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IBM cuts down Amazon with cloudy 10-year ShopDirect deal

Retailer's development goes from misty to Blue

Shop Direct Skyways House entrance

IBM has landed a 10-year cloud and services contract with one of the UK’s biggest and most aggressive privately held firms.

Shop Direct, the firm behind Very.co.uk and owner of the Littlewoods brand, will use IBM’s SoftLayer cloud.

Financial terms of the contract were not revealed.

Andy Wolfe, Shop Direct CIO, told The Reg that SoftLayer would help his organisation “easily scale our test and development environment.”

IBM will also provide managed services through its Global Technology Services team and mobile and device support though IBM MobileFirst Protect, with secure access for Apple and Android devices to data and services.

IBM’s client chief innovation officer for strategic outsourcing in Europe called the deal a “significant milestone in the deployment of enterprise cloud and extends IBM’s position as the premier global cloud platform.”

Shop Direct is no stranger to cloud and has run its web platform on Amazon’s AWS to guarantee uptime during extremely peaky online shopping periods like Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas.

Shop Direct will continue with AWS but IBM was helped, it seems, by Wolf committing Shop Direct to being a “multi-cloud environment”. The group also uses Microsoft Office 365 on collaboration.

“We still have quite a lot of legacy platform transformation to do in the IBM-run space – it makes sense for IBM to help us conduct that transformation onto our cloud infrastructure where possible,” Wolfe said.

IBM will also help Shop Direct run its end-user computing environment, from mobile to desktop, too.

“It gives us a big opportunity to simplify and transform our IT whilst maintaining momentum in the commercial arena.”

Shop Direct decided to outsource its web servers to AWS following abysmal uptime and performance achievements on its servers in the busy December 2012 shopping period. Uptime was around 57 per cent. One year after going to AWS, uptime across all Shop Direct sites had hit 99.99 per cent.

The company re-built its entire web front end and core Oracle ATG commerce platform to make it run on AWS.

Shop Direct is a £1.7bn private group owned by the Barclay Brothers. It has invested heavily in IT, spending so heavily that in 2012 the group was pushed into a £46m loss.

Today, Wolfe’s IT operation has ring-fenced its IT budget to spend on new web and device development and on big data to improve shopping online and via mobile devices. ®

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