How to make a billion dollars in a couple of years
Apr 10, 2012

Ok, I can’t tell you how to do that, but here is how Instagram did it. I am not going to talk about how they understood their customers and how they created something customers loved. That is all marketese – I can’t tell you how to replicate it.

What I can tell you is that they only have three engineers supporting all their webops to take care of billions of photos, terabytes of data, and millions of users. The numbers are mind-boggling. If these numbers are thrown at any CIO of an enterprise, they would come back with a budget for 100 people and 3 year plan to implement a program to manage the data.

Here are a few simple things they did right:

The picture is a rough approximation (most of the information is taken from the wonderful site:

What lessons lie for us poor enterprise developers, who are stuck using Java, and forced to use in-house resources that are neither flexible not scalable? Unfortunately, we will have to wait until the IT people let go of their cold dead-fingers off the inflexible IT.

Nevertheless, here is what an architect could do:

  1. Architect the systems such a way that parts of the resources (data, especially) lies outside the enterprise.
  2. Use open standards like REST and JSON to quickly pull together different systems
  3. Focus on DevOps from the beginning. Assume that your application needs to be maintained.
  4. Keep a consistent set of tools (most of the tools used in Instagram are popular in Python community)
  5. Most importantly, focus on getting the job done!