Walmart Employs Open Source to Level E-Commerce Playing Field

Mike Vizard
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Now that organizations of all sizes have discovered that IT is indeed a competitive weapon, an interesting phenomenon is starting to occur. IT organizations that build their own software are moving to make that software available under an open source license. Case in point is Walmart, which is now making a React/Node.js application platform dubbed Electrode available as an open source project.

Alex Grigoryan, director of software engineering for the Application Platform at Walmart Labs, says even though Walmart has spent millions of dollars developing Electrode, the retailer has a vested interest in recruiting other IT organizations to contribute code to extend the core platform.

“We’re looking for contributions that can help us stay on the cutting edge,” says Grigoryan.

Electrode is only the latest in a series of open source projects that Walmart contributes code to on a regular basis. In fact, members of the Walmart Labs IT team told attendees at a recent OpenStack East 2016 conference that Walmart is considering making the software it uses to manage DevOps available as open source code.

While Walmart would no doubt benefit from external code contributions, the code it’s making available also helps level the IT playing field against archrival Amazon for any company engaged in e-commerce. Other retailers may not have much more love for Walmart than they do for Amazon, but they do stand to benefit from the rivalry between the two retailer giants as Walmart essentially moves to arm the entire e-commerce sector with free software.

Naturally, providers of commercial e-commerce software may not be quite as thrilled by that prospect. But Electrode does show how organizations are starting to turn custom software they create into open source code that furthers their own competitive agendas. As more IT organizations come to the same conclusion, the opportunity to change the way software is created and consumed across the enterprise winds up being nothing less than profound.

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