How Wal-Mart enables 'innersource' with Github

The big box retailer’s technology arm has adopted the open source ethos, encouraging its engineers to write code and share it with time-crunched teams that can use the help.

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Talk to Wal-Mart software engineers and you’ll hear them speaking candidly about how open source technology influences virtually every project they undertake. What you may not know is that the retail giant’s programmers have also embraced the open source ethos of sharing code to run ecommerce, search, mobile payments and other digital functions. Known as enterprise source, internal open source and innersource, the twist on traditional open source has caught on at other organizations, including Autodesk, Capital One, Paypal and Bloomberg.

“The more we can do this internal open source, the more flexible we can be and the faster we can release code to customers,” says Jeremy King, CTO of Wal-Mart Global eCommerce and head of @WalmartLabs. “We want you to consume OS because it’s faster, cheaper and better but we want you to contribute because it’s the right thing to do for the community,” King says.

jeremy king

Jeremy King, CTO of Wal-Mart Global Ecommerce and head of @WalmartLabs.

Open source has become more the rule than the exception in recent years thanks to wide-scale code sharing by Google, Facebook and several other Silicon Valley companies. Walmart has itself has embraced the model. The group earlier this year launched OneOps, a platform that enables programmers to test and switch between different cloud providers, a crucial benefit as companies embrace hybrid cloud models.

Innersource helps big companies reduce bureaucracy

Innersource is essentially open source software developed behind the firewall and shared among engineering groups. The approach is particularly valuable at large organizations that employ thousands of employees, and where even the hint of bureaucracy is difficult to snuff out.

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