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The importance of 'dogfooding' in the cloud

David Mytton | May 5, 2016
Amazon.com runs entirely on AWS EC2 and Microsoft runs Office365, Skype, and XBox Live on Azure. But Google doesn't run any of its products on GCP. Here's why it matters

The term "dogfooding" is used to describe companies using their own products. The idea is that by being a user, the company will find issues with products and improve their overall experience.

Many software products are created out of their founders' need for a better solution than already exists. They will have already used the competition and researched the alternatives, so when they build something new it's to satisfy their own needs. If you don't like your current CRM and you build an alternative, you're going to use your own CRM product to sell it to customers.

Degrees of dogfooding

At some companies, the products are created from internal technology and then a separate, productized version is sold to customers. The underlying technology is the same, but the implementation and deployment are different. You might write a paper on a new approach to systems management, then a third party might implement that paper with an open source project.

With others, the product might be intended for a completely different target audience and never used internally. You might be a massive corporation and one of your products is small business accounting, but you use an enterprise-grade ERP solution to run your business.

The problem is, the further away a company gets from its customers, the more it loses out on the dogfooding effects. It might miss bugs or release sub-optimal workflows. A product platform might be suffering an outage, but if the company's core business doesn't run on it there is less of an incentive to fix problems as its own operations aren't affected. This is especially the case if the product only makes up a tiny part of the company's revenue.

Why is this important for the cloud?

The whole point of the cloud is that the services and infrastructure are run and managed by an expert third party. You trust them to keep the system running, optimize performance, and continually fix issues.

This is important for SaaS but even more important for IaaS because companies rely on IaaS services -- such as compute, databases, networking, and storage -- as critical parts of their infrastructure. One argument for running your own private infrastructure is that at least you have control and own the incentive to ensure it works!

The top three cloud providers -- AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud -- have spun out of companies that have very different core revenue generators. Even now, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google still derive the majority of their revenue from other sources. The contribution from cloud is increasing, but this fact makes dogfooding particularly important for customers' trust and security.

How do the cloud providers stack up?

 

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