Four interesting implications of Walmart's open-source cloud announcement

Walmart's tech division has figured out how to hot-swap underlying cloud services with relatively little fuss or muss. They plan to share their solution with all.

Walmart is planning to open-source its cloud management technology, offering some powerful new features to enterprises seeking to move their applications and systems to the cloud or between clouds, free of vendor or internal proprietary hooks.

Photo: Joe McKendrick

In a post this week, Jeremy King, CTO of Walmart Global eCommerce and head of @WalmartLabs, and Tim Kimmet, VP of platform and systems for @WalmartLabs, said they intend to open-source cloud management software from Walmart's OneOps acquisition, made a couple of years ago. OneOps, which has been an important project within @WalmartLabs, the retailer's Silicon Valley incubator, automates the process of switching from one cloud to another.

OneOps helps developers and enterprises "avoid the pitfalls of being locked-in to a cloud provider, and thrive in WalmartLabs' DevOps culture - whatever code developers write, they own, from its development to its launch to customers," said King and Kimmet. They add that @WalmartLabs' 3,000 engineers use the solution, and, on average, "commit over 30,000 changes per month to deliver new or improved features to our customers."

There are four interesting things about this announcement:

1) There is an increasing open source disruption taking place within the cloud industry, begun by efforts such as HP Helion Eucalyptus and OpenStack and now moving further up the enterprise food chain. Cloud, a disruptive force in its own right, is being disrupted from within.

2) The intent of the Walmart announcement, to be able to easily switch corporate application, systems and data from one provider to another -- be it internal private cloud or external provider -- brings us closer to the ultimate vision of cloud and service-oriented architecture. The underlying technology shouldn't matter, it's the business capabilities and processes on top that matter, and enterprises should be able to easily hot-swap any technology solutions they see fit.

3) This impending release of tools and technologies by Walmart Labs further fuels the growth potential of private, and by extension, hybrid clouds within enterprises. There's been some debate whether private clouds are merely stepping stones to public cloud, but there's clearly a growing private cloud space for enterprises that don't want to bet everything on outside providers -- yet still have the flexibility and openness cloud can offer.

4) The fact that it's Walmart, a retailer, getting into the cloud platform space points to the convergence that is taking place between tech and non-tech companies. That is, every company, to one degree or another, regardless of industry, is becoming a software company, as well as cloud provider. Every company is becoming both publishers and consumers of cloud and API-based services.

As King and Kimmet, explain it, OneOps helped Walmart get away from the "Hotel California Effect" -- "we're no longer a 'prisoner of our own device.' And soon, neither will other denizens of the cloud. We're enabling any organization to achieve the same cloud portability and developer benefits that Walmart has enjoyed. By eliminating the barriers that cloud hosting providers have erected, OneOps will drive them to compete based on price, customer service and innovation. It's a winning scenario for all dev-centric organizations."

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