In a combination pairing Amazon’s biggest threat in retail with its largest rival in cloud computing, Walmart and Microsoft announced a strategic partnership that the companies said would accelerate Walmart’s digital transformation.
As part of a five-year agreement, the companies said a significant portion of walmart.com and samsclub.com would transfer to Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, including its cloud-powered checkout, in order to grow and enhance the online experience. The deal will also provide an “internet of things” platform that would put Walmart’s connected HVAC and refrigeration unit on the cloud, and apply machine learning to operations like routing trucks more efficiently.
Microsoft’s 365 will also be phased in, providing Walmart associates with productivity tools the companies said would foster a culture of collaboration, creativity and communication.
“Walmart’s commitment to technology is centered around creating incredibly convenient ways for customers to shop and empowering associates to do their best work,” Doug McMillon, Walmart’s CEO, said in a statement. “Walmart is a people-led, tech-empowered company, and we’re excited about what this technology partnership will bring for our customers and associates. Whether it’s combined with our agile cloud platform or leveraging machine learning and artificial intelligence to work smarter, we believe Microsoft will be a strong partner in driving our ability to innovate even further and faster.”
Walmart is already using Microsoft services for critical applications and workloads and is now embarking on a broad set of cloud innovation projects that leverage machine learning, artificial intelligence and data platform solutions for a wide range of external customer-facing services and internal business applications.
Azure is a competitor to Google and Amazon’s cloud services. Microsoft’s developing cloud-based checkout is reportedly targeting an alternate method of “cashierless” experience not unlike what Amazon has offered in its Amazon Go stores.
In a separate announcement this week, Microsoft said it would be providing an IT platform on Azure for Campbell’s Soup Co.