How Walmart Is Embracing the Open-Source OpenStack Model

Walmart wasn't always an open-source advocate, but now it's one of the biggest consumers of open-source technology and is actively building a culture that fosters open-source development.

Walmart, OpenStack

BARCELONA, Spain—Walmart, the world largest retailer and one the largest employers, aims to give back to the OpenStack community. In a session at the OpenStack Summit here, Andrew Mitry, lead architect for Walmart's OpenStack effort, and Megan Rossetti, part of the OpenStack Operations team at Walmart, detailed how the open-source model is working for the retail giant.

Mitry explained that Walmart started on its OpenStack journey four years ago with a proof of concept (PoC) deployment. That original PoC made use of leftover and idle hardware as an initial test case for Walmart. The PoC was successful and now OpenStack has helped transform the way Walmart works.

"Today, 100 percent of our e-commerce runs on OpenStack," Mitry said. "We are now focused on transitioning our retail back-office workloads onto OpenStack, as well."

Mitry noted that now it's not just web applications that Walmart is moving to OpenStack, but a lot of data intensive applications, as well.

"[OpenStack] has become the de facto cloud platform within Walmart," Mitry said.

Today Walmart is running 170,000 computing cores on OpenStack, but perhaps even more noteworthy is the fact that Walmart is not just a consumer of open-source; it is also active contributor with more than 60 open-source projects.

Among the open-source projects that Walmart has started are OneOps,an application lifecycle management platform. Walmart has also developed the Electrode node.js application platform as an open-source effort.

Open-source activity is not a side job for Walmart's IT staff but rather is considered to be part of day-to-day operations. Additionally, Mitry noted that developers are recognized for their open-source contributions.

"Large companies that have been around for a while have awards for patents and other innovations," Mitry said. "We actually now have company awards around open-source contributions."

Rossetti noted that open-source is now also part of the overall management process with goal setting for employees on open-source contributions. Additionally, as new developers come to Walmart, the company includes open-source contribution training as part of the on-boarding process.

"One of our goals is to make it as seamless as possible to push open-source code out the door," Mitry said.

By embracing open-source, Mitry commented that it has also helped Walmart attract developer talent to the company as well as helping retain existing developers. The overall culture chain in support of open source has helped generate a lot of excitement and energy for Walmart's developers.

So, instead of developers thinking that the work they are doing will be hidden inside a big company and never noticed, code has a wider impact and developers are part of a larger ecosystem of open-source contributions. Additionally, Mitry noted that even though Walmart is a large company, individual development teams might still be small, so being part of a larger community is helpful.

"It's not just 'hey I'm doing this little thing inside of this big company that no one notices,'" Mitry said. "[Open-source] creates excitement in what developers are doing, in being able to share it and talk about and even have other people contribute and use the code outside of the company.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.