CTO discusses hopes and fears for his social networking site

April 14, 2006

4 Min Read
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SAN DIEGO -- Storage Networking World -- The challenge of breaking into the Chinese market, child safety, and building a storage infrastructure to support 100 million users are all high on the agenda of Aber Whitcomb, chief technology officer at social networking Website

Launched in September 2003, has already racked up 65 million users, enabling them to access images, music, and video files as well as their online buddies. "We wanted to do something for everyone, [and] it has become incredibly popular," Whitcomb noted during his keynote here yesterday.

Some 250,000 new users are now logging onto the site every day, and Whitcomb expects to reach the 100 million mark in the next few months. The exec has also got his eye on the most populous market on the planet. "I was just in China last week, trying to figure out how to launch MySpace China," he said.

But gaining an online toehold in China is easier said than done. Yahoo and Google, for example, recently came under the scrutiny of a U.S. Senate committee amidst concerns that the Chinese government could use them to identify dissidents over the Internet.

"You have to be very careful about going into China," admitted Whitcomb. "You need to have a license from the government in order to start a commercial Website." This, he said, explains why most large U.S. firms team up with local partners to break into the Chinese market.There are also plenty of technical challenges. "The Internet over in China is not very good -- there are only two major telecom providers." One way around this, Whitcomb suggested, is to put as much hardware into China as possible and serve the content from there.

But is unlikely to go down this road. "That's not something that we're willing to risk," he said, adding that the firm is instead looking for a "very solid" partner in the region.

Another big issue for Whitcomb and his team is ensuring that young users of do not fall prey to online pedophiles. "We take it very, very, seriously, and we're doing a lot of things to be able to vet how old users are," he said, in response to a question from a concerned parent in the audience. "Were trying to isolate different age groups on MySpace and separate those people."

But the exec, understandably, was playing his technology cards close to his chest on this one, confirming only that is working with "a lot of big-name companies" to develop methods for vetting users.

Whitcomb was slightly more forthcoming on the firm's internal storage infrastructure, confirming that 2,862 Web servers, 90 cache servers, and a 1,000-disk SAN support his company's operations. also uses Isilon clustering technology to store 100 Tbytes of MP3 and video data and 3PAR's InServ storage servers as the foundation for its 200-Tbyte SQL databases. (See Isilon Powers MySpace, 3PAR Hits 100th Customer, and Top Ten Private Companies: Spring 2006.)Isilon replaced a series of SATA arrays, which were difficult to manage, according to Whitcomb. "The problem with this is that it creates islands of storage, and we needed storage that really scales. When we looked, Isilon were the only ones doing this."

Certainly, Isilon was among the early vendors to sell distributed file systems that cater to industries demanding high throughput, such as digital broadcasting and oil and gas exploration. (See Energy Firms Clamor for Clusters, Storage Shapes Up for Multimedia, and Next-Gen File Systems.) Another early player in the field, Spinnaker, was gobbled up by Network Appliance in late 2003, and NetApp expects to ship an operating system built on that technology later this year. (See NetApp Nudges Closer to New OS and NetApp Annexes Spinnaker.)

But with Isilon's IQ technology capable of scaling up to 500 Tbytes, Whitcomb believes there is more than enough room for future storage growth: "Storage capacity is not a problem -- when we run out of storage we add more."

— James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Isilon Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: ISLN)

  • Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)

  • 3PAR Inc.

  • Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP)

  • Yahoo Inc.0

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