Brief History of NetSuite
You probably know NetSuite is an ever evolving system. But it’s also an ever evolving company, and now business unit of Oracle. There’s a quote by Carl Segan, “You have to know the past, to understand the present”. Well, that’s true with NetSuite, and in this video we’ll take a look at its past to understand not only where it is today, but also where it will likely be tomorrow.
NetSuite started back in 1999 as NetLedger, and was originally focused on book keeping, then on accounting. Since accounting touches so much of what most companies do, they’re in business to make money after all, the system had to quickly grow to support many other key functionalities. The problem with this type of growth is that every company is different, and has at least some unique needs. After adding some functionality to the core of the product, it quickly became apparent the system needed to be extensible. That support was added next.
This all happened long before the term cloud was even created as a marketing tool. Cloud computing is not new in any way. It used to be called utility computing, and later SaaS which is short for Software as a Service. In fact, you probably used this type of service long before you even knew it existed. Think about ADP, the large payroll provider. You send them your data, and they spit out your paychecks. In doing so they also account for numerous different tax jurisdictions, routine and non-routine deductions, vacation and sick pay and tracking, as well as provide reports back to the business. You don’t have to host any of the infrastructure, maintain any of the servers, worry about data, or keeping things up to date. It’s all delivered as a service. NetSuite along with several other companies that were started at the time, simply took the idea of software as a service to the next level. They did this in large part by leveraging the Internet, and the tendency for most people to have access to it and to a web browser.
NetSuite was started by Evan Goldberg, with funding provided by Larry Ellison. Evan had previously worked for Oracle, a company Larry helped start years prior. As NetSuite grew it increased headcount. Jim McGeever was brought on early in 2000 as the CFO to help with finances and growth. Zach Nelson was brought on to fill the critical role of CEO at the growing company in 2002, and also has strong ties back to Oracle. He stayed with the company all the way through its acquisition by Oracle in 2016. Jim and Evan still work for the NetSuite division of Oracle as of 2018.
With this leadership team, NetSuite went public in 2007 and began a major growth initiative. This included growth due to internal hiring, a deeper code base and more functionality, and customer growth. Lots and lots of customer growth. In fact it was only a few years before this that I was introduced to NetSuite.
One of the first things NetSuite did after going public was to work on and release OneWorld. OneWorld is their largest enterprise product, and it allows a single company to have multiple business units. Each of these business units get their own pseudo instance of NetSuite. The instances all roll up to a parent company, but in this way, the largest businesses can break out their business units into subsidiaries. Some of the information and settings are shared between business units, and some is not.
A few years after OneWorld was released, NetSuite also created an edition of the software called NetSuite CRM. Not surprisingly it focused almost entirely on the CRM or Customer Relationship Management space. This edition is setup to be a lower cost entry point for the system. The CRM edition is also designed to be an entry point that can be implemented by a department other than finance or accounting.
Aside from the different editions that have been created. The NetSuite software has also grown over the years to include lots of increased functionality. This can be seen in modules such as Advanced Billing, Light Manufacturing, and Suite Commerce. Each of which add functionality that is new to the system.
Much like other tech companies, NetSuite has also expanded through acquisitions. In 2008, not too long after their IPO, they purchased OpenAir, which helped to fill out their project management capabilities. They also purchased TribeHR, in 2013, in order to provide a complete human resources and people management solution. A couple of years later they purchased Bronto software, which allowed them to integrate robust marketing capabilities into the system. These are just a few of the more high profile acquisitions, there are many more. Later in 2016, NetSuite itself was acquired by Oracle, in a multi-billion dollar deal.
In addition to all of this expansion, NetSuite has had to expand their physical footprint, in terms of both offices and datacenters. They currently run dozens of offices around the world, and have six datacenters. However since they are growing very rapidly, it is likely that by the time you watch this video, those numbers may be even higher.
The truth is, that NetSuite as a company has a rich history of expansion and growth. They have also had plenty of stumbling blocks along the way. If you really want to learn more about the company and the systems history, I would recommend looking through the references on their Wikipedia page. I would also recommend that you take a look at this page about their history. Knowing their history allows you to get a more complete view of the system. Understanding the history of a system helps understand where it’s going. Now you know NetSuite’s.
Also, for any Stephen Hawking fans out there, yes, I did take the title for this video from his book.