In acquiring Whole Foods Market for $13.7 billion, Amazon isn't only buying a large upscale grocery store chain. It's also taking ownership of a company that uses Microsoft's rival cloud-computing technology.
While Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a big lead in the cloud infrastructure market, Microsoft is investing heavily to catch up. Whole Foods deployed Microsoft's Azure Active Directory software to let its 91,000 employees easily sign into cloud-based applications, according to a case study on Microsoft's website.
Whole Foods also pays for Office 365 subscriptions, which provide access to cloud services like OneDrive for Business and Skype for Business.
"We have a goal to reach 1,200 stores in the near future, and anything we can do from a strategic perspective to maximize efficiency is worth its weight in gold in retail."
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos didn't say anything about cloud in Friday's press release, focusing instead on acquiring a company that offers "the best natural and organic foods." Representatives for Whole Foods and AWS didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
In buying Whole Foods, Amazon could be hoping to stop Whole Foods from buying more Azure public cloud services and instead get it to start adopting AWS -- just as it has sought to move Zappos onto AWS.
For one thing, AWS provides a managed version of Microsoft Active Directory software. Whole Foods could conceivably switch to that at some point, while also using Amazon's core cloud-computing and storage services. Moving off Office 365 could be more complicated. But in the past few years AWS introduced services for videoconferencing, email and file sharing.
Whole Foods is just the kind of large customer that AWS needs as it attempts to gain the trust of legacy enterprises. For now, AWS does not have a Whole Foods case study on its website.