4 Retailers Supercharging Development with DevOps


Strategic imperatives in retail, including the need to streamline operations and optimize marketing and merchandising, are causing many retailers to increase organizational agility by automating IT processes and developing and deploying software faster and more frequently. It’s no surprise, then, that leading retailers are increasingly adopting a DevOps approach to software development.


In its early years, Etsy took a traditional waterfall approach to software development. Developers took weeks to write code, then handed code off to operations for deployment; deploys were rolled back when there were problems; and so on. Since then, the company has fully automated development pipelines, implemented real-time performance measurement, and built a culture of collaboration between dev and ops. Today, Etsy uses third-party tools like Chef and Jenkins for configuration management and continuous integration, as well as a variety of internal tools to automate virtualizing machines, code testing, one-click deployment, performance monitoring and A/B testing, and recordkeeping. The result? 50 deploys per day.


WalmartLabs, Walmart’s digital technology unit—which works on e-commerce and mobile commerce, search, Big Data, and the company’s global technology platform—has embraced DevOps. To that end, in 2013 Walmart acquired OneOps, which develops automation tools for application deployment and operations monitoring. WalmartLabs also created hapi, a scalable open-source Node.js framework for web applications and services, which lets developers focus on writing reusable application logic rather than spending time building infrastructure.


At Target, bottom-up consensus is driving a shift to DevOps. Today the approach is part of products like Cartwheel, a mobile commerce application that offers customers in-store savings earned via Facebook. “[It] started out in small corners of development and infrastructure teams,” writes Dan Cundiff, a technical architect at Target, “and has since caught on like wildfire.” Now Target sponsors Minneapolis DevOpsDays meetups, and has hosted its own internal DevOpsDays, which even included developers from Nordstrom, a retail competitor.


In a recent pilot DevOps project, Nordstrom implemented a continuous delivery pipeline automating delivery of code changes to the staging environment. Today the DevOps approach is becoming more widespread in the organization. “We were able to automate a very heterogeneous infrastructure that included both legacy and new applications,” says Rob Cummings, a Nordstrom infrastructure engineer. “And we were able to open up some interesting career paths for our engineers. We have, for example, hardcore UNIX engineers now happily automating Windows infrastructure because they can do it through code.” As companies like Etsy, Walmart, Target, and Nordstrom have learned, DevOps empowers retailers to be more agile, more responsive to customers, and better able to drive growth in their bottom line. Retailers who want to stay in the game would be well advised to join them and get started with DevOps today.

Eric Wilinski has been writing about technology since the dot-com days. He’s worked for a variety of companies in the industry, from startups to Fortune 100 multinationals, and his writing has appeared on some of the most popular sites on the web. His first computer was a 128K Macintosh. Today he’s learning Ruby. View posts by .

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