Amidst IPO, LinkedIn systems 'a total mess'

Hundreds of engineers at the startup worked to keep the professional social network online with "the digital equivalent of chewing gum and duct tape," according to a new report.

Photo courtesy LinkedIn

As LinkedIn bathed in the afterglow of its massively successful initial public offering in May 2011 , the young company's engineers struggled to keep the site stable as its usage scaled beyond the ability of its engineers to maintain it.

In a new report at Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Ashlee Vance sheds a little light on what happened behind the scenes of the company's IPO. No, not the financial negotiations -- the operations themselves. It's not pretty.

Vance writes:

By November 2011, Kevin Scott, LinkedIn's top engineer, had had enough. The system was taxed as LinkedIn attracted more users, and engineers were burnt out. To fix the problems, Scott, who'd arrived from Google that February, launched Operation InVersion. He froze development on new features so engineers could overhaul the computing architecture. That may not sound like a big deal, but in the frenetic world of the social Web, it's sacrilege. "You go public, have all the world looking at you, and then we tell management that we’re not going to deliver anything new while all of engineering works on this project for the next two months," Scott says. "It was a scary thing."

On the back end, the company ditched Oracle software for the open source world. On the front end, it embraced building changes into the live site right away, up to three times a day. It's all in the name of speed and agility, which the company now sees as a key competitive advantage over Facebook and Google, Vance writes.

Interesting stuff.

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