Constant Contact Opens NY Office, Makes Big Shift in Tech for Creating Marketing Tools

7/20/11Follow @gthuang

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magnitude of the task before Piesche and his team. The company plans to release its new social CRM product for small businesses in the first half of next year. But that’s not all.

Constant Contact is also revamping how it stores and accesses its huge and growing stash of data—things like customer e-mail addresses and status updates that take up about a petabyte of storage. Basically, the firm’s existing databases (DB2) are too clunky and expensive to manage as it grows bigger. So it has started migrating its data to Cassandra, an open source database system that is “faster, cheaper, and more nimble,” Piesche says. (For you football fans out there, it’s sort of like a team trying to get younger and faster on defense while remaining competitive in all aspects of the game.)

The question remains exactly how the company will balance the changes to its infrastructure while continuing to manage its existing products and systems. A big part of the strategy involves using a “private cloud” for internal software development and testing, says Piesche. (“Private” meaning a proprietary, closed network operated by Constant Contact, as opposed to a “public cloud” like Amazon Web Services or Google App Engine on the open Internet.)

Without getting too deep into the nitty-gritty, Piesche says using a private cloud could “ultimately allow us to decouple the IT processes from the engineering processes.” That means instead of having fixed release cycles where 15 different development teams have to be ready on the same day every month, he says, “We want to be in the position that teams are decoupled enough that they can release whenever they’re ready.”

All of this adds up to “a very fundamental shift in the way we’re doing business on the engineering side,” says Piesche, and “it’s going to take a while”—probably three years or more—to implement the new model across the board. In the meantime, Constant Contact will face increasing competition from the throng of smaller companies trying to get ahead in social media analytics, monitoring, customer relationship management, and other marketing tools.

Interestingly, Piesche says his firm’s internal approach is “more in line with Google and Facebook than Microsoft.” As a company, you have to “hit the tech strategy with what your business is trying to accomplish. A startup is different from us. We are different from Microsoft. Things change over time,” he says.

Perhaps this quote from Piesche sums it all up: “You have to constantly rethink the way you do business and engineering.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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