Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) currently leads the IT consumption services market. The company's GreenLake platform officially launched in the fall of 2017, promising to offer a host of pay-per-use solutions aimed at some of the most prevalent enterprise customer workloads. Nearly five years later, HPE has vastly refined and expanded its offerings. To no surprise, network-as-a-service (NaaS) is a front runner, with its Aruba division leading the charge.
I attended HPE Aruba’s annual Atmosphere event earlier this spring and provided my insights into the company’s latest NaaS offerings. If interested, you can find that article here. However, several months have since passed, and proof of success lies in customer deployments. To that end, I recently spoke to The Home Depot about its journey with Aruba and how NaaS is instrumental in delivering a better retail experience for its associates and customers. Consequently, I would like to share my insights from the conversation.
The Home Depot’s vision for technology
Daniel Grider leads the infrastructure and operations efforts for The Home Depot as its Vice President of Technology. It’s a monumental job, given there are over 2,000 locations in the United States, spanning 54 states and territories in approximately 1,400 cities. In addition to a massive geographic footprint, the average store size is a staggering 100,000 square feet, presenting unique connectivity coverage challenges.
With that in mind, one would be correct to assume that the iconic home improvement retailer plans its technology deployment carefully. According to Mr. Grider, The Home Depot’s north star is focusing on the retail experience first and technology second, with an emphasis on searching for ways to reduce customer friction. Having spent many years in retail personally as a teenager and college student, I wholeheartedly agree. Technology should be used unobtrusively—it should delight customers and retail associates, not complicate or inconvenience them. Mr. Grider also shared his department’s three guiding principles for deploying infrastructure. First, partner with someone who can provide a single point of accountability and analytical support to ensure a trouble-free experience. Second, free engineers from the mundane and low value-added tasks of break-fix to be engineers and focus on initiatives that will bring customers back to shop consistently. Third, seek financial plan predictability given the long IT refresh cycles typically associated with capital expenditures on networking equipment. The predictable pricing (and other as-a-service benefits) of Aruba NaaS made it particularly well-suited for The Home Depot’s most recent IT refresh cycle.
Expected and unexpected business outcomes
The Home Depot’s long partnership with Aruba dates back to 2016. As it emerged from the pandemic and began to approach its next networking refresh, The Home Depot had a set of clearly defined business outcomes in mind. First—the network needed to support over 100,000 mobility devices for its associates. Mr. Grider shared that they plan to equip every scheduled store associate with a device to provide the best customer experience, from product inventory searches to product knowledge. While supporting that number of devices is no trivial task, the Aruba Central management platform is well-suited for it. Aruba Central is cloud-native, supports massive scale and provides AI-powered insights for intelligent switching. Additionally, it provides wireless store networking support and integrates threat defense management across The Home Depot’s highly dispersed retail footprint, with zero-touch provisioning for fast associate device activation.
The second defined business goal of The Home Depot’s IT refresh was to expand in-store connectivity coverage to garden centers and seasonal lots, addressing any coverage gaps caused by metal product racking and the products themselves (such as mulch bags). Aruba Central plays a crucial role in this effort, offering quick and easy recommendations derived from the anonymized, crowdsourced data of its 120,000-customer install base.
A well-laid-out plan sometimes offers additional, unexpected benefits. Like many other retailers, The Home Depot began offering curbside pickups during the pandemic–a service that will certainly extend into the future. Aruba provides the necessary self-service tools to support this use case, including antenna tuning, access point density and placements. Moreover, it can implement these tools quickly and easily—in a matter of hours and days versus weeks and months.
The Home Depot could have achieved all the referenced business outcomes with a traditional capitalized infrastructure approach. However, Aruba’s NaaS offering, HPE GreenLake for Aruba, enables the retailer to achieve scale at speed and reap the benefits of smoother IT refresh financial planning. Treating infrastructure as an operating expense also eliminates the worry of depreciating capital in today’s unpredictable economic climate.
As we closed our discussion, I asked Mr. Grider what tips he would share with an enterprise beginning a NaaS investigation. He suggests working closely with financial teams by geography to comprehend the benefits of treating infrastructure as an operational versus capital expense. Given the vast array of networking solution providers there are to choose from, Mr. Grider also emphasized the importance of performing due diligence, through trials and pilots, when searching for the right partner. Finally, he advises organizations to make the proper investment in time to ensure a successful deployment. Judging by the success of The Home Depot's technology deployment and the high-quality retail experience it provides, in my opinion it’s sage advice.
Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article.