Powered by Fortinet and the Google Cloud Platform, Carrefour Italy has launched a new network program to provide a more reliable, high-performing, and secure infrastructure, designed for all stores. With a single monthly fee, franchisees can obtain high-performance connectivity, maintenance, and support.
“Could you please stop surfing the Internet? I can’t receive any phone calls!” If you don’t get the previous sentence, it shows how communication networks have deeply evolved in the last few years. From ADSL to fiber-optic, from 3G to 5G, these new technologies are not only becoming faster or more reliable: they are changing our lives. At Carrefour Italy, we also want to change our stores’ life. This is the purpose of our program “Network Transformation” (NT).
As a customer, we can see every day how the network brings us new experiences such as ordering our evening meals on Uber Eats, watching a new documentary on Netflix, or shopping online for groceries on Carrefour’s app. We pay for services that rely on networks. As a company, this is a huge challenge. If my network is bad, my service will be bad. No network means no new digital services. In other words, the network is the digital transformation’s breakfast. If you don’t take it, carrying out your digital strategy will become a burden.
For a retailer, network transformation starts at the stores. To ensure excellent service to our customers, it is essential to provide DigitalRetail solutions that facilitate the life of our stores in their day-to-day activities. We need to provide them with new services, to support their daily activities and enable new revenue streams, starting with the one that is an enabler for all of the others: the network.
Network as a service for all
We designed the network as a service for all our stores. This implies having a very flexible offer. Carrefour Italy has 1500+ stores, of which about 1.000 are franchisees. That’s why we have a very ambitious franchising strategy, to provide the best DigitalRetail services to become the best franchisor.
We collaborate with almost 340 small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, not to mention some of the most relevant master franchisees in the country. We ensure that both these small and medium-sized entrepreneurs and our direct stores have access to all the experience of the Group, in terms of pricing strategies, product excellence, innovative solutions, and, of course, efficient services.
Design the proper business model
Our network transformation was not just about new technology. It was also about designing a brand-new network package for our direct stores and franchisees. More specifically, we wanted to free the latter from investment burdens and technical complexity. Our motto: “We take care of the technology, so you can take care of your clients”.
With our previous network package, franchisees had to buy several services from external companies, to gain access to connectivity, payments, and maintenance.
Now, our franchisees can access all our network services by just paying a simple monthly fee. Everything is included: high-performance Wi-Fi coverage, backups, maintenance, repairs, and replacements. Speed and reliability performance are guaranteed as well by the Carrefour tech teams. We have a dedicated support service that helps our partners in all situations.
Making the network our transformation booster
Increasing our network availability and reliability was our top priority. We also wanted to control what was coming and going inside our network. So our program is about “network” and “security”. We handle both of them by using the power of the cloud.
We first deployed new firewalls in our stores. Such devices interconnect literally each and every device: tills, PoS, scales, PCs, tablets, and smartphones. They also check which network flow is legitimate and which is not.
Despite setting-up tons of new hardware, we are very cloud-based. We now have a centralized management console (FortiManager) and a log analyzer (FortiAnalyzer) to control all those devices. Everything is on the Google Cloud Platform (GCP). This provides us with standardization, which comes with better security and cost savings as well.
Always have a “Plan B”
To avoid any connectivity problems, we have equipped our stores with at least two different types of geographic networks: a very fast fiber-optic-based landline and a radio based on 4G. We are also planning to have 5G soon. This way, everyone in the store can have access to the Internet and Carrefour internal applications via SD-WAN, leveraging this fully redundant and resilient architecture of the two lines.
The minimum overall yearly network availability is 99.9%.
Combining cybersecurity and simplicity
Our new cloud-native connectivity is not only faster, but it is also safer. It is based on the concept of cybersecurity context: similar devices, with similar uses and risk profiles are put together in the same internal virtual network. By doing this, we are able to apply specific security policies to each “network segment”, a virtual network in fact, and guarantee that they are applied consistently through all the stores at any time. Plus, the network logs are analyzed to spot anomalies and suspicious connections, such as those generated by ransomware.
Furthermore, in case of an incident or security breach, the virtual network will be isolated, the firewalls acting as fire doors, preventing any contamination spread throughout the corporate network, protecting the offices and the remaining stores.
The best thing is this higher security level doesn’t bring more complexity to the end users. Our store associates are retail professionals, not technicians, after all. It is important to make our new network so seamless that, when we ask our colleagues in-store “Has anything changed at all?”, the answer we are looking for is something like: “Nothing, it’s just faster.”
Expanding our Network Transformation program
We want to deploy our new network everywhere, as quickly as possible. At the moment, it is already available in more than 150 of our direct stores, and, by the end of the year, we plan to serve more than 80 franchising stores with it.
What about the next challenge then? Well, our warehouses, so important for the everyday life of the stores, also deserve a top-notch network. That’s why, starting in 2023, our Network Transformation program is also for them! We’ve just deployed our very first full Network Transformation warehouse in Rivalta (TO) entering production next May.
And more is yet to come in the amazing 2023 that awaits us: support for satellite connectivity, integrations with new digital services, and 3rd party devices!
In the end, what is technology without humans? That’s what we are here for: “Our digital journey is turning ideas into projects and projects into products to serve our customers – whoever they are – in their everyday lives” as our leader Alessandra Grendele always reminds us. And to the people at the heart of this amazing journey goes my deepest gratitude: Alessandra Grendele, Andrea Romanazzi, Luca Bettoschi, Mauro Ferrante, Dario Tonna, Luca Sarnelli, Fabio Peretti, Marco Moroni, and all the engineering teams at Lutech and Fortinet; as one, solid team, you brought the future to 200+ stores in less than 18 months. You rock.