What’s Wrong With Facebook? Can 500 Million Users and 60 Thousand Servers Be Wrong?

Something is wrong with Facebook.

Here’s the screen I see more and more often these days, just switching between my own FB pages.

Server Problems at Facebook?

It’s the equivalent of the “please wait” screen we’ve all grown so tired of when dealing with Flash and Flash-driven websites. But Facebook is not Flash driven, is it?

Still the amount of time Facebook now averages to load a page is getting painfully long. I used to think the game I played on FB, Knighthood was slow. But it might have been FB.

Here’s the problem, in a nutshell.

60,000 servers to power Facebook

When your user base grows at exponential rates, so does your demand for server power, storage and bandwidth. And somewhere along the way, FB is getting punked. Datacenterknowledge.com released the above chart from a FB executive presentation and used previous server counts to estimate FB’s server count to be upwards of 60,000. And that was way back on June 28th. They can’t build their Oregon data center fast enough.

But as the services and add-ons to Facebook (apps, games, plugins) get more and more power hungry, the servers are having to work harder to deliver a single page, even if that page does not use any fancy tricks. So now Facebook is becoming frustratingly slow. And it’s not just me that’s noticing. A Google search of “facebook performance problems” reveals quite a bit of data suggesting the growth issues are not new. But when the numbers of users become surreal (500 million) you can’t just throw more servers and hard drives at the problem.

I’m sure Facebook’s IT and Engineer departments are working round the clock on the issues, but with the staggering load and increased service demands (Places, Farmville, Search) it is unlikely that the problems are going to be fixed soon. What they could do, however, is stagger the pages, so that the above “blank page” does not happen. Cause when nothing is happening it’s quite clear that nothing is happening. Before long they’re gonna have “Please Wait” notices going up. When that happens look for the hip crowd to start looking for a new social platform.

Hopefully it won’t come to that.

@jmacofearth
permalink: http://bit.ly/FB_performance

Note: Facebook has opened a high-growth office in Austin, Texas. And I’m in the running to work there. So I may be shooting at my own feet here, but I’m determined to make FB better from the inside OR the outside.

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