StumbleUpon has selected RagingWire’s Sacramento data center campus as its new home. The fast-growing social media company is currently in the process from moving from its current data center in Silicon Valley and into RagingWire for its main production data center.
Founded in 2001, StumbleUpon touts 30 million users and 100,000 advertisers. It has fine-tuned and continues to fine-tune the art of the recommendation; something that many companies are scrambling to accomplish these days.
This is a meaningful customer win for RagingWire, both in terms of size and visibility of the client. The StumbleUpon HBase datastore is currently running across 150 servers and contains more than 12 billion rows and 50 terabytes of data. HBase is just one of many technologies utilized in the data center environment which also houses an additional 750 servers. The datastore serves as the foundation of StumbleUpon’s discovery platform, where instead of searching the web, users "stumble" to encounter recommended content from peers, page ratings, interest mapping, and social networking.
Many StumbleUpon users have a long history of stumbles, creating a ton of information. "We have 42 billion rows just in one database, which we’re currently migrating to Aerospike. Aerospike is incredibly fast and very scalable,” said Paul Hands, Operations Director at StumbleUpon.
For those that don’t know StumbleUpon and happen to be at work right now, don’t check it out until you have some free time, because it’s a website that alters the space-time continuum so that several hours pass by in a manner of minutes. At least it feels that way. It is one of the most addictive things on the web.
Users define their interests and the service finds websites and content that it thinks they’ll enjoy. By pressing “Stumble” another page is served up. A user can stumble away for hours looking at content across a range of their interests, while giving pages the thumbs up or thumbs down. The system learns what types of sites each user likes. The longer StumbleUpon is used, the more accurately it’s able to match you up with something you’ll find interesting, but it’s pretty good at this out of the gate.
“We recommend good content, original, not seen before content," said Hands. "We build models behind the scenes with very sophisticated recommendation technology. Because of the sheer number of sites on the internet, and the number of users, we end up with a large amount of data. We have every stumble every recorded; that’s a huge database.”
Hands knows infrastructure from his work as a data center manager at Google. When he emphatically mentions that he was impressed with RagingWire’s Sacramento facility, it’s noteworthy.
“We spent three to four months looking at candidates,” said Hands. “The cost structure in the existing infrastructure wasn’t right, and it was inefficient infrastructure, not power dense enough for our needs.
“We spent a lot of time negotiating back and forth. We discovered Ragingwire was the only realistic choice – the pricing structure was excellent, the connectivity, state of the art design, I was blown away. RagingWire was easy to deal with, very transparent."
StumbleUpon fielded Ragingwire with a variety of "what if" scenarios, and the company's responses helped to seal the deal. “I’d ask stuff like ‘what happens when this generator goes out, how do you react?' You can sense when someone’s being evasive or economical with the truth," said Hands. "RagingWire was upfront about everything.”
Hands says StumbleUpon wasn’t comfortable having its primary facility in an earthquake zone, which provided an additional reason to seek out an alternative.
Growing Mobile Usage
StumbleUpon is growing and profitable. Mobile usage represents a growing opportunity for the company, as it’s easy to casually stumble through webpages to kill a few minutes from time to time. “Forty percent of all our stumbles are mobile, up 25 percent from last year,” said Mike Mayzel, Director of Communications for StumbleUpon.
The company just made its first acquisition in September, a video discovery company called 5by. “It’s a very new company doing interesting things. They’re going to remain working on their app,” said Mayzel. 5by does a very similar thing to StumbleUpon in terms of recommendations, but with video. The company believes this is where advertising is moving, and where the content opportunity lies next.
It serves 30 million users but has only 70 employees. “We’re now hiring. we’re looking for people who want to live and breathe big data,” said Mayzel.