Best Buy Planned Outages Due To Its Move To The Cloud

Written by Frank Hayes and Evan Schuman
April 11th, 2012

The abrupt departure of Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn on Tuesday (April 10), because of his “personal conduct,” overshadowed something much more interesting that surfaced this week: According to at least one analyst, the reason for Best Buy’s recent series of planned outages—one on March 28, another on April 8—is that the now-CEO-less retailer is moving its E-Commerce operations to the cloud.

The cloud move, like last fall’s quadrupling of the number of Best Buy IT project managers, is an effort to control IT costs without rolling back IT initiatives—absolutely critical in the face of Dunn’s inability to stem the chain’s loss of sales to Amazon. Amazon, ironically, is among those that Best Buy is writing checks to for its cloud efforts.

Forrester E-Commerce Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said the outages were to accommodate a “major cloud migration.” Mulpuru also said that Best Buy officials told her the chain was “hitting a wall” in regards to “their ability to process orders.”

(Related story: Best Buy’s Last Hope: A Radical Reversal On Customer Service And Credibility)

Unlike most chains, Best Buy has developed a fairly advanced IT governance system for cloud projects, which it created after Best Buy software developers had been using the cloud on their own for several years. With governance in place and years of cloud experience under IT’s belt, shifting the E-Commerce site out of the datacenter is still a major effort, but it’s no longer a Herculean task.

In December 2011, Thomas Kelly, Best Buy’s enterprise architect for cloud services, described the chain’s plans for cloud deployment and its plans to use Amazon’s cloud offerings.

“We laid down the requirements for a core repository, an ETL2 dataview, mandates for atomic service development. We brought in a really powerhouse gateway with L7. We selectively take advantage of pretty much all of the Amazon data services, for example,” Kelly said at the time. “We run an L2-backed EMS bus to our back-end datacenter, so our cloud is actually now becoming a hybrid cloud where we’re directly connected for localization to our back-end bus.”

Kelly also laid out the case for moving to the cloud. “We are legitimately in a situation where we can be doing as much as 10 to 15 times the amount of volume on our data systems in November than we are in the middle of the summertime,” he said. “We were always building out to Black Friday. However, Black Friday is one day a year, and you have to pay for software and hardware and everything else all year long.”

Despite the irony of using an Amazon service to more effectively fight Amazon, the move makes a lot of sense.


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