The Kubermesh package comes from Ocado’s technology division and is designed to simplify data center architectures for smart factories. Kubermesh allows desktop computers to be configured as nodes to support compute or storage functions typical of traditional data centers.
Chris Dabrowski, general manager of infrastructure at Ocado Technology, said the system runs on OpenStack, Docker containers, and Kubernetes. The company, which claims more than 1,000 software developers, had previously relied on Hadoop and Apache Spark software running on Google’s Compute Engine.
“Kubernetes normally requires a structured environment to run, but we altered it to run in our environment,” Dabrowski said.
Ocado developed the open source package initially for its warehouses. The firm said it came to realize the large number of assets in its warehouses allowed it to tap those resources to replace the need for direct compute and eliminate a big capex cost.
“By distributing data center functionality in a mesh network of nodes, Kubermesh removes the need for a dedicated data center and complex networking infrastructure, thus achieving significant energy savings and reducing the capital and operational expenditures associated with maintaining on-premise high-performance servers,” according to the company.
The Kubermesh-based nodes are designed to be fault-tolerant and can process real-time data generated by smart factories or automated warehouses.
“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,” Dabrowski said.
WiFi/4G Hybrid Network
The company said it developed its own in-house wireless network to connect its roving robotic workforce. Dabrowski explained that current WiFi technologies could not meet the limited interference requirements needed to support its army of robots.
The network uses unlicensed spectrum in the 5 GHz band and a modified version of the 3GPP LTE standard. Dabrowski explained one advantage of the network is that it can be deployed anywhere in the world where there is access to unlicensed spectrum. The system is also robust enough to handle the millisecond latency supported by the Kubermesh platform.
Ocado said it plans to offer Kubermesh as a white-label product through a cloud-based software-as-a-service (Saas) platform to other retailers.