Online Fashion Platform Zalando Tracks Business Performance in Near Real-Time with AWS


Zalando is tracking performance in near real-time after migrating SAP to AWS and reducing the cost of obtaining business insight by 30 percent. Zalando is a European online fashion retailer based in Berlin, Germany. The company combines SAP with AWS Glue, Amazon Redshift, Amazon Athena, and an Amazon S3 data lake for transactional and analytical data reports that track business performance.

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“We have increased the value of our SAP systems by integrating SAP with AWS technologies because we can steer the business in near real-time.”

Yuriy Volosenko
Director for Enterprise Applications and Architectures, Zalando

A Major Ecommerce Fashion Store

Zalando is a European online fashion platform based in Berlin, Germany. The Zalando website attracts around 350 million visits per month and has 31 million active customers, offering more than 500,000 products from 2,500 brands.

The business, which employs 14,000 staff, began migrating its SAP systems from an on- premises infrastructure to Amazon Web Services (AWS) in 2016. Yuriy Volosenko, director for enterprise applications and architectures at Zalando, says, “By moving to AWS, we accelerated service development because we could spin up test environments in minutes instead of weeks and sometimes months. AWS also offered pay-as-you-go pricing and multiple instance types to optimize our costs and performance.”

Cuts Management Time by More Than 30 Percent and Increases Agility

By migrating SAP to AWS, Zalando reduced IT management time by more than 30 percent. The company made time savings thanks to the managed features in many of the services, including Amazon Redshift, a petabyte-scale data warehouse.

These features liberate Zalando from patching and controlling backups manually, so it doesn’t have to focus resources on monitoring the overall health of its cloud environment. Other AWS tools help Zalando reduce management time still further.

These include AWS Auto Scaling, which automatically adjusts capacity to maintain steady performance, and AWS CloudFormation, which allows companies to use programming languages or simple text files to model and provision resources for applications.

Besides reducing management time, Zalando has also increased agility with AWS. “We can provision sandbox environments and test applications for quality assurance in hours,” says Volosenko. “With an on-premises environment, it could take weeks. In projects like SAP S/4HANA, we needed to provision tens of sandbox environments with more than two terabytes of random access memory each. It wasn’t an issue because of the scalability of AWS.”

Going Beyond SAP Hosting on AWS to a Hybrid Data Architecture

As of today, Zalando has integrated its SAP systems with 36 AWS technologies and created a hybrid data architecture. The architecture gave Zalando a more cost-effective alternative to running a larger SAP S/4HANA database, which lowered costs by optimising usage of AWS services such as Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) and Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS).

It combines SAP S/4HANA with Amazon Redshift, interactive query service Amazon Athena, and an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) data lake. It also features AWS Glue, a fully managed extract, transform, and load (ETL) service, which makes it easier for customers to load their data for analytics.

AWS Glue extracts data from multiple sources across Zalando. AWS Lambda, which lets customers run code without provisioning servers, prepares the data to be stored in one of the architecture’s data tiers. This could be SAP S/4HANA, if the data is required for real-time processing.

If it is needed for weekly or monthly reporting, it could be Amazon Redshift, Amazon Athena, or the Amazon S3 data lake.

Lowers Cost of Insight by 30 Percent

As a result of its hybrid solution, Zalando has lowered the cost of ownership for its SAP data architecture by 30 percent.

The business has invested the savings in the development of solutions to enhance customer service and efficiency.

Volosenko says, “We’ve built chatbots for employees to answer questions on company procedures and introduced image recognition technology to speed up invoice processing. We’ve also improved the workflows of our website processes for customers as evidenced by the rise in our net promoter score.”

Tracks Performance in Near Real-Time

Using the SAP S/4HANA tier in its hybrid data architecture, Zalando can make decisions based on current events.

Volosenko says, “We adjust business strategies and see the immediate impact on customer behavior or on sales performance. We have increased the value of our SAP systems by integrating SAP with AWS technologies because we can steer the business in near real-time.”

About Zalando

Zalando is a European online fashion retailer, attracting around 350 million visits to its website a month. The company has more than 31 million active customers.

Benefits of AWS

• Reduces cost of insight by 30%
• Cuts maintenance time by 30%
• Increases business agility
• Enhances customer services
• Tracks performance in near real-time

AWS Services Used

Amazon Redshift

Amazon Redshift is the most popular and fastest cloud data warehouse. Redshift is integrated with your data lake, offers up to 3x faster performance than any other data warehouse, and costs up to 75% less than any other cloud data warehouse.

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Amazon Simple Storage Service

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) is an object storage service that offers industry-leading scalability, data availability, security, and performance. This means customers of all sizes and industries can use it to store and protect any amount of data for a range of use cases, such as websites, mobile applications, backup and restore, archive, enterprise applications, IoT devices, and big data analytics. Amazon S3 provides easy-to-use management features so you can organize your data and configure finely-tuned access controls to meet your specific business, organizational, and compliance requirements. Amazon S3 is designed for 99.999999999% (11 9's) of durability, and stores data for millions of applications for companies all around the world.

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Amazon Athena

Amazon Athena is an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Athena is serverless, so there is no infrastructure to manage, and you pay only for the queries that you run. Athena is easy to use. Simply point to your data in Amazon S3, define the schema, and start querying using standard SQL. Most results are delivered within seconds. With Athena, there’s no need for complex ETL jobs to prepare your data for analysis. This makes it easy for anyone with SQL skills to quickly analyze large-scale datasets. Athena is out-of-the-box integrated with AWS Glue Data Catalog, allowing you to create a unified metadata repository across various services, crawl data sources to discover schemas and populate your Catalog with new and modified table and partition definitions, and maintain schema versioning.

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AWS Glue

AWS Glue is a fully managed extract, transform, and load (ETL) service that makes it easy for customers to prepare and load their data for analytics. You can create and run an ETL job with a few clicks in the AWS Management Console. You simply point AWS Glue to your data stored on AWS, and AWS Glue discovers your data and stores the associated metadata (e.g. table definition and schema) in the AWS Glue Data Catalog. Once cataloged, your data is immediately searchable, queryable, and available for ETL.

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