CN partners with Google Cloud to modernize railway services

CN and Google Cloud this week announced a seven-year strategic partnership to advance CN’s supply chain transformation and move its systems to the cloud.

“Our partnership with Google Cloud is in line with our previously announced strategic plan,” said Mohit Bhat, vice president of digital customer solutions, innovation, digital platforms and cloud transformation at CN. “And it further reinforces our commitment to digitizing scheduled railroading and building the premier railway of the 21st century. Through this partnership, we will help set a new standard for the railway industry that delivers better experiences for our customers, partners, and customers across industries, from materials to resources to manufactured products and to consumers.”

The two companies say their initial focus will be on modernizing CN’s IT landscape, moving applications such as SAP to the cloud.

“As we set the foundations of this partnership, we are setting up our cloud native architecture and foundations between CN and Google Cloud,” he said. “And we will set the high workload or high critical workload application migration plans. We are setting up the modernization journey of the SAP workloads onto the Google Cloud. And similarly, we are defining a roadmap for the rest of our applications or critical workloads being migrated to the cloud and modernizing some of the landscape that we have on prem between 2022 and 2023.”

After that, CN says it will look at using data analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence to help solve some of the industry-specific problems in the supply chain ecosystem.

Three pillars

There are three pillars to how Google Cloud plans to work with CN, said Jim Lambe, managing director, Google Cloud Canada. First will be co-innovation, combining Google Cloud’s expertise with CN’s railway industry knowledge to deliver better experiences to CN’s employees, customers, and partners. This will encompass everything from automated tracking and monitoring of cargo to predictive maintenance for the rolling stock. The second pillar will be modernizing CN’s infrastructure, moving its applications from on-premises to the cloud, and the third will be to further CN’s sustainability goals.

A natural match

Lambe says he sees the match as a natural one for the two companies.

“If you really think about it, what Google does is we move things around a fixed network as fast as possible, with the utmost in security, the lowest possible cost, in a compliant and regulatory fashion, without losing anything, and we want to measure and maintain and provide visibility into where it all is at any particular point in time,” Lambe said he observed. “CN Rail does the exact same thing. The difference is, we do it with data, and they do it with rail cars, or cargo or whatever you want to call it. We’re able to take these learnings and apply them, what we’ve applied to Google, apply them to CN and work with their organization to do so. So that’s what I believe is the most impressive part of this opportunity for us to work together.”

“Supply chains have been under considerable stress in recent months, struggling with challenges including decreased capacity, rising shipping costs, and lack of visibility on shipments,” Bhat added. “So our number one priority right now is to make sure that we bring a seamless and intuitive experience to our customers and partners. And this partnership is focused on helping CN set a new standard for the railway industry that delivers better experience for the customers and partners, helping them save time, energy, and reduce costs. We will start working on a supply chain platform that will deliver this simple, intuitive, consistent, and connected experience through a digital ecosystem, allowing our customers and partners to plan and execute better and make quicker data driven business decisions. We are looking forward to setting up this platform with the help of Google Cloud engineering teams.”


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Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner
Lynn Greiner has been interpreting tech for businesses for over 20 years and has worked in the industry as well as writing about it, giving her a unique perspective into the issues companies face. She has both IT credentials and a business degree.

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