An interesting piece of news the other day that Peter Magnusson, one of the tzars of Google's Google App Engine (GAE) platform has left Google. Not only that but he’s gone to work for one of GAE’s biggest customers, Snapchat. Now that is kind of interesting and in the normal course of events would have been seen as a vendor’s employee moving to a customer role to help maximize said customer’s use of the vendor product.
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But not in this case…
Snapchat seems to be going down the path that was first popularized by Zynga: that of building a service initially in the cloud, but moving it in house once the load is more predictable. In talking about the move, it was suggested that Magnusson was hired to reduce Snapchat’s reliance on Google. Or in other words, move to the customer side in order to build a product that allows them to exit the clutches of the vendor.
Magnusson was a little sensitive about the allegations and wrote that:
Thx WSJ for pissing off all my old Google friends. A more correct statement is that we’ll continuously evaluate alternatives, and likely over time develop more infrastructure ourselves, in particular in specialized areas of our apps. Google is a great partner, and the success of Snapchat would simply not have been possible without Google Cloud, and we expect to work closely together. Period
Hmmm – maybe. But I suspect there’s some truth in the allegations.
It’s interesting because, like Zynga, Snapchat seems to be a perfectly natural fit for the public cloud. Massive load, unpredictable demand and a company that needs to focus on its current (arguably short-lived) opportunity and ignore all the day-to-day stuff that doesn’t add real value to what they do. And yet they’re seemingly doing the opposite and seeing benefits to moving back in-house.
It would be interesting to have a real heart to heart conversation inside the tent at Snapchat to look at their reasons for this move – is it a question of economics (yes, private cloud CAN be cheaper, and no, it doesn’t always actually matter). Is it some reliability issues they’ve had with GAE? Is it a fear of being locked in to a vendor that, while admittedly offering higher value products than simply infrastructure, in doing so kind of handcuffs the customer?
Time will tell – it will be very interesting to watch how this story unfolds in the weeks and months to come.