Facebook CTO Bret Taylor says buying servers was a mistake. A very big mistake. At the time, he was chief executive at FriendFeed, which eventually was sold to Facebook for the tidy sum of a reported $50 million. But these were the early days. He and his team needed to decide between buying servers or using Amazon Web Services. They bought the servers.
In an interview with the BBC, Taylor said that it became work in itself to keep the servers optimized and working:
I think that was a big mistake in retrospect. The reason for that is despite the fact it cost much less in terms of dollars spent to purchase our own, it meant we had to maintain them ourselves, and there were times where I'd have to wake up in the middle of the night and drive down to a data centre to fix a problem.
Friendfeed is still around, now under Facebook's control. Funny, when you think about it, Facebook is now building data centers of its own. It is buying a lot of servers. At least, though, Taylor now has a team of dozens who keep the platform running so he is not making any more lonely trips in the early morning hours to a humming room full of servers.
The stack Facebook develops will determine if it can meet the coming great data challenges of this new time. Data is scaling across networks and through connected tablets and smartphones. How platforms update under such circumstances is not lost on Taylor. He says as much in the interview.
Photo by Massimo Barbieri