How Albertsons Handled Unprecedented E-Commerce with Help From Tanzu Application Service

October 22, 2020 Scott Kelly

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented amount of stress and disruption in our lives. It has, among other things, highlighted Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a pyramid-shaped breakdown of the things we as humans need to achieve our full potential. Since at the bottom sit our most basic needs—food, water, and shelter—few were surprised by the unprecedented increase in demand that the pandemic’s initial onset triggered for groceries.

Albertsons is the second-largest grocer in the U.S., with more than 2,200 stores across 35 states. It serves, on average, more than 30 million customers every week. When the COVID-19 lockdowns started, Albertsons saw a rapid shift from in-store purchasing to record-breaking online ordering. At VMware’s SpringOne 2020 conference, Bhuvan Padakanti, senior DevOps manager at Albertsons, recalled how the grocer’s digital transformation journey—to which Tanzu Application Service (TAS) has been key—has helped it successfully manage its e-commerce platform throughout COVID-19.

Albertsons+Tanzu Application Service=no customer downtime 

Albertsons is a long-time Microsoft Azure customer. In 2018, it partnered with VMware Pivotal Labs to learn how to build cloud native apps, which enabled it to move from a legacy on-premise system to an entirely microservices-based e-commerce platform using Tanzu Application Service on Azure. TAS takes advantage of many Azure services and allows them to scale with very short notice.

In March 2020, as cases of COVID-19 started to surge, the Albertsons platform team began to go through its standard operating procedures to prepare for peak loads, much as it would when approaching a holiday period. To ensure peak loads can be met, Albertsons has a policy of setting autoscale to three times the previous season’s peak load. The team conducted health checks of all the components and load tests, and everything tested out well.

As the days progressed, online orders started growing exponentially. The system the team had designed to autoscale to three times the previous peak season was actually supporting seven times the load—all with zero downtime or customer interruptions. As Padakanti recalled in his SpringOne session, VMware and Microsoft technical managers and architects were on call 24/7 to support him and his team. Indeed, he said the loyal teamwork—specifically that of VMware and Microsoft working in lockstep with the Albertsons team—was critical to Albertsons making it through that early period.

Also as part of his SpringOne presentation, Padakanti walked through the steps Albertsons took to ensure the health of the platform and the apps running on it. This included the use of integrated partner solutions like AppDynamics, with out-of-the box dashboards for monitoring the entire stack.

By the numbers

During the initial months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tanzu Application Service running on Azure allowed Albertsons to achieve:

  • More than 100,000 orders per day

  • A 450 percent growth in digital and e-commerce sales

  • 10 times normal e-commerce traffic with zero downtime

  • A 39 percent increase in sales

  • 700 percent of projected load, which broke all records within the organization

As Padakanti put it at SpringOne 2020, “What [Tanzu Application Service on Azure] has done for us over the past four months...is unprecedented. The kind of order volumes that we saw and the orders we delivered went way beyond anyone’s expectations.” 

See for yourself

Watch this SpringOne 2020 session along with a variety of others to learn more about how VMware Tanzu is helping companies modernize the ways they build and run software.

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