Know the enemy and know yourself: Walmart's new chief techie spent 15 years in the Amazon

So grocery giant need not fear the result of a hundred battles – at least that's the theory

Updated Retail empire Walmart, proud owner of the British supermarket chain Asda, has appointed Suresh Kumar as its global chief technical officer.

Kumar is an old hand at IT, having previously worked for Google, Microsoft and IBM, and spent 15 years in exec roles at Amazon. And of course, Jeff Bezos' behemoth competes with Walmart in the retail space with its Whole Foods and cashier-less Amazon Go stores.

The appointment comes as Walmart, like so many of its ilk, abandons its physical retail roots and attempts to reinvent itself as a robot-powered home delivery service.

Kumar has worked in everything from hardware R&D and software development to cloud computing and machine learning, and has a PhD in Engineering from Princeton University.

His most recent stint was with Google as veep and GM for the display and video ads, apps and analytics business. Before that, he spent almost four years as corporate veep for cloud infrastructure and operations at Microsoft.

But more importantly, Kumar served as vice president of technology for retail systems and services at Amazon and was leading the development of the company's supply chain and inventory management systems.

He was also responsible for setting architecture direction for all retail subsidiaries and integrating them into the Amazon technology stack.

Like Amazon or Britain's Ocado, Walmart is trying to offset the pains of traditional retail with technology: its latest distribution centre for fresh and frozen groceries, under construction in Shafter, California, will feature warehouse automaton – including robots developed by Germany's Witron. Walmart previously said it expects the centre to move products 40 per cent faster than what's possible in facilities operating with bone and sinew.

The company has also partnered with auto auto specialist Waymo to test an online grocery service in which driverless vehicles pick up customers at their homes and take them to the store to collect their orders.

Meanwhile, Walmart is trialling Spark Delivery – a service that works like Uber Eats or Deliveroo, but self-employed drivers get paid for delivering groceries instead of food.

"The technology of today and tomorrow enables us to serve our customers and associates in ways that weren’t previously possible," said Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. "We want to take full advantage of those opportunities."

Walmart claimed it has "elevated" the position of global CTO, whereas it has in fact created the role, as it did not previously exist. As the new worldwide CTO, Kumar will have a direct line to the CEO, and will oversee the retail giant's IT around the planet. The CTO of Walmart US – previously held by Jeremy King – plus the head of technology for Sam's Club, the head of technology for Walmart International, and the head of Global Business Services will all report to Kumar. ®

Editor's note: The article was updated after publication to clarify the scope of Kumar's new role and direct reports.

Broader topics

Narrower topics

Other stories you might like

  • Robotics and 5G to spur growth of SoC industry – report
    Big OEMs hogging production and COVID causing supply issues

    The system-on-chip (SoC) side of the semiconductor industry is poised for growth between now and 2026, when it's predicted to be worth $6.85 billion, according to an analyst's report. 

    Chances are good that there's an SoC-powered device within arm's reach of you: the tiny integrated circuits contain everything needed for a basic computer, leading to their proliferation in mobile, IoT and smart devices. 

    The report predicting the growth comes from advisory biz Technavio, which looked at a long list of companies in the SoC market. Vendors it analyzed include Apple, Broadcom, Intel, Nvidia, TSMC, Toshiba, and more. The company predicts that much of the growth between now and 2026 will stem primarily from robotics and 5G. 

    Continue reading
  • Deepfake attacks can easily trick live facial recognition systems online
    Plus: Next PyTorch release will support Apple GPUs so devs can train neural networks on their own laptops

    In brief Miscreants can easily steal someone else's identity by tricking live facial recognition software using deepfakes, according to a new report.

    Sensity AI, a startup focused on tackling identity fraud, carried out a series of pretend attacks. Engineers scanned the image of someone from an ID card, and mapped their likeness onto another person's face. Sensity then tested whether they could breach live facial recognition systems by tricking them into believing the pretend attacker is a real user.

    So-called "liveness tests" try to authenticate identities in real-time, relying on images or video streams from cameras like face recognition used to unlock mobile phones, for example. Nine out of ten vendors failed Sensity's live deepfake attacks.

    Continue reading
  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022