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# Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Inside Ancestry.com’s Top-Secret Data Center
Posted by Diane

Inside the unassuming building that is the data center for Ancestry.com and other Generations Network properties, rows and rows of cabinets house the 5,328 servers that hold the Web site, all those indexes and digital images, and users’ family trees.

In all, it’s 2.5 petabytes of data (one petabyte is equivalent to 283,000 DVDs).

A lot of security protects that data. A guard watches cameras 24/7. Windows are bulletproof. Sensors monitor windows and doors. The Ancestry.com guy walking us around had to swipe his badge at several doors, then lay his palm in a Mission: Impossible-like handprint reader to enter the server rooms.

I can’t disclose the location and photographs weren’t permitted (darn it, I forgot my hidden-camera lapel pin), but the folks at Ancestry.com sent these approved images:

Some rows of server-filled cabinets:


Still more servers:
 

(This makes me feel insecure about the jumble of cords shoved behind my TV stand.)


There’s 807,000 Kw hours of power running through the cords per month—about the amount used by 1,076 average homes over the same time period. An elaborate air conditioning system keeps the servers from overheating.

If things do get too hot and the smoke detector sounds an alarm, all life forms have two minutes to scram before a fire-suppression chemical hisses into the room and starts to suck out the oxygen.

An automated system reroutes traffic around servers that are getting overheated or full, then alerts the techies who can replace those machines. Batteries can run the place for an hour should a power failure occur; huge generators can keep it going after that.

Regular disk backups are transferred to tape and whisked weekly to a Granite Mountain disaster-proof storage vault (near the one where FamilySearch keeps its master microfilms).

Ancestry.com’s monthly hosting costs run $300,000—$143,000 for the space, $112,000 for power and the rest for bandwidth. That’s part of what you’re paying for in your subscription. (A larger chunk of your subscription fee goes to adding new content and upgrading current content.)

Ancestry.com
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:30:41 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 2:44:05 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
"Most of your subscription fee goes to adding new content and upgrading current content."

Since Mr. Sullivan said last year that they spend 4 to 1 on marketing vs. data acquisition, that cannot be.
Mike
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 3:05:39 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
I'm not sure where you found that statement, so I can't address it specifically. Content VP Gary Gibb said Friday that Ancestry.com spent $10 million on content in 2008 and will increase that in 2009. Tim Sullivan said content is the first priority this year, technology is second and marketing definitely also makes the list.

I don't have all those numbers, though, so I've edited my post to limit the comparison to hosting costs and content costs. Thank you.
Diane
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 4:05:15 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
Diane,

As to where I found that statement, I am going off of a speech that Mr. Sullivan gave at last year's BYU Computerized Family History Conference, as reported by your anonymous insider buddy here:

http://ancestryinsider.blogspot.com/2008/03/two-ancestry-presidents-contrasted.html

He said that they spend 10 million a year on content and would spend 40 million in 2008 on "trying to get more people involved in genealogy", i.e marketing.

So now he told you and others that they are going to spend more than ever before on content acquisition, but without apparently specifying a dollar figure. But 10.5 million would fit that statement while not really changing the marketing/content ration all that much.

Now the Ancestry Insider says that is in line with the industry, though I am not sure how he would know what WVR and Footnote spend on those things. Even so as I have said in his blog, I suspect that poor customer service contributes to an increased turnover at Ancestry which necessitates in their minds spending even more on marketing.
Mike
Friday, January 16, 2009 3:24:42 PM (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)
How did you get into my basement to take these pictures? I'm going to have to change the locks.
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