Exclusive: Snafus forced Twitter datacenter move: sources

Fri Apr 1, 2011 7:48pm EDT
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By Alexei Oreskovic

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - An ambitious plan to prevent "Fail Whales," the cartoon icon that greets frustrated Twitter users during network outages, turned into a fail whale of its own.

A new, custom-built facility in Utah meant to house computers that power the popular messaging service by the end of 2010 has been plagued with everything from leaky roofs to insufficient power capacity, people familiar with the plans told Reuters.

The botched move threatened new product development and forced Twitter -- whose user accounts have burgeoned to 200 million in just five years -- to seek another location despite committing significant investment to the facility.

The data center move reflects growing pains faced by red hot tech start-ups as they aim to justify soaring valuations and transform into reliable channels for advertising and commerce.

Twitter said last month its data center had moved to a new home at an undisclosed location -- a feat that industry insiders say is impressive by any measure.

People familiar with the matter said the move was to an existing Sacramento facility more than 600 miles away, owned by co-location company Raging Wire, rather than into the custom-built data center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Twitter had signed a $24 million, 4-year minimum commitment lease with C7 Data Centers which was building the Utah center. It was not immediately clear how much, if any, of the fees would be returned or if it planned to pay out the full term of the contract.

Those plans "spiraled out of control," one source said. "They were in over their heads and they did not recognize that until far too late."   Continued...