Ocado Technologies, the technical arm of the world’s largest online-only retail grocery store, has released Kubermesh as an open source solution on GitHub.

Kubermesh is an Ocado-created container-based system that uses Kubernetes to simplify the data architecture of smart factories, thereby reducing reliance on traditional data centers.

Kubermesh is described as a “bare-metal self-hosted, self-healing, self-provisioning, partial-mesh network Kubernetes cluster.” It is essential that a mesh network links several nodes in a particular location to create distributed system to manage factory and warehouse activities automatically. Nodes are located on premises, and data is stored in the cloud so that a working Kubermesh system could ideally replace offsite data centers, complex networks and other hardware used in warehouse management.

The Kubermesh system uses IT hardware already in service in the factory or warehouse, so it does not require a large capital investment to create. Nodes can be made of any computing equipment already at the company, ranging from dedicated servers to workstations or standard PCs.

The self-provisioning feature of the Kubermesh system allows for nodes to be connected and incorporated with ease, for a scalable and flexible system. Within moments, a new node can be incorporated into the cluster and offering additional capacity as required.

ocado1The self-healing feature creates dependability in the Kubermesh system. Should a node fail, communications are automatically re-routed. Containers that are damaged or lost are reproduced and distributed among those nodes that remain.

Chris Dabrowski, GM of infrastructure at Ocado Technology said, “Kubermesh is an elegant and cost-efficient solution to running our highly-automated Customer Fulfillment Centers based on a distributed network of computing nodes spread around the warehouse rather than high-performance servers concentrated in one large data center. This is a bold idea that has the potential to revolutionize the way companies approach on-site data center architectures.”

“We’re very excited to continue unlocking the potential of container technology at Ocado and hope that the open source community uses Kubermesh in new and exciting ways.”

The idea for Kubermesh grew from Ocado’s work with the Code for Life project, a non-profit initiative dedicated to introducing children to basics of coding. Through Code for Life, Ocado began to use Kubernetes, and started to explore ideas related to rethinking smart warehouse data architecture.

The advantage to a distributed data architecture, located on-premises, is that it leverages the scalability and automation available with private cloud services using existing IT infrastructure. This is an elegant, low-cost solution to virtualized data architecture that allows a smart factory to avoid expenses related to purchasing and maintain data center hardware, in addition to energy and employee-related expenses.