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How cloud monitoring helped Kroger deliver the goods for online grocery shoppers

Demand for online grocery shopping and home delivery has risen dramatically in the last 12 months, prompting many retailers to strengthen their digital presence. Kroger, the largest supermarket chain in the U.S. had already begun this journey several years ago, when it underwent an aggressive digital transformation to reinvent its business. This included the move to a hybrid, multicloud environment, which introduced greater complexity and the need for improved cloud monitoring capabilities.

At Perform 2021, Jay Cotton, Performance Engineer Lead, and Jimmy Stewart, Senior Engineering Manager at Kroger outlined how Dynatrace’s cloud monitoring capabilities help the grocery giant to maintain the observability it needs to continuously optimize digital shopping experiences.

“Kroger is a 140-year-old grocery store, and you don’t stay around that long unless you’re continuing to innovate,” Jimmy said. He explained that three or four years ago, Kroger needed to pivot to support its e-commerce drive, as it moved away from monoliths and defined VMs to a more flexible, multicloud approach.

However, cloud monitoring was a challenge. “A lot of our modern technologies weren’t keeping up,” he explained. “It was very easy to monitor things when you knew what they were, but when things would scale, we were finding that our previous monitoring solutions were falling down.”

Jay added that the number of specialized tools being used across Kroger was a major challenge. “Everybody had their own niche thing they were doing. And nobody had the same language,” he said. “So, the big effort we took on about two years ago was unifying the toolset and getting rid of some of these highly specialized tools that didn’t provide a lot of value.”

A new way of working

Jimmy explained that Dynatrace had enabled teams to see, in real-time, how different services depend on each other, and to understand the complexity of the environment.
“That’s amazing. At times it almost seems magical,” Jimmy said. “On top of that, instead of looking at component health, we get to look at outcomes. You get to look at the health of services, the health of products.”

Jay explained using Dynatrace has completely changed the value of his team, allowing them to leave behind the days they essentially had to “read the tea leaves” to work out what was wrong. “We’ve gotten to shift our focus and change what we’re responsible for,” Jay said. “We essentially enable teams. We’re worried about doing things to push Kroger forward, and making sure development teams can do exactly what they need to move themselves forward.”

The future with Dynatrace

Jimmy discussed how Dynatrace’s cloud monitoring capabilities had improved his team’s job satisfaction enormously. “The team is no longer a bunch of guys sitting in the boiler room keeping the engine running. We’re providing guidance on things like user behavior and making products better. Instead of simply keeping the lights on, you’re doing things to make your customer experience better.

“Ultimately, when you go to work, it’s a lot more satisfying when you feel like you’re having an impact on making somebody’s online grocery shopping experience better,” he added.
Jay then explained how Dynatrace’s flexibility is key to Kroger’s ability to explore new technologies and support developers effectively. He outlined the value of Dynatrace’s highly automated approach to cloud monitoring when Kroger moved away from its previous containerized monitoring solution.

“We had a big shift in cloud technologies,” he said. “It was completely seamless. We were able to learn a whole bunch of new technologies and move to a new scalable platform and say, hey, it doesn’t matter where you want to go, what you want to do. You’re going to get the same level of visibility. So, continuing that journey with the developers that want to do the really cool stuff is just a great place to be.”

Eliminating the leap of faith

“When you’re coming onto new technologies, there’s always a leap of faith,” said Jay. “As long as you have Dynatrace installed and enabled, you have that full visibility, whether you’re going from a traditional VM environment to a containerized Docker environment, to a Kubernetes environment. As long as OneAgent comes, you have the same visibility from the beginning through the end.”

“It’s kind of a warm blanket,” he summarized. “You feel more comfortable, you know where you’re going, and that you can see what you need to see.”

To see more of how Kroger used Dynatrace’s cloud monitoring capabilities to deliver seamless customer experiences and enable its transformation, watch the interview below.