Microsoft forms 7-year cloud deal with Walgreens

Walgreens also said it will pilot in-store "digital health corners" starting this year using Microsoft technologies.

walgreens-pharmacy-7836-sp0462-sn0460-1024x683.jpg

Chris Bucher

Microsoft and Walgreens Boots Alliance said on Tuesday that the companies have formed a 7-year strategic partnership to develop new digital health technologies and healthcare delivery models. With this partnership, Microsoft also becomes the strategic cloud provider for Walgreens, and the pharmacy conglomerate plans to migrate the majority of the company's IT infrastructure onto Microsoft Azure.

Walgreens said its retail, pharmacy and business services platforms, as well as certain legacy applications and systems, will move to Azure. The retailer also plans to roll out Microsoft 365 to more than 380,000 employees and stores. 

Meanwhile, Walgreens also said it will pilot in-store "digital health corners" starting this year using Microsoft technologies, and the companies will look into establishing joint innovation centers in key markets.

"Through a combination of dedicated R&D and external partnerships, a suite of chronic disease management and patient engagement applications are planned for development, alongside a portfolio of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices for nonacute chronic care management, delivered by Microsoft's cloud, AI and IoT technologies," the companies wrote in a joint announcement

The customer win is another example of retailers choosing cloud vendors that are not Amazon. Microsoft last week announced a retail-as-a-service (RaaS) partnership with Kroger, with the super market giant splitting its cloud investments between Azure and Google Cloud Platform. Walmart is also partnering with Microsoft, with the retailer and frequent Amazon foe signing up to use Microsoft 365, AI, IoT tools and Azure

Google is also touting its retail customer success stories and the benefits retailers have achieved by switching to Google's cloud-based infrastructure, including better analytics, improved customer experiences through AI and ML, and reliability during seasonal surges.

In another recent blog post, Google Cloud Platform outlined how it managed traffic, improved site performance, added support and bolstered its technology foundation for commerce platform provider Shopify during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Google Cloud Platform counts Ulta Beauty, DSW, Lush, Etsy and Target as some of its high profile customers.

"Most retailers view AWS as a competitor and don't like feeding Amazon's business, even if it's through AWS," said Ed Anderson, research VP and analyst for Gartner. "That certainly pushes retailers to consider other technology alternatives, including Microsoft and Google, when pursuing cloud, or cloud-based initiatives."