Instagram buyout threatens Amazon backend

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Instagram buyout threatens Amazon backend

Future in Facebook's data centres?

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has ignited speculation the social network giant's $1 billion takeover of Instagram will see the photo sharing service migrate off its Amazon Web Services cloud backend.

The social network announced the acquisition today.

Although early analysis of the deal focused on the price paid and Instagram's revenue prospects, attention has now turned to how it might alter its technology stack following Zuckerberg's comments on the acquisition.

"We will try to help Instagram continue to grow by using Facebook's strong engineering team and infrastructure," he said.

Although no firm decisions on potential integration have been revealed, the comment sparked a flurry of speculation that the acquisition would cost Amazon Web Services a high-profile customer.

Instagram revealed its heavy reliance on Amazon Web Services in an extensive blog post earlier this year. It makes use of Amazon's EC2 for hosting, Route53 for DNS, high-CPU machines and CloudFront for CDN, among other Amazon services.

Business Insider speculated "Facebook will move it as soon as it can" on the future of Instagram's Amazon infrastructure, given the social network's massive data centre investments.

Likewise, GigaOM noted that Instagram would not be the first start-up to cut its use of Amazon's cloud services once it hit a certain level of maturity.

Zynga - the maker of Farmville - has recently reduced its reliance on Amazon in favour of its own private cloud.

Cloud authority and independent advisor Rob Livingstone told iTnews that there was typically a "crossover" point where it no longer made sense to run large datasets on public clouds.

"The larger the datasets, the less attractive public cloud is," he said.

"The public hosting proposition is very compelling for startups and organisations because they're at that break even point where ... they cannot beat the comparative total cost of ownership of a public service like Amazon compared to their own on-premise [infrastructure].

"But there is a crossover where your economies of internal scale and the risk of external ownership [means it] makes sense to own and run [the infrastructure] yourself.

"The whole acquisition is a classic case of the TCO numbers being done. in no doubt great detail, and the numbers falling in place to bring [the infrastructure] in-house."

Data lock-in fears

Announcement of the acquisition overnight prompted some users to immediately threaten an exit from Instagram in protest.

Third party Instagram clients and services also began offering the ability to easily export user data from the service as a step toward account deletion.

One service, Instaport, reported high traffic volumes as users began to take advantage of the feature amid fears any moves to Facebook infrastructure could mean significant changes to the terms and conditions, as well as increased vendor lock-in of user data.

Fears around Facebook's retention of user data were exacerbated when Ars Technica reported the social network's systems had failed to delete user pictures from content delivery networks more than three years after user data had purportedly been scrubbed from the user account and network.

The company said it was working on new systems that would speed up the deletion process and ease fears.

James Hutchison contributed to this report.

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