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Aramex optimises on-premise data centres with AWS Cloud

Aramex optimises on-premise data centres with AWS Cloud

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Aramex is a publicly traded company on the Dubai Financial Market, employing more than 15,000 employees in over 600 locations across 65 countries. The company recently teamed up with Rackspace Technology to help it enhance its on-premise data centre infrastructure with AWS Cloud. Mohammed Sleeq, Chief Digital Officer, Aramex, talks about how the transportation and logistics firm has streamlined its on-premise data centres with AWS Cloud to align its innovative culture to meet customer demand and expectations.

Founded in 1982, Aramex is a global provider of comprehensive logistics and transportation solutions. From its initial focus as an express operator, the company has rapidly evolved over the last three decades to become a global brand recognised for its customised services and innovative multi-product offering.

Today, Aramex today is a publicly traded company on the Dubai Financial Market, employing more than 15,000 people in over 600 locations across 65 countries. In addition, the company leads a strong alliance network providing global presence and bringing together independent express companies from around the world.

In 2019, Aramex delivered 100 million shipments globally to 37 million consignees. On the last mile capacity, the company has around 5,000 drivers and over 1,400 crowdsource drivers in selected core markets.

Aramex offers a range of services including integrated logistics solutions, international and domestic express delivery, freight forwarding, secure records and information management solutions, and e-services, including e-business solutions and, shop and ship.

The company has always been perceived as an innovator in the Middle East region and an agile operator, able to manage the constant change and address the rapid pace of market demands and customer requirements. The logistics and transportation specialist was previously linked to seven data centres across the globe, which supported over 60 on-premise applications. However, over the years it’s seen the industry go through significant change, primarily driven by the growth of e-commerce. Although Aramex was building more and more applications, it was all on-premise and it knew it needed a new way of continuing to innovate and develop to secure its competitive edge in all core markets.

To overcome these challenges and the high volumes of data being generated, transferred and shared across its network, and the growing need for increased agility, Aramex opted to optimise its on-premise data centres with AWS Cloud.

Mohammed Sleeq, Chief Digital Officer, Aramex, said: “While we continue to compete with our more traditional and longstanding competitors, there have been a number of new entrants that have disrupted the market. This new breed of digital operators are cloud-native. We quickly realised that our environment – with its interdependencies and legacy core products – prevented us from being as responsive as the new breed of digital operators could be to changing consumer trends. We were conscious of the need to modernise our core landscape to strengthen our position as an agile operator and a tech enabler in the region.

Sleeq said Aramex chose to embark on a large enterprise Digital Transformation programme and chose AWS as its partner, with the goal of migrating the entire technology infrastructure from on-premise data centres to AWS Cloud in order to increase its agility, security and speed of innovation.

Through working with Rackspace Technology as its strategic implementation partner, Aramex has expanded the scope of the project to support in modernising its application portfolio across the board.

“We went into the process with the intention of wanting to consolidate our data centres and move away from on-premise. We decided that adopting AWS would be vital to support our aim of driving further innovation within our business, providing a platform for growth and delivering a better customer service for our users,” Sleeq said. “We chose AWS Cloud because its technology is similar to the systems we already had in place and wanted to begin the journey with some synergy in place. Taking advantage of Amazon SageMaker, a fully managed Machine Learning service for building, training and deploying Machine Learning models, our in-house data science team built a data analytics and Machine Learning platform on AWS. To support moving our core IT backbone to AWS and in the transformation of the IT landscape through application modernisation, AWS recommended Rackspace Technology as a strategic partner to help us accelerate our transformation and develop the design processes that would support future transformation.”

Given that Aramex is one of the largest logistics and transportation firms in the Middle East having been founded in 1982, it is important for the company to have robust and secure IT infrastructure and systems.

Sleeq said over the past four decades, Aramex has achieved its competitive advantage through the continuous development in innovative technology that has delivered a superior customer experience at every touchpoint as shipments are sent, tracked and delivered. “Our asset-light business model, underpinned by innovative technology, is critical in enabling us to adapt swiftly in challenging market conditions and as customer preferences have and continue to evolve,” he said.

According to Sleeq, one of the key elements the company has made sure to consider throughout the process is adopting a culture of innovation which will improve the experience it’s able to offer its customers. “We have kept customers informed of our transformation at every stage of the journey and have already been able to use the cloud infrastructure to support their systems throughout the pandemic,” he said. “As a result of growing customer expectations, we are strategically focusing on transforming the end to end experience with an emphasis on last mile visibility and predictive analytics, empowering customers with a next generation engagement experience and a robust layer of digital touch points.”

He pointed out that 60% of Aramex’s business today comes from e-commerce customers. “We connect markets from various regions including China, US and Europe into our core markets, where we have the biggest last mile infrastructure. We are continuing to see consistent growth in e-commerce even through the pandemic, which has accelerated the growth of the sector,” he noted. “We want to take the next step of application modernisation to help us in our goal of improving the last mile process and customer experience. Through working with Rackspace Technology, we have expanded the scope of the project to support in modernising our application portfolio. Both teams are working collaboratively to design a reusable application architecture that will enable us to build cloud-native applications, both repurposing those already in operation and to support new applications in the future. This complex architecture must also support interactions with our existing on-premise applications during the migration process, when both systems must work in unison.”

Mahesh Desai, Chief Relationship Officer, Rackspace Technology, said: “Aramex embraces diversity and sees it as one of its key differentiators in the market. Mohammed and the team were interested in working with a technology partner who could provide them with different expertise and experience beyond that of their internal IT team. We have a clear track record of success, with great references in the Middle East and beyond. As we embarked with Aramex on the next step in its technological transformation, it became clear there was a natural chemistry between the teams.”

Desai added that: “We were about eight weeks into the project when the COVID-19 pandemic forced the teams to work remotely. While there were some initial concerns about the practicalities of operating in this way, we were able to successfully redistribute the workload and change the governance and product plan in light with the current requirements.”

He said the team continued to hold workshops remotely with AWS and stakeholders across Aramex – from departmental heads, to architects and developers – which not only enabled the project to progress according to plan, but supported the overarching objectives for the cloud transformation to catalyse business change.

“Aramex wants to ensure that the cloud applications are native to the cloud environment, so in the next stage of the project we will be working closely with them on the modernisation of their extensive application portfolio, including many Microsoft .Net applications,” he said. “Working together, we are developing a new cloud-based architecture that will be reusable across Aramex’s 60+ applications, while also ensuring that the wider portfolio of applications will continue interacting with the new cloud-based solution as if it were the original, on-premise application.”

Aramex’s Sleeq said the data centre transformation journey that the company has undertaken is enabling the IT team to begin exploring how cloud-based Machine Learning models could advance the company’s logistics and transport processes on the ground. “In our data lake, we now have around 10.2TB of data powering five to six Machine Learning use cases on the cloud. This generates over 450,000 predictions per day – each of which is generated in just 1.1125 milliseconds. With more than 10 million history tracking records generated every day, the deployment of microservices in these Machine Learning models will help automate more processes to drive greater efficiencies that help us optimise performance and cost,” he said. “Our growth and success has been down to our constant dedication to customers and understanding the important role that technology innovation plays in ensuring that we are always able to deliver against their changing expectations. We are confident that with our new agile cloud infrastructure, we will be able to further align our innovative culture to customer demand to help retain our position as the preferred partner in our core markets.”

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