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The Newest imgix Datacenter

a visual tour

Story by imgix August 5th, 2014

Our mission at imgix is to increase the value of every image on the Internet. We are accomplishing this by enabling faster content delivery, histogram correction, color adjustment, better compression, retargeting to specific devices and browsers, and much more. As the boundaries of the Internet push further out from the desktop computer into tablets, mobile phones, smart–watches, and every other electronic medium imaginable, it is becoming impossible to predict how an image may need to be presented ahead of time. Images have to become responsive to the conditions in which they are being viewed in order to function in the increasingly diverse visual landscape of the modern Internet.

imgix is designed from the ground up with solving this challenge in mind. Our service can take any image on the web and serve it dynamically, perfectly tailoring an image in real-time to the context in which it is being viewed. With trillions of images already on the Internet and more being added at an accelerating pace, it will take a tremendous amount of processing power and intelligence to bring this kind of capability to every image on the Internet.

Below are photos from the project. If you are interested in learning more or trying out our service, please visit http://www.imgix.com.

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DESIGN

Our new datacenter is our first to incorporate principles of rapid deployment in its design. Rapid deployment means doing all of the core infrastructure work ahead of when you actually need to use it, while building in enough flexibility to make changes years down the line.

A rapid deployment design is essential to operate a scalable service in a conventional datacenter.

This type of datacenter design has its own challenges — up front costs can be higher, a flaw in the design may have serious repercussions later — but it is the ideal method for giving imgix the the flexibility it needs to solve our customers’ problems in the best possible manner.

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CABLING

Build your infrastructure ahead of time because there is never enough time in the moment to react to changes in your traffic.

Our cabling infrastructure carries on this design principle. Every cable has been run ahead of time, with an unlit fiber optic capacity of more than three times our current maximum usage. The pathways have been specifically laid out for physical diversity, to prevent a cut in any one place from causing an outage.

We ran copper cabling to support a management network and serial connectivity to network devices — a backup in case something unforeseen should prevent us from using our normal management channels. Someone is always available to go on–site to resolve issues, but being able to resolve almost anything remotely can lead to a much quicker response time.
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Electrical & STRUCTURAL

A power busway provides a lot of flexibility when it comes to deployment, but at a considerably higher cost. While flexibility is important, we decided that we could simplify our problem and reduce our build out costs dramatically. Instead of a busway, we deployed the same circuit to every cabinet position, which allows us to install any cabinet in any position at any time (with some minor limitations). By building the electrical infrastructure ahead of time, we reduced the risk of working on live equipment and made energizing new cabinets a matter of flipping a circuit breaker.

Our structural support system also plays a big role in making cabinet installations quick and any relocations relatively painless. We installed custom fabricated bolt couplers into the floor tiles, which mount down to the building’s structure. Securing a cabinet is done with four bolts fastened to these couplers, a process that takes a matter of minutes.

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SERVERS

imgix requires maximum flexibility in server hardware — we do a better job by using the right tool for the job.

All of our rapid deployment design decisions allow us to deploy servers when we need them, to handle whatever our customers need from imgix. They also let us deploy the right type of server for a particular job, as some tasks are better done on a particular platform.

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OS X

Apple’s operating system offers numerous advantages over other platforms when it comes to image processing, and it is also favored by many designers for the same reasons. imgix has written tools which allow us to leverage these strengths with our service, using OS X for image operations where it provides superior quality and performance.

Deploying this type of hardware in a datacenter environment is a bit of a challenge, and one that we worked on extensively with our systems integrator. Our custom cabinet design allows us to operate these servers the same as any other in our production environment, and ensures they are a reliable component of the imgix infrastructure.

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LINUX

Other tasks can be handled better by Linux systems, running on conventional server hardware. We have identified a small number of server types that function as the building blocks of our infrastructure, and endeavor to re–use common components whenever possible. This gives us the flexibility to adapt a server to its particular role, but also keep our operational overhead low.


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NETWORK

The network infrastructure is built to be fully redundant and both logically and physically diverse. As with our server hardware, we select equipment that is reusable across our deployment, to minimize the operational overhead our small team incurs in managing it.

This datacenter is well connected to a major Internet exchange, and is intended to serve a major role in a imgix network still in the planning stages.

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SUPPLIES

Supplies in a datacenter are often overlooked, but it is hard to resolve issues without the right tools. We look for the most likely and most damaging issues, and stock tools and spare parts accordingly.

How you store your supplies can be just as important as what you store: if you can‘t find something in a hurry, you may as well not have it. Everything we store is labelled and has a home, and we are diligent about keeping it that way.
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Footnote: The images in this post are powered by imgix. Photography by imgix Lead Designer, Miguel A. Cardona, Jr.
San Francisco, CA, United States