Facebook Moved All Instagram Pics from AWS to Its Own Data Centers, and No One Noticed

Facebook's efforts were colossal, but the transfer was done without a hitch

By on June 27th, 2014 15:15 GMT

Facebook has decided that it doesn’t want its Instagram data to be stored on Amazon’s cloud computing service and has been silently transferring all photos to its own data center.

According to Wired, in the past year, Facebook has moved over 20 billion photos from AWS without anyone noticing.

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

The move has no precedent over at Facebook mainly because Instagram is the biggest company it has acquired. It’s not the first time it moves data from acquired companies by any means, but it is the largest effort, given the 200 million users of Instagram.

Back when Instagram was built in 2010, the entire service was stored on Amazon’s cloud computing service. The service was running on Amazon EC2, the cloud computing service that enables anyone to build and run software without having to use their own computer servers – the perfect place for a business that was just starting off.

So, Facebook took it upon itself to launch the “Instagration,” where all data was migrated to its own data centers, the ones it knows it can trust, without causing any service disruption and without making anyone suspect a thing.

The feat is quite impressive and required quite a bit of effort from Facebook’s part especially since it needed thousands of virtual machines to run Instagram on Amazon as the transition was made. They managed to create a template for merging their operation with apps that the company may acquire in the future, which is certainly a handy thing to have.

The process implied creating a copy of the software behind Instagram and running it on the platform as the data was being transferred, both personal information and the 20 billion photographs taken by all users.

The first stop was Amazon’s Virtual Private Cloud, a solution that wasn’t available to Instagram back when they started out, and then on Facebook’s servers. The process was done by the end of April.

The move may have been done smoothly and silently, but it wasn’t kept a secret since Facebook’s VP of engineering Jay Parikh actually said back in April 2013 that they were planning to make the move. The process took a year, and the move was done by a single team that started off with 8 members and ended up with 20. Most of the year, however, was full of preparations, while the actual transfer was done in a single month.

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