Your Instagram photos aren’t where they used to be

Instagram 125

Facebook-owned Instagram, which in March surpassed 200 million active users and 20 billion photos, used to store user-shared snaps and videos on Amazon’s EC2 cloud computing service since 2010, but not anymore.

It’s now come to light that the social networking behemoth back in Spring stealthily moved all your photos from Amazon into its own data center, and no one even noticed.

They even coined a term for it: Instagration…

Cade Metz, reporting for Wired, learned that even though Facebook in the past did move other acquired assets into its own data centers, moving Instagram posed quite a challenge due to the sheer size of the Instagram user base and the gazillion of photos shared on the service on a daily basis.

For starters, the service couldn’t take any disruption. The delicate undertaking quickly took on gargantuan proportions: Instagram previously ran on several thousand virtual machines on Amazon to provide smooth service.

“The users are still in the same car they were in at the beginning of the journey,” said Instagram founder Mike Krieger, “but we’ve swapped out every single part without them noticing.”

And how many engineers did it take to make this transition?


Instagram 6.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)Instagram 6.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

Keep in mind that Instagram downscales photos to a rather paltry 612-by-612 pixels – the service does not store your snaps in their full resolution on servers.

Countering any notion that Instagram is now sharing data with Facebook just because the two services run on the same data centre, Facebook ensured that’s not the case.

“One of the things we had to do was really silo the information, which ends up being important for privacy and other reasons,” Krieger told Wired.

In practice, this means that the company can’t tap into Instagram data for more accurate ad targeting on Facebook. According to Data Center Knowledge, Facebook accounts for about nine percent of all Internet traffic.

Facebook data center (North Carolina 001)

The company has built two huge data centers to support its operations, has two more under construction, leases additional server space in at least nine data centers and is building its first non-U.S. data center in Lulea, Sweden.

As pictured above, one of Facebook’s server farms is in North Carolina, right in the neighborhood of Apple’s $1 billion iCloud data center.

In other Facebook news, The New York Times reported today that Zuck & Co. have dismantled the team of engineers who originally created Facebook Home, its ill-received launcher for Android smartphones.