Founded in 2010, mobli is a social network for sharing videos and photos that has more than 13 million users worldwide. The company’s app lets users browse and discover videos and images, interact with other users via rating, commenting, and chat, and edit images with filters and embellishments. Users can find content based on interests or locations (from entire cities to specific businesses) and can use this content to customize their feeds.
mobli has always been based in the cloud. But as it grew, the company found that it needed more robust features, such as more memory, ease of use, and cost predictability. Emmanuel Merali, mobli CTO, says, “For a young start-up, it’s essential to concentrate on the things that matter: the application and the business vision. I didn’t want to have to take care of maintaining physical servers and risk wasting a lot of time and money managing assets. I needed an environment that was flexible, reliable, and ready for use—one that would adapt to my needs rapidly.”
Why Amazon Web Services
In 2011, mobli moved to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to take advantage of the significant ease of management offered by AWS. “When I use AWS, it’s much easier to get what I need. For instance, I used Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to order a database server simply by clicking a button,” Merali says. “It was almost instant—it was a just question of taking a snapshot of our database and bringing it over to AWS.”
Although the company is now running nearly 200 servers, migrating from the old system to the new one was straightforward. Merali says, “It was straightforward and it saves us time. I no longer have to worry about all the things I had to take care of previously.”
mobli uses Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to house functions such as video transcoding and feed aggregation on different servers that can be added or removed as needed, and Elastic Load Balancing to balance the load between web servers. The company uses Amazon RDS databases distributed among different servers, and stores images and videos on Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). Amazon CloudFront is used to deliver content to users. mobli’s solution is based on Linux and PHP running on Amazon EC2 servers and MySQL on Amazon RDS. The company uses Amazon CloudWatch for monitoring.
The configurable security measures of AWS also help mobli secure data for its customers. “Users are ultrasensitive to their privacy,” Merali says, “We are confident that by building our system on AWS and using its security features, we can protect our data from the outside world. That’s critical for us.”
By using AWS, mobli saved time and reduced its infrastructure costs by up to 45 percent. “AWS was advantageous not only in terms of giving us more time to develop the application but also in terms of cost savings,” Merali says. “Using AWS helps mobli improve our performance and enables us to be more efficient.”
The company is now better able to manage expenditures. “It’s much easier for us to have a set budget and to know exactly where we’re going,” Merali says. “The AWS pricing plan is clear.” The ease of use of AWS also helps cut costs, because fewer people are needed to manage the system. “We don’t have to worry so much about IT problems or need a particular resource constantly on the server, maintaining things,” Merali says. “At this point, I can’t imagine having to send someone to physically change the servers when something goes wrong.”
In addition, AWS helps the company to manage spikes in user activity when high-profile users tweet about new content and new users register in mass. Merali says, “I’ve been able to absorb bursts of activity easily because the architecture is scalable and it’s so simple to add and remove servers on demand. We absorb the peaks, and when things cool down, we can release some or all the resources that we added. Everything works automatically, thanks to scripts we wrote in-house, based on data gathered from CloudWatch metrics and other monitoring means.”
AWS customer service has also worked well for mobli; they are using AWS Support. Merali explains: “Usually, we get to the bottom of problems quickly—every time we opened a ticket, we’ve been impressed by the rapidity of the response, which is usually half a day at most. So my experience of AWS Support is really excellent.”