When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the retail industry quickly realized it would have to pivot to digital sales to survive. E-commerce software provider Radial found itself in high demand as its customers moved their retail businesses online.
Radial is not alone. When brick-and-mortar businesses shut their doors during the March 2020 lockdowns, e-commerce skyrocketed. Total e-commerce sales for 2020 reached about $791.7 billion, an increase of 32.4% from 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Research firm Digital Commerce 360 shared even higher e-commerce figures, estimating that consumers spent $861 billion online with U.S. merchants in 2020, a 44% increase --"the highest annual U.S. e-commerce growth in at least two decades."
Radial, a Bpost-owned company based in King of Prussia, Pa., saw a surge in orders for its e-commerce services at the start of the lockdowns. The company provides omnichannel e-commerce technology, such as order management, payment processing, order routing, fulfillment and analytics services. The company also offers outsourced call center services and cloud-based business continuity services for its retailer customers.
To keep up with demand, Radial tapped Presidio, an MSP based in New York City, in the fall of 2020. Presido was tasked with migrating Radial's on-premises VMware Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment to the cloud, according to Richard Quinney, director of infrastructure services at Radial. Presidio already provided networking, security and infrastructure services to Radial prior to the VDI assessment.
Radial wanted to "introduce more scalability and business continuity into its existing environment" for its call centers, Quinney said. The e-commerce firm needed the ability to expand and ensure business resiliency during peak retail seasons, he added.
Radial also needed a rapid migration turnaround: It wanted to be up and running by Nov. 1, in anticipation of Black Friday, to support call center agents working from home, Quinney said.
Deploying VMware Cloud on AWS
To execute the project, Presidio deployed Horizon on VMware Cloud on AWS, a hybrid cloud service for virtual desktops and applications. Radial also opted to build out two software-defined data centers to boost business continuity, which Presidio handled.
Richard QuinneyDirector of infrastructure services, Radial
"We have a very large presence of agents, and we wouldn't have been able to do [on-demand scaling] as fast as we did without the cloud service," Quinney said.
Radial would have previously had to buy and deploy new hardware for additional compute need, a time-consuming proposition. In addition, the pandemic's adverse effect on supply chains and manufacturers, which made it difficult to acquire hardware, would have complicated this approach.
"Now, we are running AWS on the East and West coasts, and that provides scale," Quinney said. "[This is] very financially attractive to companies such as ours, because you can build a certain amount of infrastructure and pay for that, but then you can scale up as needed. … If we're not using it, we're not paying for it."
Robert Kim, vice president of Presidio Digital, in the office of the CTO, said Presidio was one of two MSPs to beta test VMware's early adopter subscription initiative on AWS, which launched at VMworld in 2018. The MSP provided input into which operational services made sense to include as part of the cloud offering, as well as how to provide the consumption model, subscriptions and licenses, Kim said.
"VMware Cloud on AWS is more of a managed services cloud delivery model, so clients no longer have the administrative burden of managing the virtualization platform layer," Kim noted.
Although the migration went smoothly, modernizing Radial's customer care platform on the existing on-premises Horizon VDI environment took time and required remediation work. This was because Radial used an older version of Horizon, Kim said. Presidio officials worked on multiple aspects of the migration at a time to speed things along.
As with any enterprise cloud deployment, complexity comes down to figuring out how to provide secure, managed and flexible connectivity from a client site into various cloud hyperscalers, Kim said.
Generally, the workloads suitable for VMware Cloud on AWS are those that are suitable for virtual machines, Kim said. This will vary by client, and it depends on what they put into the cloud.
"[VMware Cloud] makes the most sense where you want to maintain the same VMware-based operations and VMware toolsets," Kim said. Ideal uses include expanding a hybrid data center into a hyperscaler like AWS, consolidating regional data centers, and supporting container orchestration and disaster recovery as a service, he said.
Radial's move to the cloud has been a game-changer, Quinney added. "I sleep at night knowing I have total redundancy and the scalability I need to support my business," he said.