- WalmartLabs, the retailer's research and development unit, has open sourced Electrode, the application platform used to power Walmart.com, TechCrunch reports.
- According to the WalmartLabs site, Electrode is a platform "for building universal React/Node.js applications with standardized structure, best practices and modern technologies baked in." The platform emphasizes performance, component reusability and efficient deployment to multiple cloud providers.
- WalmartLabs, which also supports about 140 other open source projects, told TechCrunch that it hopes open sourcing Electrode will inspire other developers to help improve the platform for Wal-Mart and other companies that might use it.
Wal-Mart always gets tagged with the "conservative company" reputation, and while it suits the retailer in many facets of its business, it certainly does not apply the the company's technology efforts. Its recent $3 billion acquisition of Jet may have gotten the headlines, but there is a lot more going on technology-wise at Wal-Mart.
The Jet deal might be the engine that helps Wal-Mart go into a faster gear with its e-commerce operations, but WalmartLabs is its other important technology engine. Already having 140 open source projects shows that WalmartLabs has been living on the cutting edge of software development for a while now: The Electrode move comes almost exactly one year after WalmartLabs open sourced its its OneOps cloud storage solution. Meanwhile, companies like Nike are just getting started releasing code on Github.
Wal-Mart's openness to open source development as a way to tweak and improve its solutions is all part of its grand plan to be better at e-commerce, a plan that is costing it billions of dollars as it rapidly grows its in-house technology capabilities.
However, amid some e-commerce sales doldrums, it's a strategy that Wal-Mart must pursue. More than any other retailer, it seems determined to save its brick-and-mortar operations from e-commerce threats, while excelling at e-commerce itself. It's not going to be easy, but its willingness to trust a whole community of developers to help it improve its e-commerce technology is certainly a start.