Will the Instagration Phenomenon Make Private Clouds More Popular?
Facebook recently achieved something dramatic with Instagram's infrastructure. Without 200 million users noticing, Facebook moved about 20 billion photos from Amazon's EC2 infrastructure to Facebook's own data center. Facebook refers to this phenomenon as Instagration. Though movement of data across data centers is a routine operation, what stands out about Instagration is the scale and that the whole operation was done without a disruption in service.
Instagram's infrastructure was previously hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS) backend, which is publicly hosted. Is this move indicative of an upcoming trend where companies move from public clouds to private ones?
To get a better perspective, let’s look at why Instagram was previously hosted on a public infrastructure. As a startup (before the Facebook acquisition), Instagram probably chose to leverage Amazon's EC2 cloud because of the inherent benefits associated with public clouds. As suggested by Amazon, some of the benefits associated with AWS-powered clouds are zero upfront costs, a pay-as-you-use model, help to stay lean as you grow, and faster scaling.
Technically, the migration was quite a complex operation to achieve because it required the Facebook team to enable migration of data and virtual machines two separate times—from Amazon cloud to its own virtual private cloud and then to Facebook's own data centers. To make things even more difficult, Amazon doesn’t offer a way to move workload from EC2 to the virtual private cloud. Facebook had to build its own networking tool to enable this operation.
Why did Facebook choose to move the Instagram infrastructure to its own private data centers? Potential benefits of this move include helping Facebook speed up product development for Instagram and potentially enable more security. This move will also enable Instagram to leverage Facebook's tools when analyzing a large amount of data, which may allow advertising to play a more important role for Instagram.
In order to optimize the workload for its data center, Facebook has given birth to the Open Compute project, which promotes open hardware standards and has resulted in hardware that is 38 percent more efficient and 24 percent less expensive to build and run than other data centers.
Contrary to Facebook's approach, Netflix almost entirely relies on AWS infrastructure for hosting its video streaming services. Netflix seems to have invested a great deal to develop tools and approaches that have helped them leverage the public cloud.
Given the mix of public cloud and private cloud infrastructures in today's world, it is imperative that organizations see the value in both types of deployments. Public cloud infrastructures provide cost benefits, flexibility, and easier scale; private clouds remain focused on ensuring security and, in some cases, efficiency.
Facebook's move to private infrastructure for Instagram may not make the whole world take that same approach, but it does make an interesting case for companies to consider and learn from.
What do you think?