to be implemented from one node. Application modernisation in the Kubernetes world also works with VMware expertise, thanks to Tanzu Labs.
Author: Dr. Ralf Plötzke – Business Solution Architect VMware
As a partner for large retail groups, VMware supports retailers with provisioning the right IT infrastructure, with digitalisation projects for application modernisation, and by creating an optimal omnichannel customer experience. Whether implementing a warehouse or store solution, reliable and accurate supply chain tracking, or cutting-edge store solutions ranging from cashier-less stores to pick-up stores – VMware can deliver and implement the right solutions for the technological challenges.
When VMware sits down with a retail company, the most important prerequisite is to understand the needs of the customer and of the people who shop there. After all, every retail company has a different store structure, different technical requirements, and must take into account the respective ecosystem of its service providers and suppliers. Key questions that must be clarified in advance include the required security and the degree of resilience that a company can afford. In addition, there is the question of the required redundancy and, last but not least, possible security gaps and vulnerabilities. In addition to loT devices, mobile devices, handhelds, and scanners are now used in almost all cases and must be reliably safeguarded.
Taking micro-segmentation and security to the edge
In a security context, VMware can offer comprehensive solutions with intrinsic security and micro-segmentation (https://www.vmware.com/topics/glossary/content/micro-segmentation.html). This enables the company to secure each element separately with the level of security required in each case – a decisive unique selling point. VMware also has the necessary expertise to provide reliable and failsafe protection for critical infrastructures, which are particularly prevalent in the food trade.
A further unique selling point are the security solutions at the edge (https://blogs.vmware.com/emea/en/2021/10/the-edge-in-retail-powering-new-in-store-experiences/). These currently represent a major challenge for many companies, as basic security must of course also be in place at the edge. In general, the typical and current needs of a retail customer can be found specifically at the edge – regardless of whether it is a warehouse system, a store solution, a cashier-less store, or a kiosk system. Kubernetes (https://tanzu.vmware.com/content/blog-tag-kubernetes) has also become an important topic for many retail companies, especially for future applications that the customer develops themselves or outsources. This is where VMware’s many years of experience come into play, as many retail groups have relied on software solutions in a virtualisation context for many years. The Kubernetes level is therefore typically “merely” added on top.
VMware can provide both the IT infrastructure and Kubernetes solutions of different dimensions – from one node up to data center size. In the retail sector in particular, however, three to four nodes, which must be redundantly designed, are usually the norm. The bandwidth of possible IT infrastructure solutions depends of course also on the degree of cloud readiness of the retail company. Many customers now opt for a complete cloud infrastructure with one of the hyperscalers, a private cloud, or a mix of both, which ensures maximum availability. This is another area where VMware can deliver the right solutions and manage the entire migration.
Application modernisation, app development, and automation
One of VMware’s unique selling points is Tanzu Labs, which is available to retail partners as an important, proven element of VMware’s consulting services. Using individual specifications, the company decides whether to keep one application, merge multiple applications functionally, or build them from scratch in Kubernetes, for example. Here, VMware can also enable the customer to develop the associated featured apps.
An advanced, often cloud-driven IT—whether in a private, public, or hybrid cloud—can prove worthwhile for retailers for yet another reason. After all, IT complexity continues to increase, and it is precisely this part of day-to-day business that can be easily automated. This applies, for example, to regular adjustments in pricing, digital price labeling at the shelf, and also importing updates.
Rolling out the structures for a new store is also a rewarding task that can be highly automated – precisely because a large number of tasks have to be created and processed according to predefined patterns. Here, VMware can also work with conventional manufacturers on the hardware side, handling onboarding either automatically and remotely or through an on-site service provider if the internet connection is less stable and powerful. Whereas it used to take several days to onboard a site, this is now much easier with the help of the workflows described. Speaking of difficult network connections: With the help of SD-WAN (https://www.vmware.com/topics/glossary/content/sd-wan.html) even sites with less than ideal network connections can achieve connectivity stabilisation – a scenario with which we have been able to stabilise many stores, warehouses, and other external locations. An SD-WAN can route all network file traffic between data centers, branch offices, and the cloud more effectively than conventional WAN routers.
Tracking supply chains reliably
IoT applications are playing an increasingly important role in retail, for example in warehousing and the associated track & trace intralogistics applications. Sensors and IoT devices are also used to monitor the temperature of goods, count customers in stores, and similar featured apps. These are often equipped with edge technology and therefore only pass on relevant data to the cloud.
Supply chain issues, as required by new supply chain legislation, should also be considered. These can often be easily mapped with the help of the blockchain. Even if the retail sector is still mostly in the trial phase here, one can already foresee that the entire supply chain, including questions of origin for food, can be effectively covered in this way. Issues such as a nondisruptive cold chain for food can be addressed with the appropriate tools, as can the origin and production conditions of clothing. Even if the scenarios and associated requirements differ, the blockchain (https://www.vmware.com/products/blockchain.html) enables all the necessary logging and a reliable and immutable traceability.
Solutions from Cloud to Edge – including the future
VMware is a strong IT partner for retail groups, providing optimal IT infrastructures at the edge and in the cloud. The VMware stack can be operated on hyperscalers from Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure to Oracle and AWS, but also works for multi-cloud strategies in combination with the legacy data center. In this way, retail companies can be sure that the doors for all conceivable application fields and applications will remain open to them in the future. In the case of edge infrastructures, it is irrelevant whether there is just a single node or several. The decisive factor is the comprehensive approach that VMware can offer beyond simply making the infrastructure available.