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How Walmart Leverages Open Source for Operational Excellence at Scale

By June 5, 2024No Comments

How does the world’s largest retail giant, Walmart, use open source technologies to efficiently manage its massive network infrastructure? Dave Temkin, vice president of Platform Infrastructure at Walmart, offered a comprehensive look into the retailer’s open source journey, emphasizing the importance of scale, efficiency, and community collaboration, during a keynote presentation at the recent Open Networking & Edge Summit.

Walmart at Scale

As the world’s largest retailer, Walmart operates on a scale unlike any other organization:

Managing its network operations requires robust and scalable network solutions to ensure reliable uptime and experiences for customers and associates across the globe. Given its massive scale, Walmart’s list of considerations to keep its network infrastructure running must include:

  • Consistent visibility across platforms
  • Reduction of operational overhead from managing Network Operating System (NOS) versions
  • Effectively manage traffic
  • Scalable load balancing
  • Device lifecycle
  • Feature parity
  • Stay vendor agnostic
  • Cost management

How, then, do they implement solutions that can address all of these requirements while keeping costs and complexity down?

Linux Foundation Networking Solutions

Enter open source solutions. Walmart is currently deploying Enterprise SONiC at scale in its data centers. The use of SONiC has yielded incredible results in operational excellence, reliability, and engineering cognitive load. Walmart is investing in growing and hiring talent for SONiC development and community contribution. (Results have been so positive that Walmart plans to use SONiC not just inside its data centers, but also within stores, distribution centers, campuses, and beyond.)

Walmart has stated its commitment to making community  SONiC truly enterprise-ready, focusing on features like PoE, 802.1X security, a uniform CLI, and robust automation capabilities. With over 10,000 stores and 100,000+ network elements, automation is not just beneficial—it’s essential. Ensuring feature parity across multiple vendors, accelerating bug fixes, and investing heavily in automation can make SONiC an even more valuable asset for network management.

Walmart is also using LF Networking’s L3AF, an orchestration platform and lifecycle manager for eBPF programs. L3AF offers the ability to chain multiple eBPF programs (TC/XPD) on a single network interface. L3AF’s multi-network support is vital for running eBPF programs on Walmart’s Edge proxy layer for metric gathering, rate-limiting, and more. Further, L3AF manages the eBPF program for Direct Server Return (DSR) which is a key component of Walmart’s scalable internal L4 load balancer on a private cloud. Ultimately, L3AF is crucial for Walmart’s observability, network functions, security, and business impact.

Keep an eye out for more ways Walmart finds value in open source, and take a look at the entire presentation on the LFN YouTube channel to learn more. Also check out this Fierce Network article, Walmart scales stupendous network on open source.

Learn more about how you can get involved in both SONiC and L3AF.