Presentation: Scaling Instagram Infrastructure


1:40pm - 2:30pm



Key Takeaways

  • Learn some of the issues and solutions Instagram’s Infrastructure team had around scalability.
  • Hear how Instagram improved single server capacity and improved network latency.
  • Learn some of the tools, techniques, and metrics Instagram uses to support 500 million monthly users.


Instagram is a social network mobile app that allows people to share the world's moments as they happen. It serves 300 millions users on a daily basis throughout the world.

In this talk, we will give an overview on the infrastructure that supports its users on this large scale.

Topics will include:

  • a brief history of infrastructure evolution
  • overall architecture and multi-data center support
  • tuning of uwsgi parameters for scaling
  • performance monitoring and diagnosis
  • and django/python upgrade (why, challenges and lessons learned)


QCon: What are the main problems you are focused on today?

Lisa: I am a software engineer on the Instagram Infrastructure Team. Our team’s main purpose is to keep the scalability of our systems up. While doing that, we identify both short term and long term fixes around scale. Additionally, we work closely with many other teams on the product side to help them to identify bottlenecks and make suggestions related to scale when they are shipping new features to our users.

QCon: What can you share about the scale Instagram is dealing with?

Lisa: We are serving more than 500 million monthly active users, with 300M of them on Instagram every day.

QCon: What does the stack look like for Instagram?

Lisa: Our web tier stack is Django with Python, and we have backend services using Cassandra, MySQL, and MemCache. Those are basically our storage devices. We use Facebook’s Ever store as our photo storage. We also have an async tier with RabbitMQ and Celery.

QCon: What about other aspects of the infrastructure. Does Instagram leverage containers? Are you on cloud based or on Prem?

Lisa: We do use containers. We basically use Linux LXC, a variant of it. Facebook has its own Tupperware container which is also a publicly talked topic. it’s a wrap around of LXC.

We moved from AWS to Facebook’s data center about two years ago. When we made that move we expanded to multi datacenters. 

QCon: This move from AWS to on prem is interesting. What drove the move to Facebook’s infrastructure?

Lisa: The rationale is really just about accessing Facebook’s servers more conveniently. Otherwise, you always have the firewall and things like that in between. So we really could not take advantage of some of the things Facebook had like monitoring and scaling. Aside from that, I think there was were some VDM limitations that caused us issues around data replication.

QCon: Can you tell me a bit about some of the things you plan to discuss in your talk?

Lisa: I will discuss different aspects of scaling, horizontal, vertical, and scale of dev team. I will talk about how we scaled to multiple data centers; how we define scale up and what tools we use and built to identify scaling bottlenecks; what we have done to enable product development velocity and our release process. Along with the things we have achieved, we’ll discuss some of the continued challenges and our plans to address them.

Speaker: Lisa Guo

Software Engineer @Instagram

Lisa is a software engineer on Instagram infrastructure for the past 2.5 years. She has worked on various aspects on the backend, mostly recently focusing on efficiency aspect of the platform. Prior to Instagram, she worked on several Software Defined Networking projects at Facebook infrastructure team. Life prior to social network involved physical networking devices such as routers, switches and security appliances at Juniper Networks and other networking companies.

Find Lisa Guo at

Similar Talks

Developer @ThoughtWorks Inc
Tech Lead of Manhattan Team @Twitter
Staff Engineer, JVM Team @Twitter
Technical Manager Aurora / Mesos Team @Twitter
Provisioning Engineering SE @Twitter
Senior Software Engineer, Playback Features @Netflix



Monday Nov 7

Tuesday Nov 8

Wednesday Nov 9

Conference for Professional Software Developers