Commentary

The Mystery of the 5.3 Petabytes Per Day

  • by , April 22, 2009

How is Facebook able to keep up with itself? As more and more news stories come out about Facebook’s user statistics, this is a question that is really beginning to perplex me.

In February, Facebook released their numbers saying they had 175 million users. Not too shabby, I thought. Read the article a little more and you find out that Facebook is ADDING 5 million new users each week.

Wow, I thought. That’s borderline amazing. Reading even more of the article, you learn there are 850 million photos and 8 million videos uploaded EVERYDAY. Now, that’s just downright obscene.

And then, less than two months later, Facebook announced that its 200 millionth user signed up. If Facebook were a country, they’d be between Brazil (#5) and Indonesia (#4) on the list of the world’s most populous countries.

So I started thinking, with all of these users, photos, and videos, how? How is Facebook able to do all of this?

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Just to get some perspective on all of this, let’s do some quick math: Facebook has a size limit of 4 megabytes for the photos uploaded to the site. Let’s assume that all 850 million photos loaded each day are right in the middle at 2 MB. So… 850 million photos of 2 MB each is roughly 1.7 billion MB, which equals about 1600 terabytes or 1.6 petabytes.
1.6 petabytes?!? Per day!!?!

I read an article from about a year that said Facebook used about 10,000 servers – some in California, some in Virginia. Now, I’m not a computer-whiz by any stretch of the imagination, but does that seem low?

I know the figure is a year old, so let’s assume Facebook has doubled the amount of servers they have… are 20,000 servers or even 30,000 servers capable of handling 1.6 petabytes of new info a day? And keep in mind this is only photos.

If we use the same math with the photos and assume that every video uploaded is half of the allowed capacity, the videos uploaded every day would be another 3.7 petabytes. For a total of 5.3 petabytes per day.

That’s 5.3 petabytes today. Up to 10.6 petabytes tomorrow. 15.9 petabytes the day after that. Then 21.2 PB… 26.5… 31.8… and on and on to the nth day. Oh yeah, and there’s the 5.3 PB yesterday. And the 5.3 PB the day before that…

And remember these were conservative estimates of half the allowed file size.

Not to mention the strain put on the servers by the 100 million users that log on each and every day (but I won’t mention them).

So now you can see why I’m perplexed. Can anyone out there shed some light on this mystery?

2 comments about "The Mystery of the 5.3 Petabytes Per Day".
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  1. Vikram Somaya from Thomson Reuters, May 26, 2009 at 10:56 a.m.

    I'm assuming someone pointed out this was 850 MM/month, not day.

  2. Howie Goldfarb from Blue Star Strategic Marketing, May 26, 2009 at 12:27 p.m.

    I do not believe the Facebook figures. In fact there is no law that states there has to be truth in these numbers. No one has sued websites that fudge the numbers. At least not that I know of.

    And unless your an investor (they are not public), or an advertiser (so few are advertising on the site) the numbers really mean nothing. As an advertiser you want proof of page views for your ad, and obviously click throughs you can measure directly.

    That being said yesterday I uploaded several music videos to my Facebook page. But the videos were actually hosted by Daily Motion and You Tube. So I will guarantee the number Facebook uses for video most of them are hosted on other servers outside of the Facebook site.

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