Appirio’s CEO Chris Barbin hosted an interesting conversation today with Tim Campos, CIO of Facebook, and Jane Vaillancourt, VP of Global Sales Operations at NetApp for a standing-room-only crowd at Dreamforce. The topic was “Accelerating your Business with the Cloud.”
Facebook and NetApp represent two very different staring points when it comes to cloud computing. NetApp was founded in 1992, and runs their core business applications on-premise. Their cloud initiatives have been business-led, often-times by “business people solving their own problems, not coming to the technical teams,” according to Jane. IT’s interest in the cloud came later: “We have a highly customized Siebel environment,” she explains. “We tried to upgrade– it wasn’t successful, so we started to look at SaaS.”
Facebook, on the other hand, was founded in 2004, and according to CIO Tim Campos, “grew up in a world where cloud computing is ubiquitous. We’re not restricted by legacy– all of our systems are 3 years old or less. And, we have an environment that encourages innovation– we want to do things differently.” As a result, Facebook has “developed an enterprise architecture that’s predominately cloud based, with a number of SaaS and PaaS elements.”
Both companies started their journey to the Salesforce cloud with an SFA implementation. NetApp realized that the traditional waterfall approach was not going to result in a successful outcome for their project. Instead, “we moved everyone into a single building. The badges were invisible– you couldn’t tell who was business, who was IT, who was from Appirio.” says Jane. “We had some growing pains learning how to work agile, but its continuing to provide huge value to us. We had a tremendous outcome.”
After automating their sales processes, Facebook also started working with Salesforce as a platform, ultimately building over 12 applications on Force.com ranging from apps for HR to apps to help maintain data centers. “We started with where our business is differentiated,” says Tim. “We want to fully enable those business processes. For example, we don’t want to recruit the same way that everyone else recruits– if we want to hire the best, we’re going to have to do things differently.” Supporting the unique way that Facebook hires required building a custom recruiting application on Force.com.
The impact of moving to cloud platforms? “The main benefit is strategic,” says Tim. “Facebook is very, very good at running Facebook. Our data centers aren’t optimized for running Oracle or other business applications. We benchmark the costs of running in the cloud, but it isn’t a huge factor one way or the other. ”
Any advice for other companies looking to move more of their business to the cloud?
“Embrace this change holistically,” recommends Tim. “ Don’t just look at one specific area and adopt the cloud there. The benefits are fully realized when you’re doing it across the board. And the challenges are easier to manage when you spread your investments across multiple applications.”
“Keep it simple, iterate quickly,” recommends Jane. “To start, keep it is as simple as possible. Ask ‘If we do this, will it substantially impact deals? Or is it just a nice to have?’ Our needs change as quickly as a sales team turns over. So keep it simple, focus on taking feedback and fixing things quickly. When everyone raises their hand and says ‘I’m part of the business’ then I know that we’re going in the right direction.”
Where will this journey to the cloud end? For Facebook, it could result in an IT infrastructure that’s entirely cloud-based. Facebook will run 100% in the cloud “when ERP can be delivered for a large scale international company from the cloud,” says Tim, “ and I don’t think we’re very far away from that day. For smaller companies, that day is here already. Startups just need laptops and data connections, and that’s it. Everything else is in the cloud, and these are fantastically productive companies.”