Here is the latest article in an eWEEK feature series called IT Science, in which we look at what actually happens at the intersection of new-gen IT and legacy systems.
Unless it’s brand new and right off various assembly lines, servers, storage and networking inside every IT system can be considered “legacy.” This is because the iteration of both hardware and software products is speeding up all the time. It’s not unusual for an app-maker, for example, to update and/or patch for security purposes an application a few times a month, or even a week. Some apps are updated daily! Hardware moves a little slower, but manufacturing cycles are also speeding up.
These articles describe new-gen industry solutions. The idea is to look at real-world examples of how new-gen IT products and services are making a difference in production each day. Most of them are success stories, but there will also be others about projects that blew up. We’ll have IT integrators, system consultants, analysts and other experts helping us with these as needed.
Today’s Topic: Improving Customer Service with Better Data
Name the problem to be solved: As an international clothing brand located in 100 countries with 500 retail stores and more than 4,000 employees, Desigual understands that making a concerted and continual effort to improve customer experience directly impacts the bottom line. After closely evaluating sales data, Desigual uncovered that in-store sales suffered from a lack of information online on product availability or alternative options.
For example, if a potential customer was browsing the website and opted to visit a brick-and-mortar location, there was no guarantee the garment or size would be in stock.
To prevent losing these potential customers, Desigual came to the consensus that an assisted-shopping application would most effectively support consumers and store associates. Mathias Kriegel, IT operations lead and cloud architect at Desigual, and his colleague Joan Anton Sances, software architecture coordinator, were tasked with leading the effort to improve the in-store experience and optimize sales opportunities.
Describe the strategy that went into finding a solution: Desigual had a five-month runway to deliver an assisted-shopping application and one additional month to roll it out. Already up against the clock, the team tackling the project consisted of only 12 technical engineers with the responsibility to deliver:
- a digital enterprise service bus connecting the assisted shopping application with existing enterprise systems like catalogue, stock and pricing;
- a stock-In-store service to allow users to check item availability; and
- a notify-me service that notifies users when a product was restocked.
The decision was made to start from scratch on their infrastructure with microservices and containers. By taking this approach, they would be freed from the limitations of their existing systems. Since containers were new for most of the team, simplicity and enterprise-grade support were key.
Additionally, Desigual needed a platform that could support both its back-end Java applications and .NET plugins for point-of-sale applications. They determined a container platform would be best suited to address these requirements.
List the key components in the solution: After evaluating potential solutions on the market, Desigual landed on the Docker Enterprise container platform because it aligned most with the problems they were trying to solve. Desigual’s checklist included a simplified, multi-orchestrator (Swarm and Kubernetes) experience, .NET and Java support, and integrated security. In addition, they needed the platform to integrate with both VMware and AWS as part of their hybrid-cloud model. Docker Enterprise met these requirements by providing the freedom of choice, ease of use and security needed to improve the customer experience.
Desigual can containerize and deploy applications anywhere with the Docker container platform-- whether Windows or Linux; legacy or greenfield; on-premises or hybrid cloud environments. The simplicity of Docker Enterprise also means the IT operations teams at Desigual do not need prior Kubernetes experience, allowing them to take advantage of what both Swarm and Kubernetes have to offer.
Describe how the deployment went, how long it took, and if it came off as planned: In six short months, Desigual created a brand new digital shopping assistant app for its stores. With the flexibility and interoperability of Docker Enterprise, Desigual was able to plan, develop and deploy the new assisted-shopping application in such a short timeframe. The digital shopping assistant was initially deployed at more than 100 stores and is being rolled out to all of Desigual’s 500-plus clothing stores worldwide in the coming months.
Describe the result, new efficiencies gained, and what was learned from the project: As part of the initiative, Desigual shifted software development to a DevOps mentality. Now updates can be rolled out faster, new software can be delivered more rapidly, and reliability is less of a concern--even with a sophisticated technology stack that includes TIBCO enterprise software, Java, .NET and Android mobile components.
With Docker Enterprise, Desigual has experienced:
- faster time-to-market: Deploying apps and services in less than a day compared to what used to take weeks or months;
- increased agility: Scaling up very quickly during peak periods and standing up new services in other stores/regions; and
- improved security: creating a secure and reliable software pipeline--where images are scanned and verified at each step of the application lifecycle to prevent untrusted content from being deployed into production.
Describe ROI, carbon footprint savings, and staff time savings, if any: The shopping assistant app has also proven to drive immediate ROI. Desigual has been able to benefit from OpEx and CapEx savings, including infrastructure consolidation and efficiencies made possible by how Docker Enterprise helps manage infrastructure.
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