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Cloudy with a chance of retail

Thursday 30 June, 2011

Cloudy with a chance of retail

At our recent client conference in Stratford-upon-Avon, the session on "Retail in the cloud – on-demand Point of Sale (POS)" attracted a lot of interest. Hosts Tim Johnson of Crabtree & Evelyn and BT Expedite CTO Steve Thomas reflected on the recent successful POS implementation across the retailer's store estate – the first to be deployed on BT's retail hardened Virtual Data Centre cloud platform...

The session kicked off with Steve describing the benefits a business typically sees when re-platforming a traditionally hosted enterprise solution into the cloud. Most of the audience recognised the obvious benefits around agility and resilience. But participants in the room showed particular interest in the utility-based model of scaling and charging based on demand. In the current economic climate, the cloud-based model of OPEX as opposed to CAPEX becomes more and more compelling.

A lively debate ensued, with most of the questions about the differences between traditional cloud and the BT virtual data centre (VDC) platform, and how the new BTE application stack makes a difference.


Infrastructure as a service

Steve described why combining Store, Audit Operations Management (AOM) and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) together as part of the standard offering makes the VDC POS offering more resilient, supportable and relevant to multichannel retailers. He also described the investment being made in BT Expedite's new end-to-end process monitoring suite (EAM) and how this, in conjunction with a host of in-built retail relevant features in the VDC platform, is resulting in a far more repeatable, function-rich and supportable solution.

Steve also revealed that BT Expedite is currently investing in re-architecting the full suite of solutions around an enterprise service bus (ESB) middleware layer and moving them all into the BT cloud. Almost all new customers now expect this as a given and the standard deployment pattern going forward for BT Expedite will be a VDC based infrastructure as a service offering.


Handing over ownership – keeping control

Tim then took to the floor and talked enthusiastically about Crabtree & Evelyn's experience of rolling out the new solution. As well as software and services, the project included VDC infrastructure as a service, a new BT MPLS network and BT Expedite's new managed service payment gateway. He said the initial driver for the new solution was the PCI compliant managed payment offering, and went on to describe how, once he understood the benefits of handing over all ownership of payment to BT Expedite, it was only a small step to see the benefits of handing over all infrastructure in the same way.

Tim described the managed service offering with BT Expedite running the infrastructure, the network and the in-life software and service , leaving him and the Crabtree & Evelyn leadership team to focus on retailing and driving new innovation into stores.

He stressed that one of the main advantages was the fact that, if there was an issue with the system – regardless of whether it's software, hardware or network – the stores have one number to call. This makes support very simple, and the fact that BT Expedite takes ownership for every part of the system means that any on-going questions and support issues are dealt with quickly and efficiently.

With the store rollout completed on time and to budget, Tim felt that the VDC infrastructure as a service platform helped make the initial deployment quicker, more cost-effective and gave Crabtree & Evelyn great scope to expand in the future.

All in all, it was a very successful breakout session. It certainly raised questions among those who attended about the relevance of cloud solutions to their own businesses. And how BT Expedite's next generation of solutions and services, in combination with its retail-hardened Infrastructure as a Service, can deliver real benefits.

For more information on our Store solutions, visit or call 0870 850 6880.

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