Cloud integrator Appirio today announced the acquisition and merger of the TopCoder developer community with its own Cloudspokes community, bringing together 600,000 developers who compete in online contests to develop algorithms and analytics, UI designs and cloud functionality.
Appirio launched Cloudspokes in 2011 to tap into the global developer community to crowdsource solutions to enterprise cloud development tasks. TopCoder, which was founded in 2003, has built a reputation as a world-class source of mobile development and software algorithms, to the extent that a developer's TopCoder ranking is a recognized benchmark for recruiters.
Appirio positions its crowdsourced development community as a weapon of mass disruption of the traditional global SI market. The combined community of 600,000 developers is more than the total employed by Accenture, Deloitte and Infosys combined, says Appirio co-founder Narinder Singh, who now takes the helm as president of the combined communities. Note also that participants who compete in community contests in their spare time may include many employees of those Appirio competitors.
Parceling out discrete development tasks for crowdsourcing through a community contest is a process that fits well with the agile development methodology favored by Appirio. Singh told me in a pre-briefing last week that enterprises are turning to crowdsourcing communities to plug in-house skills gaps.
"For enterprises you have to find pieces they know they can't do, like mobile," he said. He told the story of a bank that had been evaluating Cloudspokes as a replacement for a 15-person offshore outsourcing shop. As a proof of concept, the Cloudspokes team asked if there were any projects that had been sitting on the shelf because of lack of resources. The customer produced four to test the Cloudspokes process. They came back completed within a matter of days, said Singh.
I asked Appirio for some examples that demonstrated how enterprises have been using the two communities to supplement their in-house development resources. Here they are.
- Harvard Medical School wanted a faster, more accurate solution for a tool that calculates the edit distance between a query DNA string and the original DNA. A full-time, Harvard resource had already spent a year on this unique problem and was able to reduce the computational time to 400 seconds. When the problem was listed on TopCoder with $6,000 in total prize money, 733 registrants and 122 members submitting working algorithms. The winning solution reduced the time to execution to just over 16 seconds, performing hundreds of times faster and at a higher degree of accuracy than the in-house algorithm.
- Smartsheet, a cloud ISV, became a Spokes partner in order to build a community of independent developers during the launch of its API. This was an opportunity to build awareness of its API and encourage developers to use it, as well as extending the skillset of its in-house product development team. The vendor scoped and posted multiple CloudSpokes contests that included testing exercises and initial set-up functionality, while community participants provided custom integrations.
- JDRF, which provides an online support network for diabetes patients, needed to move its Online Diabetes Support Team (ODST) to Salesforce Cases as part of a company migration to the Salesforce platform. This would allow it to consolidate its donor records into a single repository on Salesforce.com. CIO James Szmak comments: "Nothing upsets people who support nonprofits more than seeing us waste money on sending them multiple mailings or emails. Having a single record per constituent is critical. CloudSpokes provided a way for JDRF to create the support application quickly and at a lower cost."
- Ferguson, a wholesale distributor of plumbing and related supplies, enlisted the help of the TopCoder community to build a new B2B merchandising site that allows customers to search and access products with unique pricing according to their contracts. Ferguson launched contests on demand to complete the initial phase of development and to make subsequent updates to the design and user functionality.