Open Source Underpins a Home Furnishings Provider’s Global Ambitions
DETROIT — Wayfair describes itself as “the destination for all things home: helping everyone, anywhere create their feeling of home.”
It provides an online platform to acquire home furniture, outdoor decor and other furnishings. It also supports its suppliers so they can use the platform to sell their home goods, according to Natali Vlatko, Wayfair’s global lead, open source program office (OSPO) and senior software engineering manager.
“It takes a lot of technical work behind the scenes to kind of get that going,” said Vlatko, in this On the Road episode of The New Stack Makers podcast, recorded during KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2022.
The conversation on this episode was hosted by B. Cameron Gain, a frequent TNS contributor, and sponsored by KubeCon + CloudNativeCon.
Going ‘Full Tilt’ into Cloud Native
The technical work Wayfair depends on is getting more intense as the company scales its operations worldwide. The infrastructure must be highly distributed, relying on containerization, microservices, Kubernetes, and especially, open source to get the job done.
“We have technologists throughout the world, in North America and throughout Europe as well,” Vlatko said. “And we want to make sure that we are utilizing cloud native and open source, not just as technologies that fuel our business, but also as ways that are great for us to work in now.”
Open source has served as a “great avenue,” Vlatko said, for creating and offering technical services, and to accomplish that, she amassed the required talent. This small team of engineers had a focus on platform work, advocacy, community management and internally on compliance with licenses.
About five years ago, when Vlatko joined Wayfair, the company had yet to go “full tilt into going all cloud native,” she said. Wayfair had a hybrid mix of on-premise and cloud infrastructure.
After decoupling from a monolith into a microservices architecture “that journey really began where we understood the really great benefits of microservices and got to a point where we thought, OK, this hybrid model for us actually would benefit our microservices being fully in the cloud,” Vlatko said.
In late 2020, Wayfair made the decision to exit data centers and shift operations to the cloud, which was completed this past October.
The company culture is such that engineers have room to experiment without major fear of failure by doing a lot of development work in a sandbox environment.
“Folks can learn as they go without actually fearing failure or fearing a mistake,” Vlatko said.
“So, I think experimentation is a really important aspect of our own learning and growth for cloud native. Also, coming to great events like KubeCon + CloudNativeCon and other events [has been helpful]. We’re hearing from other companies who’ve done the same journey and process and are learning from the use cases.”