The authors thanks Peter Merkert, cofounder and CTO of Retraced, for his input.
The global fashion industry is adapting to new consumer priorities. Consumers are demanding that fashion brands pay closer attention to environmental and social consequences, including carbon emissions, textile waste, and poor working conditions.
Sustainable fashion is a movement pushing this industry toward improved environmental, ecological, and social processes. With this movement comes complex processes to uphold environmental and social responsibility, and here, Retraced comes in.
Retraced, a graduate of the Oracle for Startups launchpad, provides sustainability management platform that enables companies to ensure that they’re only using materials that have been manufactured using certifiably sustainable methods of production. With this assurance, these fashion brands can manage their corporate sustainability responsibility (CSR) efforts, and gain customer trust.
Retraced works to provide fashion and textile companies with transparent supply chains that foster better working conditions and more sustainable manufacturing practices across all industries. Retraced uses various services, such as supply chain tracing, supplier assessments, and global risk analysis.
Figure 1: Retraced Compliance & Sustainability Management and Marketing & Communication platforms
Retraced’s goals for cloud migration
To build its cloud native platform, Retraced wanted a technology environment that offered simplicity in operations, autonomous and managed services, and significant cost savings. After evaluating multiple cloud providers, Retraced chose to run its platform on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI). Retraced had the following goals for its cloud journey:
- Partner with a trusted and reliable cloud provider that can host its infrastructure, database, and blockchain application on one platform
- Gain the ability to expand its platform at scale
- Build trust with its manufacturing customers by providing reliable and verified data within its blockchain platform
- Automate and simplify networking and backup processes
Suite of Oracle products used
The following list includes the OCI services that Retraced used in their deployment:
- Oracle Blockchain platform: Oracle Blockchain allows enterprises to automate with smart contracts, conduct private transactions, integrate blockchain transactions with other applications, access comprehensive monitoring, and build trusted networks.
- Oracle Autonomous JSON Database: Oracle Autonomous JSON Database is a cloud document database service that simplifies developing JSON-centric applications. It features simple document APIs, serverless scaling, high-performance ACID transactions, comprehensive security, and low pay-per-use pricing. Autonomous JSON Database automates provisioning, configuring, tuning, scaling, patching, encrypting, and repairing of databases, eliminating database management, and delivering 99.995% availability.
- Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse: Oracle Autonomous Data Warehouse simplifies data management by automates provisioning, configuring, securing, tuning, scaling, and backing up of the data warehouse. It includes tools for self-service data loading, data transformations, business models, automatic insights, and built-in converged database capabilities.
- Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing: Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing eliminates the complexity of operating and securing high-performance databases. The service automates provisioning, configuring, tuning, scaling, patching, encrypting, and repairing of databases. The service also includes all of Oracle’s advanced database options, such as real application clusters (RAC), multitenant, partitioning, in-memory, advanced security, and advanced compression.
- Oracle Container Engine for Kubernetes (OKE): OKE is an Oracle-managed container orchestration service that can reduce the time and cost to build modern cloud native applications. Unlike many other cloud infrastructure vendors, OCI provides OKE as a free service that runs on higher performance, lower-cost compute shapes.
- Oracle Cloud Compute: OCI provides fast, flexible, and affordable compute capacity to fit any workload need from performant bare metal servers and virtual machines (VMs) to lightweight containers. OCI Compute provides uniquely flexible VM and bare metal instances for optimal price-performance.
- Oracle Analytics: Oracle Analytics is a complete platform with ready-to-use services for a wide variety of workloads and data. Oracle Analytics offers valuable and actionable insights from all types of data (in the cloud, on-premises, or in a hybrid deployment) to access and process relevant data, evaluate predictions, and make quick, accurate decisions.
- Oracle Cloud Storage: OCI provides customers with high-performance computing and low-cost cloud storage options. Through on-demand local, object, file, block, and archive storage, OCI addresses key storage workload requirements and use cases.
- OCI Cloud Guard: Oracle Cloud Guard detects misconfigured resources and insecure activity across tenants and provides security administrators with the visibility to triage and resolve cloud security issues.
- OCI Security Zones service: Automatically set up and enforce security policies for cloud compartments in OCI. Oracle security zones include a rich policy library and embed security best practices to enable cloud security posture management, so administrators can immediately ensure that their compartments are secure.
Retraced’s technical migration path and solution on OCI
Retraced wants fashion companies work together to manage their sustainability efforts through a single platform that spans the entire fashion supply chain. Availability, open APIs, and scalability are key. Each party on the platform maintains its profile with relevant sustainability information. Through this shared database of information, each platform user can choose a partner based on its sustainability requirements. Platform users can create supplier assessments for participants in their network for parameters, such as carbon offsetting programs, fair trade materials, fair working conditions, and low water usage.
Figure 2: Supplier assessment example
The Retraced solution consists of the following technologies:
- Mobile app for businesses: iOS and Android apps are easy to use for clients, such as farmers given the mass adoption of mobile devices. Clients can easily capture QR codes and receive push notifications.
- Website: The cloud-based frontend that provides easy access to the complete suite of Retraced applications.
- Web shop components: These visualizations of sustainability information can be embedded into any website. Retraced provides one-click integrations with Shopify, Prestashop, Shopware, and WooCommerce.
Figure 3: Overview of interfaces to the Retraced API
The blockchain network based on Hyperledger is at the heart of Retraced’s technical architecture. Blockchain is tamper-proof, providing trusted verifications of certifications. Because most certification authorities don’t have public APIs for certificate verification, it also serves as the backbone for tracking sustainability across various parties. Through the blockchain, a party can trace the transfer of goods all the way from the origin to the final product.
The Blockchain platform is also flexible. New companies can participate with no need for manual data integration. Because processing transactions on Hyperledger Fabric can take several seconds, Retraced has developed a gateway service for fast, temporary validation of data. The gateway service makes the platform more accessible from mobile and desktop clients. They also developed microservices for specialized tasks, such as notifications, CRON jobs, message posting, email sending, analytics, and data aggregation. Data formats used with Autonomous Database include both JSON and relational based on the task.
When a clothing manufacturer, supplier, or farmer logs into the Retraced platform, their traffic is targeted at the Oracle Load Balancer. Depending on current network traffic, workloads are distributed to appropriate Compute instances, all managed within an OKE cluster. Then, rules in OKE route the workloads to the respective “pod” to process the business logic in code setup by routing rules. Each pod runs Node.js instructions, such as sending user requests to an Oracle Autonomous Transaction Processing, so you can view or download certificates of material authenticity.
Then, all data is sent to the Oracle Blockchain Platform to the retraced “smart contract.” The contract is managed using Hyperledger Fabric, which is built into Oracle Blockchain Platform. The smart contract is comprising the code agreed upon all parties which are part of the blockchain network. This concept of collaboration in a contract allows collaborative algorithmic validation of data by all participating parties. Each certificate is verified through the smart contract, which a certification authority can run as part of the blockchain network in their own blockchain node. The following diagram shows the overall architecture.
Figure 4: Retraced’s technical architecture
The following steps provide more details on the architecture:
- 1. All requests start at the API service for authentication and authorization.
- 2. Critical data is stored synchronously in the Autonomous Database. Messages are dispatched to a queue system, where the relevant microservices pick them up to further digest them. For example, an update to a shipment involves messages dispatched to both the blockchain and the tracing microservice.
- 3. The tracing service picks up the message and extends the information for future lookups to be processed much faster.
- 4. Waiting for the synchronous answer of the blockchain platform is not a concern because the (temporarily correct) result has already been returned to the initial caller from step 1. If more messages are coming into the message broker than the Blockchain service can digest, another instance of the service can be created.
- 5. When the call returns from the blockchain platform, the Blockchain service updates the asset marked as “temporarily accepted and pending blockchain verification” in the Autonomous Database as fully completed and “synchronized to the blockchain.”
- 6. Autonomous Data Warehouse links directly to the Oracle Blockchain Platform. As mentioned, the Blockchain platform interaction is slow because it requires a smart contract to run every time it’s interacted with. The Autonomous Data Warehouse serves as a rich history database connection, which receives every newly created block on the Oracle Blockchain platform. So, business intelligence and other analytics can run on blockchain data efficiently and through SQL in the Data Warehouse instead of directly on the blockchain.
With the help of Oracle’s Cloud Engineering resources, Retraced went from project start to launch within 12 months. Retraced has effectively scaled its business for current and projected growth, horizontally or vertically, with little to no downtime by adding more storage or CPU power with a single click with OCI. Retraced also can now collect and store its data more effectively compared to its previous infrastructure. Retraced has achieved 400% growth in sales and 750% more traffic in 2021. The use of blockchain to track sustainability information accurately has helped Retraced build trust with current and future clients.
For future deployments, Retraced is planning several multiregional deployments with OCI to help scale with the increased global traffic they are encountering and even fast local access to all edges of the globe. Retraced wants to ensure both data locality and security for its clients all around the globe, and it plans on using OCI’s availability in over 36 public global cloud regions. To learn more about Retraced and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, see the following resources:
- Watch the Retraced Built & Deployed video (7:25)
- A detailed Reference Architecture of Retraced’s blockchain platform on OCI
retraced keeps ethical sourcing in fashionretraced uses Oracle Autonomous Database with blockchain and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure to increase sustainability in the apparel industry.