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Leverage Existing Technology Solutions To Drive Fresh Innovation

by Raghu Hiremagalur, Head of Engineering, LinkedIn India August-2016

To stay relevant in a digitally transformed and connected world, businesses have little option but to keep evolving. A large part of this evolution is fuelled by technological advancements that are brought in to support the business and to truly allow scaling up. When developing new technology solutions, companies need to ensure focus on business strategy goals and fitment with the organization’s technology stack.  However, innovation that drives efficiencies and leads to a competitive advantage need not always be led by a path breaking product. Innovation can also be a series of small wins along a truly disruptive trajectory. Leveraging existing technology helps build new solutions faster and reduce the length of the development cycle, making more efficient iterative improvements to existing ones.  

At LinkedIn, we used this process successfully to develop a simple yet powerful tool that helps software developers, optimize performance flow for tech giants in India - Dr. Elephant.

Dr. Elephant was created by our tech team in Bangalore to specifically detect and treat Hadoop performance problems. In India, Dr. Elephant is a first of its kind which supports Hadoop within a variety of frameworks and can be easily extended to newer ones.  It automatically gathers all the metrics, runs analysis on them and presents them in a simple way for easy consumption. While Hadoop optimization tools do exist, most of them are designed to collect system resource metrics and monitor cluster resources. Very few tools are designed to help Hadoop users optimize their flows.

This year we open sourced the Dr. Elephant code and within a day had people downloading it, adding more features and uploading newer versions. Open sourcing Dr. Elephant has made it a game changing tool for developers in India and around the world. Today, leading internet and software companies such as Flipkart, Airbnb and InMobi use it in their day-to-day operations.

At LinkedIn we believe that incremental innovation can help us develop many new products to help companies and professionals work faster and better. For example, in 2015, we took up the challenge to help India’s six million graduates land their first job, as efficiently as possible.  The prevailing recruitment process in university campuses involved large tabulation of data and a laborious exchange of details between students, recruiters and placement officers. We saw huge potential in developing a single, well-integrated system which could replace this long, tedious manual process.

LinkedIn Placements solution was born, using the standard engineering stack for LinkedIn applications. In addition, we leveraged a number of existing Restl.li services* to develop a complete system and build its critical product features. We added Stork (LinkedIn’s Email platform) and Notifications (LinkedIn’s Communication platform) to make it possible for users to get real-time updates and expedite the process for them. The development cycle was greatly reduced as we used existing Rest.li services and these additions massively scaled the product. By simply leveraging existing technology, we developed a great product quickly, which solved a major problem for the Indian graduate job market.

All growing businesses are seeking the latest technology that can support their goals. However, it is best to pause and first look at what already exists and to see how incremental improvements can take us in a new direction that can potentially lead to a new breakthrough. After all, existing technologies have time and again proven themselves to be building blocks for the next product which has the potential to transform the world.   

**Rest.li is an open source REST framework for building robust, scalable RESTful architectures using type-safe bindings and asynchronous, non-blocking IO.