Amazon S3 platform: a gift for a startup

    Don MacAskill (Don MacAskill), founder and director of "vebdvanolnyh" photoservice SmugMug , preparing a presentation of Amazon's the Simple the Storage the Service . This man, perhaps, like no one else knows all the advantages and disadvantages of the S3 distributed hosting platform, because he is one of the largest customers there. Amazon itself constantly cites SmugMug as an example of the kind of Internet startups for which it has created an infrastructure platform.

    Each user of the SmugMug photo service gets unlimited disk space for storing photos, so the company pays for S3 services for a round sum. Don Macaskill posted a series of texts on his blog that described in detail Amazon Amazon S3 functionality and business benefits.

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    The online photo service SmugMug switched to S3 hosting in July 2006. By this time, the startup, by the way, had already begun to make a profit, but was still looking for ways to reduce costs. Disk storage has grown to 64 million photos, and user data has grown rapidly: you had to spend $ 40K per month on the purchase of new Apple Xserve RAID disk arrays (they are now used everywhere, both eBay and Oracle use Xserve RAID) and servers (most purchased cheap). Using the S3 seemed like the perfect option to save.

    S3 distributed hosting involves storing data in different data centers at different companies. All this complex infrastructure is coordinated in the S3 system, and for the client it looks like a standard hosting, except unusually cheap.

    By the time of the transition to S3, SmugMug already had its own inexpensive infrastructure for storing data on standard servers, but the S3 platform was still cheaper. Instead of paying for the purchase and rental of servers (plus salaries to technical staff, payment for Internet service providers and other expenses), they began to pay $ 0.15 / gigabyte per month. The savings are so great that BusinessWeek magazine in November 2006 wrote a large article about S3 and even brought this “gift for Internet startups” to the cover (pictured right).

    Connecting to the S3 platform was surprisingly easy. Don Macaskill started writing the interface on Monday - and already on Friday everything worked great. He also plugged in the SmugMug APIsto Amazon software interfaces. Downloading data from Amazon servers was almost as fast as downloading from our own servers, so the average visitor to the site could not notice any difference.

    Own traffic from their servers decreases tenfold, as can be seen in the diagram (this is already a diagram from another startup, but the order of magnitude is the same). The founder of SmugMug startup, however, bitterly admits that now his business may have new competitors. For example, for a startup that offers users unlimited hosting of data (photos, videos, etc.), you don’t need big investments now, you don’t need to rent data centers and buy servers (even Sun Fire X4500, the best server for Web 2.0

    , will not need). According to preliminary calculations, due to the transition to the S3 platform, SmugMug saves about $ 50K per month.

    Calculations for the seven months from July to November 2006 showed that the company would only spend $ 418K on the purchase of new equipment, and another $ 5K on hosting. Instead, the company used the services of S3, having paid only $ 84K for seven months, that is, the net savings amounted to $ 339K. This is not counting the taxes that the company would pay if it bought the servers itself. Extra profit comes from the sale of old servers and hard drives, which are now no longer needed (the amount of data on their servers has decreased by 20 times).

    However, there are problems. S3 infrastructure crashes intermittently. From April 2006 to February 2007, this happened four times. The switch turned off twice, so the system was unavailable for 15-30 minutes (the main site also crashed), once the S3 servers could not cope with the sharply increased traffic to the SmugMug site, and another time problems arose due to incorrect software settings on SmugMug servers.

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