At NRF 2019, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform court retailers wary of Amazon

Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform have a rare opportunity in the retail sector -- an industry that isn't likely to be dominated by Amazon Web Services.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

With retail technology at the forefront of the National Retail Federation's annual conference in New York City, it's worth paying attention to one huge cloud computing battle off to the side: Microsoft Azure vs. Google Cloud Platform.

You didn't really think that retailers would be flocking to Amazon Web Services, did you? Of course, some retailers will play ball with AWS (and arguably should), but many companies will be looking to expand with Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Simply put, retail-as-a-service is an open field opportunity for both Azure and Google Cloud. Rest assured that retail executives and technology decision-makers will get a hefty dose of both just as the retail sector struggles with expectations

Microsoft last week got ahead of the retail scrum by announcing a retail-as-a-service (RaaS) partnership with supermarket chain Kroger, which is splitting its cloud buying between Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Microsoft and Kroger will use Kroger's front-end smart shelving system and self-serve checkout tools and Microsoft's artificial intelligence and cloud infrastructure.

Also: Microsoft Azure: Everything you need to know about Redmond's cloud serviceCloud computing: Five key business trends to look out forTop cloud providers 2018: How AWS, Microsoft, Google, IBM, Oracle, Alibaba stack up | Everything you need to know about the cloud, explained

The Kroger deal rhymes with how Walmart is partnering with Microsoft. Walmart will use Microsoft 365, AI, Internet of Things tools and Azure. Microsoft also has a bevy of other retail customers such as Macy's, but Walmart is the lead dog in the anti-AWS crowd.

Google Cloud Platform's retail story is still being sketched out and not surprisingly the company has pushed its infrastructure and scale as a big differentiator. In a recent blog post, Google Cloud Platform outlined how it managed traffic, added support and bolstered its technology foundation for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Shopify was Google Cloud Platform's big customer reference in its post, but the company also counts Lush, Etsy and Target as customers.

Also: Special report: The future of Everything as a Service (free PDF)  

Bottom line: Retail is one of the few industries where AWS isn't likely to have a huge lead. That reality means Google and Microsoft can pitch their AI and cloud wares to a receptive audience.

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