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FedEx signals 'zero mainframe, zero datacenter' operations by 2024

Going completely cloud-native will save it $400m a year, CIO estimates

The datacenter is dead – at least according to FedEx, which announced plans to close its server farms and transition completely to the cloud, where it hopes to save an estimated $400 million annually.

At FedEx's investor relations day held last week, CIO Rob Carter said FedEx had long been a leader in technology, claiming the company was first to introduce tracking, handheld computers and automated package sorting. The next big movement in tech, Carter went on to say, is migrating all of its systems to the cloud.

"We've been working across this decade to simplify and streamline our technology and systems to create value all along the way by improving productivity, security and reliability," Carter said on the call.

Along with closing its remaining datacenters, FedEx said its closure plans will eliminate the 20 percent of its mainframe fleet that's still in operation, with an eye toward "zero mainframe, zero datacenter" operations by 2024.

Trying to ascertain the size of FedEx's datacenter fleet is difficult – the company isn't forthcoming on how many facilities it has. According to datacenter tracking site Baxtel, FedEx only has one: Its Colorado Springs location, which was opened in 2011.

Nor is it easy to determine how many FedEx employees work at its datacenter(s) – the company said it employs over 600,000 people, but only breaks those numbers down to its business units, not to location or job type. The Register has asked FedEx for comment but has yet to receive a response.

FedEx has been looking at its cloud options for at least three years, and in 2019 partnered with colocation company Switch to host its western US operations at Switch's Las Vegas datacenter. The package company signed a 10-year contract with Switch, and while it's unclear what role Switch will play in FedEx's all-cloud future, that contract means it is likely to plays a part in it.

One service that might not see a large piece of FedEx's future cloud spending is Amazon Web Services; the company decided to go with Microsoft when it launched its FedEx Surround analytics platform in Azure in 2020. That move came after a 2018 incident in which an AWS S3 silo belonging to FedEx and containing more than 120,000 customer records was discovered to be lleaking data to the internet. FedEx uses Oracle's cloud services as well. 

We've asked the parties currently involved with FedEx's cloud operations if they can share information about the near future of their work with the shipping company and will update with any responses. ®

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