OpenStack comes up huge for Walmart

For those skeptics who still think OpenStack isn’t ready for prime time, here’s a tidbit: @WalmartLabs is now running in excess of 100,000 cores of OpenStack on its compute layer. And that’s growing by the day.

It’s also the technology that ran parent company Walmart’s prodigious Cyber Monday and holiday season sales operations. If that’s not production, I’m not sure what is.

San Bruno, California–based @WalmartLabs, which is the e-commerce innovation and development arm for the [company]Walmart[/company] retail colossus, started working with OpenStack about a year and a half ago, at first relying heavily on the usual vendors but increasingly building up its in-house talent pool, Amandeep Singh Juneja, senior director of cloud operations and engineering, said in an interview.

Building a private cloud at public cloud scale

@WalmartLabs has about 3,600 employees worldwide, 1,500 of whom are in the Bay Area. Juneja estimated the organization has hired about 1,000 engineers in the last year or so — no mean feat given that there are lots of companies, including the OpenStack vendors, in the market for this expertise.

“Traditionally, Walmart is vendor-heavy in its big technology investments — name a vendor and we’ve worked with it and that was also true with OpenStack,” Juneja noted. “We started about one and a half years ago with all the leading distribution vendors involved … we did our first release with Havana and [company]Rackspace[/company]. But then we invested internally in building our own engineering muscle. We attended all the meet-ups and summits.” Havana is the code name for the eighth OpenStack code release.

Amandeep Singh Juneja, @WalmartLabs

Amandeep Singh Juneja, @WalmartLabs

Nothing says big like Walmart. It has around $480 billion in annual revenue, more than 2 million employees, and more than 11,000 retail locations worldwide (including Sam’s Club and Walmart International venues). Walmart.com claims more than 140 million weekly visitors. So scale was clearly an issue from the get-go.

What @WalmartLabs loved about OpenStack was that it could be molded and modified to fit its specifications, without vendor lock-in.

AWS need not apply

This is a massive private cloud built on a public cloud scale. There are also some macro issues at play here. Since parent company Walmart competes tooth and nail with [company]Amazon.com[/company], the chances of Walmart using Amazon Web Services public cloud are nil. (I asked Juneja whether Walmart would ever use any public cloud capabilities and he politely responded that this question was above his pay grade.)

The beauty of open-source projects like OpenStack is that new capabilities continually come on line and there is a community of deeply technical people working on the code. Going forward, Juneja is particularly interested in Ironic, an OpenStack project to enable provisioning of bare metal (as opposed to virtual) machines, and in the Trove database-as-a-service project. Trove, he noted, has matured a bit and Walmart will be using more DbaaS going forward.

Another work in progress is the construction of a multi-petabyte object store using the OpenStack Swift technology, but there are also plans to bring more block storage in-house, possibly using OpenStack Cinder. And the team is looking at Neutron for software-defined network projects.

One thing Walmart must deal with is its brick-and-mortar roots. The ability to order online and pick up in the store means that what @WalmartLabs builds must interact with inventory and other systems already running the Walmart/Sam’s Club storefronts. Non-e-commerce-related IT projects are run by Walmart’s Information Services Division at the company’s Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters.

So the ability of the shiny new OpenStack systems to interface with infrastructure that’s been in place for decades or so — some for as much as 50 years — is critical. It also spells the full employment act for all those @WalmartLabs engineers.

Note: this story was updated at 11:30 a.m. PST to reflect that Walmart is running 100K+ cores, not nodes, of OpenStack

Top 5 lessons learned at OpenStack Summit

There was lots of hubbub Tuesday at the OpenStack Summit. Actual customers talking about real implementations of the open-source cloud. Here’s what I learned.

New OpenStack clouds mean something for everyone

If there isn’t an OpenStack cloud you fancy, wait a second, there’s more — a lot more — in the pipeline. Cloudscaling, Metacloud and Dreamhost will all preview their take on the open-source cloud this week at the OpenStack Summit in San Diego.

Founder of Mint closes project on alternative urban transport

The founder of Mint.com, Aaron Patzer, has been researching alternative urban transportation under a company called Swift over the past six months but has determined that the personal maglev system he had been envisioning is not economically viable for a company to produce.

WWD Interview: Raven Zachary, iPhone Adviser

In an effort to give you a slightly different perspective from what you normally get on WebWorkerDaily, we decided to talk with folks whom we feel are doing especially interesting web working jobs. We’re kicking off the first installment of this series of web worker interviews with Raven Zachary.

Raven ZacharyZachary works with investors, startups and established companies on iPhone strategy and product development. He has directed the launch of two “Top 20” iPhone applications: Obama ’08 (for Obama for America) and Nearby (for Platial). Raven is the founder of iPhoneDevCamp, a not-for-pro?t iPhone developer conference, and a contributing analyst with The 451 Group, an IT industry analyst ?rm and works closely with O’Reilly Media on iPhone and mobile technology-related events and coverage. Raven is regularly quoted by the press about the iPhone and is a frequent conference speaker on the topic. Read More about WWD Interview: Raven Zachary, iPhone Adviser

Sharing Is Caring For The Suzuki Swift

Suzuki Motor Co. of Japan, maker of many things small and wonderful, announced recently that it has begun producing a car specifically for car sharing services. Intended for use in the growing Japanese market, the car, a variant of Suzuki’s Swift, is a car-sharing-specific model that has an integrated automated system that keeps track of cars among several users.

Car-sharing companies all have some sort of on board authenticator that checks the validity of the user, tracks mileage, etc. For most companies, the technology must be retrofitted as an external device on each vehicle, but in the case of the new Swift, Suzuki has built this device into the vehicle directly. The car-sharing company just has to purchase the vehicle, and their specific car-sharing needs are ready to go.

Read More about Sharing Is Caring For The Suzuki Swift

Paste Sticki notes on the web

Stickis, a plug-in that helps you add your own notes to web pages (similar to Medium, Trailfire, Fleck, and Diigo) launches today at noon. The idea of writing on the web is pretty cool, but Stickis’ confusing interface does not appear to be at all ready for prime-time. Still, there’s one feature that caught our interest: the option to create “anti-social tags.” When a note contains a designated tag, it is only viewable by a pre-set group. Sneaky.