- RightScale delivers a comprehensive cloud management solution that provides a fast cloud on-ramp and easy management of a massive number of cloud deployments, including automated scaling and the flexibility to customize deployments.
- Familybuilder has maintained its competitive advantage in a very crowded space by using the cloud with RightScale and dbShards to quickly and efficiently launch and manage its application and significantly improve performance.
- With RightScale, Familybuilder was able to smoothly and quickly transition to using four large AWS instances rather than ten smaller ones to more efficiently communicate product news to some 10 million users.
RightScale, CodeFutures and the Cloud Give Familybuilder a Competitive Edge
Familybuilder is a leading Internet application development company focused on building family-oriented applications within online social networks. Its flagship application is Family Tree, which empowers generations of family to communicate, share genealogy, browse photos, exchange messages, and plan family get-togethers on major social networks, primarily Facebook. Since launching in June 2007, Family Tree has been consistently ranked as a top 50 application overall as well as a top 20 non-gaming application. Family Tree boasts 30 million users, of whom more than 6 million are active monthly.
Family Tree’s explosive growth has tracked the skyrocketing popularity of social media. Although the company started out using a traditional Internet Service Provider (ISP) for its off-site data center, this solution quickly proved to be insufficient to support its unpredictable and high scaling needs. To quickly solve its IT woes, stay lean, and grow quickly, Familybuilder chose to move its applications to the cloud using the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud infrastructure, the RightScale Cloud Management Platform, and a database sharding solution from RightScale partner CodeFutures. The Familybuilder team credits this formula of the cloud, RightScale, and CodeFutures with giving them a significant competitive advantage in the genealogy software market.
The Business Challenge:
Managing Scalability in the Unpredictable Social Media Space
If you have a good idea, don’t be afraid to make the move because you don’t need to worry about compute infrastructure with RightScale and the cloud.
Dave Blinder, Familybuilder, CTO
From the beginning, Familybuilder recognized the huge business potential in social media. It did not accurately predict, however, that the usage of its popular application would grow so blazingly fast on social media platforms. The challenge of managing compute scale was thrust upon Familybuilder after a particularly successful marketing campaign. With only a few hundred users under its belt in June 2007, the company invested in a small amount of advertising. The impact was immediate: 30,000 new users in the first day alone and another 45,000 the following day. It was clear that Familybuilder’s traditional ISP solution was simply not capable of providing the technology platform necessary to support and promote the application’s increasing usage.
With Family Tree’s rapid viral success, Familybuilder needed an immediate solution to support its growth and scaling needs. But there was no time to purchase hardware, much less learn a new system or hire administrators. Familybuilder quickly identified the AWS cloud infrastructure as its source for unlimited, on-demand compute power, but couldn’t afford the AWS learning curve. The company needed a source that could facilitate the move to AWS and make it happen fast. With competitors nipping at its heels, Familybuilder tapped the RightScale Cloud Management Platform to get on the cloud fast and automatically manage its cloud applications.
RightScale Cloud Management Platform with dbShards
We wanted to get onto Amazon, but we couldn’t get on it fast enough. We needed a quick on-ramp to the cloud and the benefit of a partner who had created best practices for management of the Amazon cloud. RightScale gave us all of this and more.
Dave Blinder, Familybuilder CTO
RightScale delivers a comprehensive cloud management solution that provides a fast cloud on-ramp and easy management of a massive number of cloud deployments, including automated scaling and the flexibility to customize deployments to meet Familybuilder’s specific needs. RightScale’s unique approach to managing complete cloud deployments — which include multiple servers and the connections between them — has been critical to Familybuilder’s success. Familybuilder’s cloud deployments run smoothly, managed by an automation engine that adapts resource allocation as required by system demand, system failures, or other events. The RightScale Management Dashboard provides real-time management of Familybuilder’s deployments so that the team can set pre-defined triggers to alert them as needed to quickly respond to a wide range of events.
A particular challenge for the Familybuilder team was supporting the storage and management of the vast amount of family pictures that Family Tree users upload. Familybuilder found that small AWS instances, or cloud servers, just couldn’t support the processing of all these images. Using the RightScale Cloud Management Platform, the team was able to smoothly and quickly transition to using four large AWS instances instead of ten smaller ones, which solved the problem. Because the RightScale ServerTemplateTM methodology abstracts the entire software installation process, Familybuilder’s move to a new instance size was painless. There was no need for the team to re-configure from a 32 bit to a 64 bit because the RightScale ServerTemplates did it automatically.
Another example of Familybuilder’s flexibility with RightScale is the company’s ability to quickly scale up to send email notifications to 10 million users at once — and then just as rapidly scale back down. A company that buys or leases servers to cover such a spike (if it can acquire them fast enough) may end up with dozens of servers that won’t be needed before they’re obsolete. A better approach is simply to turn off instances in the cloud and stop paying once the compute power is no longer needed. RightScale’s automated scaling, or auto-scaling, makes scaling up or down significantly easier. Now Familybuilder can efficiently send massive-scale email notifications promoting new features without compromising online application performance.
Our ability to keep our databases live 24x7 was a critical requirement — one we have been able to accomplish with confidence using dbShards technology.
Dave Blinder, Familybuilder CTO
RightScale partner CodeFutures, which develops dbShards database performance tools, also played a significant role in enabling Familybuilder’s efficient email notification system in addition to its overall high system performance. As Family Tree’s data processing load increased, Familybuilder’s system hit an I/O barrier, which produced a significant wait time between the database and the storage devices in the cloud. CodeFuture’s database sharding product dbShards provided Familybuilder with a way to break through.
Database sharding is a simple concept: Rather than storing application data in a single database on a single server with shared CPU, memory, and disk, the database is divided into a number of smaller "shards,” each of which can be hosted on independent servers with dedicated CPU, memory, and disk, which greatly reduces resource contention. Because each shard is small, the database server can do a much better job of storing indexes and query caches in memory, resulting in significantly improved performance. With dbShards, Familybuilder no longer worries about data processing limitations, which helps pave the way for its continued rapid growth and market leadership.
Results: Maintaining a Competitive Advantage with Agile Cloud Solutions
With RightScale, the AWS cloud infrastructure, and CodeFuture’s dbShards, Familybuilder has been able to easily tap the on-demand, infinite resources of the public cloud to support its growth and overcome database I/O limitations while staying lean and managing costs. By taking advantage of RightScale’s fast cloud on-ramp and automated scaling and server configuration capabilities, Familybuilder’s system administration is minimal, and its developers are free to focus on what they do best: enhancing Family Tree. While competitors were scaling back features, Familybuilder continued to build out Family Tree with the confidence that its system could handle any level of growth. In short, by using the cloud with RightScale and dbShards, Familybuilder has been able to maintain its competitive advantage in a very crowded space.