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Summary:

Twitter will expand its data center footprint in Sacramento, Data Center Knowledge reports. The move would help the social network support traffic spikes and a continually growing user base.

chicks in nest

Twitter is leasing more data center space at RagingWire’s 500,000-square-foot campus in Sacramento, Data Center Knowledge reported Friday, attributing its report to “industry sources.” There’s no square-footage figure available, but power use for the expansion is pegged at “more than 20 megawatts.” And so the mystery about Twitter’s infrastructure continues.

The reported expansion comes on top of Twitter’s existing infrastructure footprint, which apparently includes space at the Sacramento facility and might also include space at the data center custom-built for Twitter, which the company moved into in 2011. At that time, former Twitter vice president of engineering Michael Abbott wrote that the social network had arrived at its “final nesting ground.” But it seems that nesting ground was not big enough.

Like Facebook, Twitter is not a site for flat traffic. The infrastructure needs to accommodate traffic spikes — think of how people clung to Twitter during Hurricane Sandy — and having more space can keep Twitter ahead in those types of situations.

Keeping latency low as monthly active user count increases — it was at more than 200 million in December, up from 100 million in September 2011 — is likely a high priority, too.

More data center space also makes for better backup capability. Remember when Sandy proved the importance of being ready for disasters with flooding and power outages on the East Coast? A bigger footprint for Twitter translates into lower likelihood of a fail whale.

Twitter’s infrastructure expansion comes following news of other webscale players bumping up their respective footprints. Facebook reportedly will build a new data center in Altoona, Iowa, with the first phase measuring 476,000 square feet and costing $300 million. Also in Iowa, Google said it would expand its data center in the city of Council Bluffs, and Data Center Knowledge reported last month that LinkedIn is expanding its data center space, too.

Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

The company is worthy of merit for talking about its features in public and open-sourcing many of them, although it has been cagey about disclosing information about its infrastructure and the causes of service disruptions. We know very little about Twitter’s infrastructure, in contrast to Facebook and Google’s installations. In the past it was unclear where the custom-built data center was, as the plan in 2010 was for the Salt Lake City area, but then it was reported that Twitter was actually moving servers to Sacramento. Twitter’s status in Atlanta is another unsolved mystery.

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  1. Given the spikes in traffic, it will be interesting to see how exactly they have scaled the servers.

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