Unbeknownst to the hundreds of millions of Instagram users, the infrastructure that holds all of their photographic creations has quietly been dismantled, relocated and rebuilt. Impressive stuff, when you consider the quantities of data involved – the service now stores in excess of 20 billion digital photos.
Since 2010 Instagram had been using Amazon’s cloud computing service, but the number of virtual machines required to run Instagram on Amazon was getting in “the thousands”. Historically, when Facebook had acquired other, smaller properties, the process involved shutting down the service in order to incorporate it into the world of Facebook. However, according to Facebook engineer George Cabrera, in the case of Instagram “the service couldn’t take any disruption”.
So in what Facebook called ‘Instagration’, the team in essence had to carry out multiple organ transplants while both patients were still conscious. Or as Mike Kreiger, founder of Instagram, explained:
“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.”
The project was complicated, but the team behind the data transfer have successfully transitioned Instagram to now run from its own dedicated machines inside one of Facebook’s facilities. If you’re particularly interested in what the team had to do to make sure the whole thing went off without a hitch, then check out this article by WIRED’s Cade Metz:
How Facebook Moved 20 Billion Instagram Photos Without You Noticing
While everything seemed to go smoothly, whenever your content or data is held by a network or third-party that may encounter scaling issues or could indeed be absorbed into another company’s infrastructure, there will also be a concern that data could be lost along the way. While the ‘Instagration’ is a great example of data migration done well, it’s also a reminder that there’s always the potential that the actions of others could cost you what’s yours.
We believe that the individual should be the one who owns and controls their personal data, and that is why we built the SocialSafe application to allow you to download your Instagrams, Facebook Messages, Tweets, Followers and so on, all to your very own personal data store. There’s no reason to think that the networks themselves won’t look after the originals properly, but accidents can and do happen, so why take the risk?
Start building you own personal data library today, by downloading SocialSafe for free, and backing up your memories from the social networks you use.