Kroger Integrating Cloud Foundry on 45,000 Virtualized Servers

by Roger StrukhoffJuly 22, 2015
The largest grocer—and second largest retailer—in the United States is reforming its IT and creating a DevOps culture.
Why read this?
Use Case for Cloud Foundry:

Retail: Kroger

Business or Technical Result:

Virtualized 45,000 systems—90% of enterprise IT infrastructure. Creating DevOps culture to respond to demands of business.

Lessons learned:

One step at a time.

CF deployed to:

Take next step beyond virtualization of IT resources.

What else is in the stack?

VMware stack, Spring

Cool fact about deployment:

Both dev and ops are committed to it wholly.

Company Description:

The largest grocer in the U.S., and trailing only Walmart as a retailer overall. Department stores and jewelry sales complement the grocery business. Based in Cincinnati, the company is 132 years old and has more than 2,600 stores.

Cool fact about the company:

With annual revenues of more than $100 billion and almost 400,000 employees, Kroger is the fifth largest retailer in the world.

(Note: This use case is based on a presentation at the Cloud Foundry Summit 2015 in Santa Clara, CA by and of Kroger.)

Dev and Ops are working closely together on Kroger’s journey to Cloud Foundry. The largest grocer—and second largest retailer—in the United States, Kroger generates more than $100 billion in annual revenue from more than 2,600 locations.

Top management has set the Cincinnati-based company on course to reach $250 billion. A 21st-century IT architecture and infrastructure will be a key component as Kroger works to reach its ambitious goals. With Cloud Foundry it is reforming its IT and creating a DevOps culture that will be essential to the company’s success.

The company’s journey to Cloud Foundry began in 2007 with integration of VMware into the organization. Today, there are more than 45,000 virtualized servers, representing 90% of the company’s IT infrastructure.

Kroger Use Case for Cloud Foundry: Company's Infrastructure

A second stage commenced in 2013 with integration of vCloud Director and vCenter Orchestrator, according to James Masters from Kroger’s IT operations side.

“Getting the VMs was well-received but still a challenge,” Masters explains. “We brought in Lab Manager around 2010 to expose some of that infrastructure via a self-service portal, then upped our game with Vcloud Director and vCenter Orchestrator in 2013. We’ve encouraged people on the dev side to help us write code and get their VMs to the point where they could be managed by others.”

Masters further notes, “The hard part is not deploying systems. The hard part is managing them.” Within this context, Ted Tollefson from Kroger’s dev side says, “Dev and ops have started working more together. We do a lot of orchestration, exposing infrastructure. We’re marrying the orchestrations of dev and ops, creating a running environment, with applications deployed.”

The two sides got into Cloud Foundry in 2014 “as a next step,” according to Tollefson. “So now we’re not only orchestrating and provisioning middleware and databases, but also focusing on orchestrating an entire project initiation.”

The company has thus arrived at what it calls its Kroger Internal Cloud (KIC) initiative. “We’re doing this from a business perspective because we want to consolidate platforms and needed elastic scaling to scale horizontally. We need to scale more gracefully as the business continues to grow. From the DevOps perspective, we want to develop 12-factor apps and add a lot of automation.”

Kroger Use Case for Cloud Foundry: Requirements

The integrated team uses Spring initializer as part of its effort to automate project provisioning.

Team members can type in a few parameters and fork base sets of code, then use enhancements to create stash repo checks and create continuous integration builds. “We are able to set up best practices right from the start,” according to Masters. “It takes 10 minutes to get code, ALM tooling, and be ready to go.”

Masters notes that the KIC initiative requires “much greater change for operations than from development from an organizational point of view, and we’re a little cautious with respect to so much change” even as the company pushes forward with Cloud Foundry.

Keys to success of the initiative are outlined in the following slide:

Kroger use case for Cloud Foundry: Automated provisioning inputs

At this point, there is a pure VMware stack underneath, although the company is also looking at VIO (VMware Integrated Openstack) and “playing around” with other hypervisors. The Kroger team also is looking at using additional resources to scale out with the Cassandra NoSQL database in the future.

Masters and Tollefson agree that there have been benefits to developers and to operational managers, as outlined in the following two slides:

kroger-use-case-for-cloud-foundry-benefits-for-developers

kroger-use-case-for-cloud-foundry-benefits-for-managers

As the KIC initiative progresses, the integrated team will continue to think of infrastructure in terms of code and working to having a common platform, while realizing that quick and easy spin-up means “it’s also OK to put something that’s not working back in the resource pool and start over,” Tollefson says.

Management buy-in is essential, as is continued teamwork. “If you spin stuff up but don’t have support, there will be a very short flight,” Masters points out.

Related slides

A deep dive into Kroger’s initiative to create better customer experiences is found on SlideShare:

 

Related videos

Here is the original video presented at the Cloud Foundry Summit 2015 in Santa Clara, CA.

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