Target Looks to Open Source to Hit Bullseye

The company relies on open source to improve agility in the face of business difficulties.

Mitch Wagner, Executive Editor, Light Reading

April 10, 2017

3 Min Read
Target Looks to Open Source to Hit Bullseye

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Open Networking Summit -- Target sees open source as essential to its digital business transformation, allowing the retail chain to control its own destiny.

Target Corp. is using digital, mobile and other technologies to improve the "guest experience " in its 1,806 US stores, says Lakshmi Sharma, Target vice president of cloud and computing, at a keynote here. Target wants to deliver the same "on-demand, anytime, anywhere" shopping experience on mobile in-store, or on the web. "No matter where you are, giving you the same experience, same quality," she said. The company is looking to provide in-store pickups for items ordered online, delivered within the hour.

Those goals require greater integration of the supply chain using software and other technology. "All of that is technology. Supply chain, software, and technology -- they all get mashed together," Sharma said.

Figure 1: Cloud Boss Target's Lakshmi Sharma says open source plays a strategic role for the retailer. Target's Lakshmi Sharma says open source plays a strategic role for the retailer.

As part of its digital transformation, Target reorganized its IT team, going from 70% offshore and the rest in-house, to the reverse -- 70% in-house and the remainder offshore. The IT department refined its focus, narrowing from 800 projects to 100. It built a culture of DevOps, Agile and "ruthless prioritization," she said.

In the future, Target is looking to focus on data to enhance the guest experience and optimize resources, Sharma said

Cloud and compute is an integral part of the strategy, using APIs to drive efficiency, with compute located in data centers, stores, distribution centers and the hybrid cloud.

The company is looking to simplify its environment, aggressively consolidating and removing legacy apps, standardizing compute, storage and networking, and using open source and reusing software, Sharma said.

Building software in-house and using open source has been essential to moving faster, Sharma said. "It wouldn't have been faster if we hadn't built these things on our own and had the support of the open source platform that we have," she said

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Open source adoption leads to "tighter control on product delivery," she said.

Open source isn't just about cost, Sharma said. "You can't transform your business to do what nobody else has done if you don't control the software you use. When you use open source software, particularly if you're already contributing to it, the answer moves from 'You can't do that' to 'it will take about this much time -- how should we prioritize that?'"

Target looks to transform as the company faces business difficulties. The company told financial analysts in late February that it will rely more on low prices to compete with rivals like Wal-Mart and Amazon -- both of which have made heavy cloud investments -- and lowered its sales and profit estimates. (See How Walmart Builds Open Source Culture and AWS Tops in Public Cloud, but Azure Is Catching Up.)

— Mitch Wagner Follow me on Twitter Visit my LinkedIn profile Visit my blog Friend me on Facebook Editor, Enterprise Cloud News

About the Author(s)

Mitch Wagner

Executive Editor, Light Reading

San Diego-based Mitch Wagner is many things. As well as being "our guy" on the West Coast (of the US, not Scotland, or anywhere else with indifferent meteorological conditions), he's a husband (to his wife), dissatisfied Democrat, American (so he could be President some day), nonobservant Jew, and science fiction fan. Not necessarily in that order.

He's also one half of a special duo, along with Minnie, who is the co-habitor of the West Coast Bureau and Light Reading's primary chewer of sticks, though she is not the only one on the team who regularly munches on bark.

Wagner, whose previous positions include Editor-in-Chief at Internet Evolution and Executive Editor at InformationWeek, will be responsible for tracking and reporting on developments in Silicon Valley and other US West Coast hotspots of communications technology innovation.

Beats: Software-defined networking (SDN), network functions virtualization (NFV), IP networking, and colored foods (such as 'green rice').

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