# Sunday, 27 May 2012

The announcement that Facebook intended to acquire Instagram made headlines. While the focus of these headlines primarily centered around the $1B valuation and 50 Million user audience, the true story went largely untold.

Instagram's story marks an inflection point in computing history whereby a start-up embracing cloud infrastructure is no longer the exception, but now considered the rule for building a successful company.

Consider the fundamentals of their meteoric rise over 2 years:
  • 2 people start with an idea
  • Create an iPhone application with hosting on Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Distribute the app on Apple's app store
  • Grow an audience
  • Evolve and enhance the product
  • Leverage elastic scalability on AWS
The costs for a v1 product were extraordinarily low and gave them an opportunity to pivot at any point without being grounded by capitalized infrastructure investments (i.e. building their own colo servers and doing their own hosting).

At the time of Instagram's acquisition they had added only 11 more employees, mostly hired in the few months leading up to their acquisition.

Some tips and lessons learned for other start-ups considering embracing the cloud as their development and hosting platform:

Choose a platform and master it: Instagram selected Amazon Web Services, but there are many options available. Don't hedge your bets by designing for platform portability. Dig deep into the capabilities of your chosen platform and exploit them.

Think Ephemeral: Your cloud web servers and storage can disappear at any point. Anticipate and design for this fact. If you have a client server background, then take a step back and grasp the concepts of ephemeral storage and computing before applying old world concepts to the cloud.

Share Knowledge: This is still a new frontier and we're all constantly learning new tips and tricks about how to best utilize cloud computing. Many people at Facebook (including myself) were fans of the Instagram Engineering blog long before the acquisition. Share what you've learned and others will reciprocate.

Build for the long term: The Instagram team did not build a company to be sold. They built a company that could have continued to grow indefinitely, and perhaps even overtaken competing services. There are so many legacy business processes and consumer applications whose growth is restricted by their architecture. Embrace the cloud with the intent to build something enduring and everlasting.

Sunday, 27 May 2012 10:26:04 (Pacific Daylight Time, UTC-07:00)