Ocado expands public cloud use with Google Compute Engine

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Ocado has been an early adopter of Google software for a number of years, starting when the firm began developing an application on Google’s Android platform. Ocado soon began using Google’s other productivity tools, and was an early user of the Apps tools in 2010, replacing its Microsoft Exchange system.

“We were looking at a cloud-based alternative for email and document sharing, as well as wider collaboration,” Clarke said. “Google was the obvious choice to us, and we became an early adopter of Google Apps in the UK at a large scale.”

More recently, Ocado has also begun using Google’s Enterprise cloud tools. This includes Google’s Big Query, used to deal with the masses of data generated and analysed within its operations (Ocado churns through 2.5Mb of data every second), as well as using App Engine for internal development.

“We are also looking at using a search appliance tool,” Clarke said, “there is not a lot of the Google product estate that we don’t use in one way or another.”

The company has also begun using the recently launched Google Compute Engine. This provides infrastructure as a service capacity for certain highly compute intensive applications within its warehouse. Although Clarke is unable to provide details of all the areas that Compute Engine is currently being used, he revealed that one of the main applications currently being powered by Google’s public cloud as part of its evaluation is the image processing for its warehouse robotics.

“We have a robotics and 3D vision team who are developing robotics applications for the business and those robots need to be able to see what they are doing,” he said.

“However our robotics challenges are different from most companies’, so we have had to develop those vision systems in-house. The applications are also very computationally intensive, so we needed a scalable platform for doing that.”

Following this, there are plans to bring other production systems onto Compute Engine in the near future.  Ocado is also attempting to run its internally built analytics platform into the cloud, and Clarke expects this to be the first major enterprise application to run in production in the cloud, and is writing a new version of the application for use in the cloud with this purpose in mind.

“That will be one of the first production applications that will get moved to the cloud platform, this analytics ‘funnel’.

Probably the most important use is to be able to expand internationally however.

“It means that we could start up an operation in another country without necessarily having to build local data centres - we could put parts of our estate in the cloud and make them available locally via the cloud.”

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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