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Gap explains how a retail customer can give back to OpenStack

Tamlin Magee | May 11, 2017
The retail giant works closely with Rackspace and other vendors to offer suggestions.

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American retail giant Gap deployed its first OpenStack cloud in 2013, but now the vast majority of its forward-facing e-commerce platforms now run on the open source infrastructure.

Eli Elliott, infrastructure architect responsible for private cloud at Gap, explained to Computerworld UK how the company's close partnership with Rackspace -- among other OpenStack vendors -- saw it build and develop from an isolated testing pipeline to running all kinds of workloads.

"We work pretty closely with Rackspace, we're one of their more hands-on clients, I guess I'd say," Elliott said. "I meet with them weekly at places like this, I meet with their architecture team, and tell them all the stuff I wish we had -- and they tell us how quickly they can get it. It's a nice collaboration."

An enterprise architect spotted the potential OpenStack could have and ran a small pilot for an isolation testing pipeline. Since, the company has "literally spun up and destroyed millions of VMs over the past four or five years," Elliott said. "The number is close to 3 million. And our e-com stack lives in OpenStack, so when you go to GAP or Banana Republic or Old Navy online and do an order or just look at stuff, you're getting OpenStack.

"90 percent of our forward-facing applications are in OpenStack, so if you walk into a store today and they don't have the time you want and your salesperson pulls out an iPad to complete a transaction for you, and ships something to your house, all of that happened from start to finish on OpenStack."


Giving back to OpenStack community

By fostering a close working partnership with the different vendors Elliott and his small team of four use, he hopes they are feeding helpful suggestions back to the community, although as a retail customer they are not committing to the code itself.

"That's my hope, because that's the best I can do," he said. An example happened just this week, where at the OpenStack Summit here in Boston, Elliot had a conversation with the Rackspace team.

"I told them I've implemented Magnum in my test cloud and my developers love it, and I want to implement it in my dev cloud," he explained. "They said, well, we've only got it going for a couple of customers but we'll do it next week."

"And when I ask for weird things like I'd like to do scheduling with Mistral, that's not something they get a lot of requests for, so we're going to work with them to pilot it."

GAP runs as much as it can on OpenStack, including its order and store platform, its reserve and store platform, e-commerce, internal applications, and an upcoming hybrid cloud model for a next generation point of sale platform. It also runs workloads on the Azure public cloud.


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