Of the open source vendors we looked at, Talend was fastest. We found that we can build processes in hours that used to take days to develop. That's our main benchmark.Eric Schvimmer, CTO, Commerce & Marketplace
A leader in advertising-supported Web services
AOL is a global ad-supported Web company, with a comprehensive display advertising network in the U.S., a suite of popular Web brands and products, and a leading social media network.
The company's strategy focuses on growing the size, engagement, and monetization of its worldwide audience by providing highly relevant content and advertising to consumers across the Web. AOL's businesses include Platform-A, the industry's largest digital advertising platform; MediaGlow, AOL's network of Web properties; and People Networks. In addition, AOL continues to run one of the largest Internet access providers in the U.S.
Two years ago, AOL decided that standardizing technology would reduce the need for different integration tools and maximize efficiency among the different development teams. The company began by standardizing their front-end technologies on Apache/Tomcat and their back-end technologies on MySQL. Next, it tackled data integration solutions and ETL tools.
As far as integration is concerned, AOL had been traditionally using a combination of Kettle (Pentaho), eMule, and proprietary tools. They were also using custom developments which created problems related to reuse and consistency.
"We did an evaluation," says Eric Schvimmer, CTO of AOL's Commerce and Marketplace Division, "and we knew we needed to meet certain criteria. And, we were sure that we wanted an open source product. As a company we're moving away from commercial licensing whenever possible. It's just not a scalable business model."
Evaluating the options
"Our goals were straightforward," continues Eric Schvimmer. "It came down to a number of key requirements. First, performance was critical: we needed a fast process to handle small files as well as large files, both simple and complex. Ease-of-use was also important, and we liked Talend's graphical environment; it's really a tool that doesn't need a developer to operate. Extensibility was also important; we wanted to be able to go under the hood and develop additional functionalities if necessary. And finally, robustness-data integration processes are critical to our business and we need a reliable product." Talend met these requirements and was selected by AOL.
"Another real advantage is that we now have a standard tool that all of our people know how to use," said Eric Schvimmer. "Currently we have nearly 50 developers using Talend in three locations-India (Bangalore), the United States (Dulles, Virginia) and Ireland (Dublin). By choosing a single tool we can move work around to the most available bandwidth letting people jump from one team to another. It's part of our standard development toolkit; it's easy to pick up, and the staff doesn't need to learn new things."
Lastly, AOL emphasizes that although Talend is very flexible it stills provides guidelines, framework, and audit capabilities that offer much greater reliability than custom developments.
The advantages of open source
AOL also wanted to standardize on open source because it gave them the ability to make modifications as needed. "We like being part of an open source community," adds Eric Schvimmer, "because we know the product is going to be updated more frequently than proprietary tools, in part thanks to the contributions from the community. We have forked off a few customizations ourselves that we will contribute back to the community. It's a system that works really well and we like some of the developments in Talend's recent 3.0 release."