Cloud

Walmart may have world's largest private cloud; could it become a cloud provider?

Walmart spent five years building a massive private cloud deployment, and it is paying dividends in security and agility, their CTO said.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Walmart spent five years and millions of dollars building out its private cloud deployment, in an effort to better compete with Amazon in the e-commerce space.
  • Despite the size of its private cloud, it's doubtful that Walmart will end up as a cloud provider due to difficulties with enterprise trust and the existing lead held by cloud giants.

After spending countless millions of dollars over the past five years to build out its own private cloud deployment, key Walmart executives said that the investments are paying off, according to a Reuters report.

The reason for the initial project, according to the report, was for Walmart to be able to more effectively store and analyze data that could be used to drive online sales and boost digital retail efforts. In essence, Walmart is doubling down on its efforts to battle with Amazon in e-commerce.

However, Walmart has a long way to go before it can catch up with Amazon. Data from eMarketer, cited in the Reuters report, puts Walmart's share of the US e-commerce market at 3.6%, while Amazon commands 43.5%.

SEE: Cloud computing policy (Tech Pro Research)

Still, Walmart CTO Jeremy King told Reuters that the new cloud allowed the firm to increase its total number of possible monthly software changes from 100 to 170,000—massive growth.

According to the report, Walmart's private cloud is made up of "six giant server farms, each larger than ten football fields." And 80% of Walmart's cloud initiatives are handled in-house, the report noted. A January 2017 article from Forbes alluded to Walmart's attempts to "build the world's largest cloud-based database."

The big question is whether or not Walmart will try to leverage its cloud investments in the same way that Amazon did with Amazon Web Services—by becoming a cloud services provider. Tim Kimmet, head of cloud operations for Walmart, told Reuters that Walmart doesn't have an immediate plans to offer cloud services, but he also "did not rule it out as a future revenue driver."

Still, if established enterprise companies like IBM and Oracle are struggling to compete with Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, it's doubtful that Walmart could. Not only do the large providers have a huge head start, Walmart would also have to convince enterprises to trust them with their data—much easier said than done.

The one way Walmart could nose its way into the cloud market would be through a package solution that could help other retailers fight Amazon's dominance in online retail. By avoiding infrastructure or software and offering an omnichannel as a service or e-commerce as a service solution, Walmart could become a platform provider for other retailers in the cloud.

Also see

Walmart ceo

Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon with store employees.

Image: Walmart

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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