Ocado Technology has released to open source its Kubermesh cloud software technology, making it available to anyone who wants to use it via Github.
Kubermesh, claims Ocado, uses container-based technology and the Kubernetes system to implement an on-premise private cloud architecture where desktop computers can be easily configured to become nodes that support the compute or storage functionality typically delivered by a high-performance server in a data centre.
Kubermesh-based nodes are fault-tolerant, secure, and flexible, claims Ocado, and are intended to process the vast amounts of real-time data generated in ‘smart' factories, such as automated warehouses.
By distributing data centre functionality in a mesh network of nodes, Kubermesh removes the need for a dedicated data centre and complex networking infrastructure, thereby achieving significant energy savings and reducing the capital and operational expenditure associated with maintaining on-premise high-performance servers, claims the company.
Chris Dabrowski, general manager of infrastructure, operations and site reliability engineering at Ocado Technology described the technology as an "elegant and cost efficient solution to running our highly-automated customer fulfilment centres based on a distributed network of computing nodes spread around the warehouse, rather than high-performance servers concentrated in one large data centre.
"This is a bold idea that has the potential to revolutionise the way companies approach on-site data centre architectures.
"Thanks to the power of open source software, such as Kubernetes, our platform automation team was able to quickly design a working prototype and develop it further based on advanced simulations of our future warehouse automation requirements.
"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," said Dabrowski.
In a blog posting explaining the technology in more detail, the company suggested that its largest warehouse in Erith, near Dartford in Kent, would require 400 nodes "randomly dotted around the warehouse and wired together to create the mesh".
It continued: "The apps deployed on the nodes could then be strategically placed near other apps they would often communicate with for optimal speed and performance.
"A node could be any computing equipment typically found in our warehouse, ranging from dedicated servers or Intel NUCs to workstations in pick aisles or PCs used to display engineering-related information on overhead displays."
Earlier this year, Ocado Technology showed off a robot hand it had developed that is capable of picking up and putting down delicate objects without damaging them. That is just one of many developments from the company's research into robotics and automation.
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