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Enhancing the Online Shopping Experience: A Q&A with Victoria Livschitz of Grid Dynamics

With some of the busiest shopping days of the year behind us, now is the time for retailers to pause for a moment to evaluate what worked, and to consider new online strategies and technologies for the 2016 shopping season.

We don’t yet have numbers for 2015, but in 2014, holiday season retail e-commerce spending in the United States amounted to 53.3 billion U.S. dollars with the most money being spent online on Cyber Monday.

Fujitsu is working with Grid Dynamics to deliver an Oracle Commerce Platform as a fully-managed cloud service. I had a chance to sit down with Victoria Livschitz, Executive Vice President of Grid Dynamics, and ask her a few questions during our preparations for the upcoming National Retail Federation (#nrf16) show in New York City, January 17-19, 2016.

How is digital commerce changing – what new challenges can we expect in 2016 and beyond?

Victoria Livschitz, Executive Vice President, Founder, CTO of Grid Dynamics
Victoria Livschitz, Executive Vice President, Founder, CTO of Grid Dynamics

Victoria: Digitalization of retail continues to grow rapidly and affects every facet of retail operations. Whether it be online user experience and virtual showrooms, or in-store navigation, digitalization offers personalization, dynamic pricing, inventory management, warehouse logistics and supply chain optimization. The volumes of data collected, stored and analyzed are exploding, and smart algorithms are both empowering people to take action and augmenting critical business decisions. Cycle times for new digital capabilities also keep accelerating, with agile software development and infrastructure automation expected to deliver faster, more incremental innovation and higher ROI.

This means that investments in digital technologies will continue to grow in 2016 and beyond and fuel the demand for scalable and secure platforms, Big Data, applications and infrastructure. Not surprisingly, cloud solutions continue to gain momentum and win mindshare over traditional on-premise systems.

What problem does the Fujitsu/Grid Dynamics solution solve for retailers?

Victoria: Fujitsu and Grid Dynamics together have done the hard work of putting together a fully-integrated, best-of-breed digital commerce platform optimized for both flexible on-demand consumption of resources and bulletproof peak performance during holiday traffic, delivered as a managed cloud service.

We started by taking Oracle Commerce Platform software, the leading on-premise digital commerce for large retailers, and turned it into a highly-optimized cloud service. We chose the powerful Fujitsu M10 servers to host dedicated and secure Oracle databases in state-of-the-art datacenters. We put the rest of the workloads on Amazon Web Services (AWS), creating a high-performance hybrid cloud. The datacenter and the cloud are connected by fat fiber optic pipes for low-latency processing.

Next, we pre-configured a complete set of development, test, certification and production environments, effectively creating a complete release pipeline that can rapidly and seamlessly push code changes from developers to production on a continuous basis. The environments are instrumented with monitoring tools and integrate with a customer’s internal source code and binary artifact repositories.

Development and test environments can be spun up quickly, easily upgraded, or scaled on-demand and torn down after use by the customer’s development staff via a self-service portal built with Grid Dynamics’ industry-leading DevOps platform, Tonomi.

This new solution from Fujitsu and Grid Dynamics comes with 24×7 support, developer helpdesk and industry-leading SLAs. In addition to pre-defined system configurations, the solution can be customized, extended and integrated with a customer’s proprietary systems with professional services.

How is this solution different from alternatives?  What distinct advantages does this platform offer?

Victoria: Today, the market for low-end commerce platforms is dominated by Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) players. Unfortunately, this is not true for the high end of the market. Pure cloud commerce platform offerings have not yet matured to meet the vital extensibility and power requirements of Tier-1 retailers, and the choices remain very limited. Large retailers must choose between deploying mature Oracle commerce software in a traditional on-premise implementation or subscribe to unproven and often incomplete pure cloud commerce offerings which drive up the cost and risks while locking the customers in to a single vendor for application, infrastructure, datacenter and managed services. Most customers are unwilling to make such a move at this time and are strategically looking for an open architecture and best-of-breed integrated solution.

Fujitsu and Grid Dynamics have designed the most compelling hybrid cloud offering of its kind, based on a combination of factors such as cost, performance, time-to-market, convenience and extensibility.

What are the reasons you chose the Fujitsu M10 platform?

Victoria: Retailers require exceptionally high SLAs on performance and reliability of their infrastructure during peak events, such as Black Friday or Cyber Monday. Even a slight degradation in performance can turn away customers at the most critical times. Cloud systems these days are very good at handling many kinds of workloads, with one notable exception – they are not suitable for running high-performance Oracle databases.

Fujitsu M10 servers with the SPARC/Solaris architecture are simply the best all-around machines to run Oracle Database workloads. From SPARC64 X+ processors with Software-on-Chip capabilities and high performance memory architecture to the Oracle Solaris operating system, Fujitsu M10 delivers the highest reliability and price/performance benefits with the flexible growth capabilities that e-commerce platforms require.

What advice do you have for retailers looking to grow their e-commerce platform?

Victoria: It is time to go to the cloud to get the best in flexibility, agility, time-to-market, cost and performance. But don’t do this alone if you don’t have the skill sets, blueprints and best practices for managing mission-critical digital processing on the cloud. Fujitsu and Grid Dynamics are the perfect partners to help you get there.

Connect with Connected Retail. It’s an exciting new world for retailers and the future of digital innovation looks promising.  Find more details on the new Cloud Commerce Platform here. Come test drive the new solution live at Retail’s BIG Show 2016: NRF 2016 17-19 January, Jacob Javits Center, NYC, in the Fujitsu booth (#3805).

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    devops online training
    September 15, 2016

    Thanks for sharing this- good stuff! Keep up the great work, we look forward to reading more from you in the future!

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