It was a warm
summer evening in Brussels…
Stijn Stabel was at a barbecue with friends, when he got the call.
The data center was in crisis…
overheating was imminent.
Stijn left the party to join his team…
to flood the cooling systems with water.
What happens when disaster derails IT modernization?
As told by: Stijn Stabel, Chief Technology Officer, Carrefour Belgium
In partnership with: Tjorven Behiels, Senior Client Partner Executive, Kyndryl
It was in that moment, I realized we could no longer trust this data center with our entire operations.
An Ironman triathlete with a passion for integrating the data of emerging technologies like AI and IoT with essential legacy systems, Stijn has the air of someone accustomed to handling the unexpected with ease. And he's the first to admit that the team has navigated its fair share of challenges and uncertainty.
The data center was failing on all levels.
"We started this journey in 2019, with the rollout of the digital roadmap," says Stijn. "The plan was to move out of our data centers in the basement of our headquarters in Brussels."
The on-premises system was outdated and lacked the elasticity needed to respond to shifts in demand.
"The data center was failing on all levels," he continued.
These are the war stories of a company in transformation.
Every day, it seemed IT was managing issues and escalations. The risk to the business was real. A temporary outage would certainly impact customer experiences, potentially resulting in incorrect charges or delayed checkout. A complete failure would mean closing some stores altogether.
Plans were underway to migrate core systems to Google Cloud Platform, but the effort would take time. Even with the weekend crisis averted, time was something Stijn felt they no longer had.
"We needed a new plan. One where we could stay home on the weekend and not have to worry about the weather or the temperature in our data center," said Stijn.
"These are the war stories of a company in transformation," said Stijn.
Charting a course towards IT modernization
"For us, the goal is to create a delightful experience for our customers," says Stijn. "To do that, we have to digitize and enable integration across channels and with our partners."
For Stijn and Carrefour Belgium Chief Information Officer (CIO) Olivier Luxon, the most realistic solution was an interim environment that could help them take the next steps towards IT modernization. They needed a mature and secure cloud data center where they could quickly lift-and-shift core workloads for immediate scalability. Then, they could strategically re-platform machines to Google Cloud Platform.
In Olivier's mind, they only had two options: build the interim environment themselves or find a trusted partner to take on the challenge.
"We could redo everything ourselves, but that's not our business," said Oliver. "We aren't data center guys. We have other things to do for our customers."
Turning to Kyndryl was an easy choice, according to Stijn.
"Kyndryl had been serving us for several years. They had all the experience with our systems... We were happy. And why change a winning team, right?"
Laying the foundation for better customer experiences
Together, Stijn, Olivier and the Kyndryl team mapped out a plan to migrate core systems to the Kyndryl Tier 3+ Hybrid Cloud Data Center in southern Belgium. They completed the work in record time, migrating 100% of on-premises systems without downtime or disruptions to business operations.
In parallel, the team identified an opportunity to help modernize store operations by efficiently moving store systems and their legacy applications to Google Cloud Platform. The existing environment was distributed, with many stores running applications on outdated PCs kept in storage or wet rooms.
"We basically had one small data center per store," said Olivier. "We wanted more flexibility and ease of building a new infrastructure for the store. The only way to do that was to define a clear, standard catalog with different services, feeds and platforms."
Kyndryl used Red Hat Ansible to build and operate an IT service catalog on Google Cloud Platform that enabled store franchise owners to remotely provision virtual machines (VMs). With the same VMs running across the stores, Carrefour Belgium enabled their front-end and back-end systems to more consistently and efficiently integrate in executing current business operations and set up a reliable framework to modernize the applications that most directly affect Carrefour customers. By uniformly managing inventory and accounts, for example, Carrefour can deliver the same experience at any store a customer visits.
"The whole orchestration around it — creating that infrastructure based on code scripts — pressing the button and having the store online is essential to our operations," Stijn said.
"By moving the store compute environment to a central environment, we're able to react on the spot. To tackle issues quickly," he continues. "We also have the elasticity and flexibility that a cloud environment brings, allowing us to onboard new services for our customers - creating more delightful experiences."
What progress looks like
Today, under Kyndryl management, the interim data center infrastructure is keeping legacy systems working smoothly and securely as the company prepares for transitioning key legacy applications, such as SAP, to cloud.
There are close to 700 Kyndryl-managed store servers in Google Cloud Platform, with more than 1,000 projected to come online. Stores that have made the transition to Google Cloud Platform are now ready for rolling-out application modernization work.
"I think one of the key success factors in the partnership with Kyndryl is that they were able to translate our standard services into a catalog where we could launch a request at any point in time and within minutes or hours the whole catalog request is launched," said Stijn.
We'll know we've succeeded in our digital transformation when our customers are happy with every experience — in store or online.
But Carrefour Belgium's journey is far from complete.
"Digital transformation will never be finished," said Olivier. "We've taken the first step, but expectations will continue to evolve and change."
Stijn agrees, "We'll know we've succeeded in our digital transformation when our customers are happy with every experience - in store or online."
A pioneer in the large food retail business, Carrefour Group is known for modern yet homey grocery stores that offer fresh, organic, local food at affordable prices.
Global 80.73 B €
Belgium 4.26 B €