Walmart's Investment In Open Source Isn't Cheap

Simon Phipps | InfoWorld | August 22, 2014

While proprietary vendors want us to focus on price, innovators focus on the flexibility and business value of open source

In a recent blog post, a senior developer at Walmart Labs explained that the company's embrace of open source costs big money. Eran Hammer observed that Walmart's backing for the Hapi project is a "significant expense (exceeding $2m)."  Why does Walmart bother with open source at all? Why not use proprietary code from somewhere else and save the company the trouble?

The Hapi.js project is an open source Node.js framework that "enables developers to focus on writing reusable application logic instead of spending time building infrastructure." Hammer explains that Walmart uses it extensively for production applications, so investment in it is a cost of doing business. Indeed, many companies invest in custom frameworks for their development work, including the internal customization of open source code. But Walmart has gone further, spending over and above the cost of internal development so that Hapi can be used by companies unrelated to Walmart.

This is not done for the love of humanity. Walmart takes the effort to work in the open because there is a return to be had from that investment. When other companies adopt Hapi, Walmart expects their internal implementations will lead them to improve the code to better suit their needs...