Most large companies struggle with the choice of either to buy or build. Dropbox, as you may recall, recently opted for the latter, as it made the momentous decision to move away from AWS.
The cloud hosting giant took steps earlier this year to move the majority of its infrastructure away from the Amazon Web Services platform, onto its own datacenters. This is something that took quite a lot of effort, and even though Dropbox still hosts some of its workload on AWS, it is now majorly on its own.
That’s because the company believed that the advantages of charting its own destiny outweighed the challenges of having to move.
And it has now provided details on how things went, and why it actually decided to go solo.
To give you an idea of just how large a scale Dropbox is dealing with, the latest numbers are 500 million end users and some 200,000 businesses rely on the company to provide instant access to their files in the cloud.
Now, to move away from AWS, Dropbox had to transfer 500 petabytes of data that had been sitting on Amazon Web Services servers — think the number 5 followed by 17 zeros!
This not only involved building and equipping three new datacenters in the US, but also designing the network backbone, and facilitating connections between the locations in the United States and other facilities located throughout the world.
Dan Williams, head of production engineering at Dropbox:
“What’s neat about the backbone is that it’s similar to something you might find at Google or Facebook, but we built this with a relatively small team.”
This small infrastructure team at Dropbox comprised of just around a dozen employees, compared to 1,500 employees total. But they have done an excellent job with this massive move, building the backbone and moving all the content, all the while keeping the service up and running.
Ultimately, the build versus buy decision was not an easy one for Dropbox.
But it says that moving away from the public cloud has had positive impacts across the board for the company, particularly upping its reputation with enterprise IT and its Dropbox Business line of products that have benefited from the level of trust that an in-house infrastructure and network creates.