Facebook's load balancing act by the numbers

Some of Facebook's recent feature launches have brought in a crazy amount of traffic. How does the site balance it?

Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook's VP of technical operations CNET / Josh Lowensohn

SAN JOSE, Calif.--At the O'Reilly Velocity conference here, Jonathan Heiliger, Facebook's vice president of technical operations, highlighted some numbers from the social network's latest feature launches.

The site has more than 200 million users, and continues to grow. Heiliger and the rest of his team have had to make sure it can accommodate that growth while managing to keep newly launched features from breaking it. And so far it's worked.

In the last four months, live events like the U.S. presidential inauguration, the NBA finals, and this month's land grab for user names have put increased simultaneous loads on the site. In cases like the presidential inauguration, it was the most live connections the site had ever received--something that has to be planned for both in how the site is engineered and how much hardware is running it.

Heiliger said that the site has since exceeded the inauguration numbers, but out of all the releases, the launch of Facebook's like feature was the most surprising. This lets users favorite items other users have posted to their news wall. "We actually didn't think that many users were going to use it right away. Unfortunately we were wrong," he said. The site had a little more than 7 million likes in the first day, a number that later grew to 46.2 million by the end of the week.

Other than the surprise success of likes, Heiliger said it's been smooth sailing. It wouldn't have been possible without the company's investment in data centers, alongside a change in how the operations and engineering teams work together, he said. Heiliger said that prior to his joining the company in 2007, there was a large disconnect between the operations and engineering teams, and that part of the company's recent successes are due to better communication and planning.

Here are some of those events by the numbers:

Facebook/CNN Obama inauguration live stream
8,500 status updates when Obama's inauguration speech started
4,000 status updates per minute throughout the speech (on average)
2 million status updates total through the CNN Live Facebook feed

Facebook's Like feature
4.1 million users liked 7.1 million times in the first 24 hours of the feature going live
16.3 million users liked 46.2 million items in the first week
39.6 million users liked 226.8 million items in the first month

The Facebook personal URL launch
200,000 user names went in the first three minutes
500,000 user names went in first 15 minutes
1 million user names went within the first hour

Tags:
Software
About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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