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IaaS case studies

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Perhaps the first high-profile example of what can be done with Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the story of a particularly innovative developer at the New York Times so I will retell the tale here, along with a less famous but
equally impressive one from LinkedIn.

The New York Times

In November 2007 Derek Gottfrid, a developer from the New York Times, used Amazon Web Services and a great deal of technical skill to solve a difficult problem for his employers (Gottfrid, 2007). The newspaper wanted to make all its public domain articles from 1851–1922 available on the web free of charge, but the articles were broken up into individual images scanned from the original paper that had to be pieced together. This could be done dynamically on a website for any article, but if the website proved popular then the web server could soon be overloaded with processes and grind to a halt. If there were static PDF copies of the articles to download then the website would not have to work anywhere near as hard, but there were 11 million articles to process and a tight and inflexible deadline to meet. Gottfrid’s solution was to use open-source tools to process four terabytes of image data in parallel on 100 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) virtual machines, storing the resulting 1.5 terabytes of articles in Amazon’s cloud using the Simple Storage Service (S3). The whole process took just under 24 hours and cost $240, paid for on the newspaper’s company credit card; the 100 EC2 instances had done their job and were deleted.

LinkedIn

In 2007, LinkedIn, a Software as a Service business networking tool, created and launched Bumper Sticker, a very successful Facebook application hosted on Joyent’s Infrastructure as a Service (http://www.joyent.com). Bumper Sticker is a viral media-sharing application that allows users to express their individuality by sticking small virtual stickers on Facebook profiles. The Joyent cloud enabled Bumper Sticker to grow to more than 1 billion page views a month within two months after launch (Hoff, 2008; Joyent, 2008). LinkedIn also uses Joyent infrastructure to operate several LinkedIn sub-domains including mobile.linkedin.com, and in October 2009 they launched their own open Platform as a Service (http://developer.linkedin.com/), further confirming their public cloud presence.

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