Is Google's Proprietary Tech Stack Destroying Its Acquisitions?

from the not-invented-at-Google-syndrome dept

While Google has bought plenty of small startups, almost none of those deals have amounted to very much. It almost seems like most of the startups disappear into Google forever. There are a few exceptions such as YouTube and (maybe) Writely. But the list of startups that have simply languished or died is much longer. TechCrunchIT is running an interesting post that suggests one of the key reasons: Google’s proprietary tech stack. While Google is a big open source supporter for lower level infrastructure, once you get above that — it’s very much a strong believer in doing everything its own way. I’ve heard from friends at Google about the difficulty they’ve had learning to deal with Google’s tech stack — and certainly have heard how it’s slowed down the progress of some Google acquisitions while they learn how to “transition.”

In fact, some have pointed out that this is one of the side benefits to Google’s AppEngine offering. Since it exposes some of Google’s tech stack to folks for them to develop and run their applications, it will make it much easier to integrate them into Google at a later date. So, for startups whose strategy is to get acquired by Google (and, I should note, if you start with that strategy, you’re probably going to fail), it may make sense to develop on AppEngine just because you’re already signaling to Google that the integration costs are significantly lower.

Still, this highlights one of the major downsides to Google’s belief that it can do everything much better than everyone else by starting from scratch: in doing so, it actually makes it much harder to capitalize on synergies from many acquisition targets. Yes, there are reasons to go against the “standard” way of doing things, but there are significant costs as well.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Is Google's Proprietary Tech Stack Destroying Its Acquisitions?”

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Hulser says:

What is a tech stack?

OK, I admit it. I must be behind the curve, because I don’t know what a “tech stack” is. Reading the TD post, I get some contextual clues, but since I don’t really know what a tech stack is, I really don’t have a point of reference for the rest of the article.

On a related note, I really enjoy TD, but one thing that’s bothered me a bit about the posts is that there is an apparent assumption that you’ve either already read an article being linked to or that you’ll stop to read the linked article in the middle of reading the TD post. Wouldn’t it be more clear to add a few extra words to provide a short description of, for example, what a teck stack is, rather than just providing a link? (BTW, I did read the link about Google’s tech stack and I still didn’t get a clear idea on what the term mean, even after doing another Google search.)

LameDuke says:

Unfortunately, there is no off-the-shelf techonology, open source or otherwise, that supports the kind of load and global reach that Google’s product support. When Google buys a start-up, it had to scale from hundreds of thousands of users to hundreds of millions of users. The only way it can achieve this is by migrating the start-up product to its proprietary stack. That indeed takes time and effort.

David McMillan says:


For the top two people,,, I could be a bit incorrect but it sounds like Tech Stack, is term for back end, middle ware, and front end code(which I’ve known to be called a stack) and how it all works together.(aka the technology)

But just people know how wrong I could be, there are a LOT of things that are stack. Net stack and API stacks come to mind right away.

2seconds on Wiki, because I know how people love it here[sic]:

Newspeakisungood says:

Tech Stacks

Short answer: a technology ‘stack’ is industry jargon for all of the combined technologies that go into something.

Virtually all modern programs are written in layers. For example, a modern enterprise web site might use Windows as it’s operating system, MS-SQL2005 as a database, have it’s own proprietary business logic and service layers, and use IIS as a web server. Notepad uses a windows OS, it’s own proprietary code to manage user interaction, etc. and probably GDI to render it’s interface.

Very little software is written completely from the ground up, so a stack is basically the unique parts of a program plus all of the bits that it took from everywhere else.

DeathByChiChi says:

Kinda reminiscent of Microsoft making WebTV spend years porting all their server-side stuff to Windows. Hotmail as well.

On the other hand you don’t want a bajillion incompatible systems and approaches.

The biggest thing, I think, is the tendency of people to mistreat and undermine the companies they acquire. You need a powerful advocate who will run interference, keep the pissed off internal team that got bypassed from making trouble, and cultivate the new company’s people and tech. Cisco has done a very good job of this.

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