It’s been a while since Walmart first insisted that its suppliers moved to its digital order process. Back then the prospect of using EDI rather than fax or phone to place orders seemed like a technological hurdle. And in fact it was a significant hurdle that plenty of suppliers bucked against. But today Walmart’s tactics have become accepted and electronic order processing is no longer the pariah it once was. Now the retailer is making another mandate to its suppliers. But this time it’s not about what but where.
Amazon’s Web Services (AWS) has been the go-to supplier of cloud based software deployments and an overwhelming number of companies have put their online software there. It’s easy, reliable, and competitively priced. But now that Amazon is competing directly with Walmart for retail business Walmart doesn’t want the digital guts of its business hosted on a competitor’s site. That’s understandable, and in fact in 2014 the company moved its entire ecommerce presence to the cloud - and not Amazon’s cloud.
Our colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols explains the move and strategy here.
So where’s the mandate?
It isn’t enough that Walmart hosts its own data away from AWS. The retailer doesn’t want its suppliers hosting its data and the transactions they process on its competitor’s cloud either. The most recent mandate instructs suppliers to move their systems off AWS. They’re apparently fine with alternate cloud vendors like Microsoft Azure who are not direct competitors, but Amazon is a no-no.
To be clear, the mandate (for now) is directed at tech providers. So product suppliers who host their own systems on AWS may not be affected. But the move may turn out to indirectly impact product suppliers if their EDI service providers host their applications and data on AWS.
The ripple effect
Amazon has done a great job of delivering cloud computing facilities that make it easy for companies to deploy their software services. In fact it may be the default choice for smaller EDI service providers because they can concentrate on developing their systems and delivering high quality customer support while leaving the heavy lifting of server farms and data centers to Amazon.
If your EDI provider has received a mandate letter from Walmart to shift its cloud hosting services you can bet they are scrambling to meet whatever deadlines are being required. Their revenue is reliant on delivering their customers’ transactions (your transactions) to and from Walmart and every other trading partner you deal with. And because of the depth and breadth of Walmart’s vendor base nearly every EDI service provider has connections to Walmart.
Don’t know if you will be affected? Ask your EDI service provider where their applications are hosted and how they are responding to Walmart’s mandate. Either your provider will need to change or you will need to change your provider if you want to keep your business relationship with Walmart.