Hybrid-Cloud. We’re Up.

What happened last night?

Our engineering team at Urban Airship has officially and successfully transitioned our services to our new hybrid-cloud architecture, hosted by our partners Amazon Web Services and Carpathia Hosting. Late last night, we completed the biggest phase of the move, which has been in the works for a long time. We have more work to do, but today is a very big milestone for us. This infrastructure is a significant investment in Urban Airship and we are all excited about what it will enable us to do for our customers.

Countdown to the new hybrid cloud.

Why did Urban Airship make this move?

It’s no secret that Urban Airship is rapidly growing. As we grow, our customers are increasingly demanding more sophisticated push messaging. Our hybrid-cloud architecture positions Urban Airship to continue to exceed customer expectations for our stable, scalable, low-latency, and high-throughput mobile messaging platform.

Looking past this transition, we have some exciting product news coming soon (stay tuned) about products made possible by our new hybrid-cloud architecture. Beyond our upcoming announcements, we believe that we are now on the hosting architecture that we need to provide our customers with the next iterations of our existing products, with new products under development and with unimagined products down the road.

We scoured the industry for a solution that would meet our needs during this high-growth phase and keep up with our vision of what the next few years will bring. This hybrid-cloud architecture positions us well for the future.

What were the requirements?

As we searched for the right solution for our needs, we established ten critical requirements.

  1.     Connectivity – We service customers and devices around the world and need excellent connectivity between our services, partners, customers, and our customers’ customers.
  2.     Geographic Footprint – The geographic footprint of our hosting partners is important so that we can provide adequate disaster recovery, high availability and low latency to our services as we grow.
  3.     Cloud Elasticity – The elasticity of the cloud is needed to keep up with storage and compute growth, as well as provide burst capacity for certain operations.
  4.     Customized Kit – We push network, compute, and storage equipment hard due to our scale and unique usage patterns. Our hosting providers need to be capable of provisioning and operating the various types of equipment we need.
  5.     Economics – At the rate we are adding infrastructure, the economic model of the architecture needs to scale so that we can continue to offer competitively priced products. The architecture needs to empower us to make price-performance tradeoffs for cloud vs. customized kit.
  6.     Flexibility – Currently, we prefer a managed service provider model (MSP) for any hosting partner. As Urban Airship grows, a colocation model may become advantageous for some of our services. The provider must have the business model flexibility to work with us through a MSP to colocation transition.
  7.     Relationship – Rapid growth stretches any relationship, a good foundation is key. We’ve grown a very good relationship with AWS over the years and demand the same from any additional partners.
  8.     Reputation and Clientele – Reputation and existing clientele is key to a decision this big. Potential partners need to be best in class, have existing happy customers with similar requirements, and work well with other Urban Airship partners.
  9.     SAS 70 – We service a growing list of enterprise customers where SAS 70 assurance is a must-have requirement.
  10.     Speed – Mobile messaging and the demands of our customers are moving at break-neck speed. Any provider must have the ability and the passion to keep up with the needs of our market.

How does this affect our customers?

We believe that our investment will have many positive benefits for our customers. The connectivity, geographic footprint, cloud elasticity, and customized kit all combine to provide for robust mobile messaging worldwide. The economics of our hosting will continue to allow us to provide customers with the best value for our products. The reputations of AWS and Carpathia Hosting, our relationships with both, and their SAS 70 compliance should give customers confidence that Urban Airship is running on the best hosting platform in the world. Finally, the speed and flexibility of this approach will allow us to continue to execute well for years to come.

Next steps

As always, we’ll communicate our current status on http://status.urbanairship.com and the Urban Airship Engineering Twitter account @ua_eng. We’ll have more to say about some of the technical details of our architecture and the drivers that drove this transition this summer at Open Source Bridge and OSCON:

Behind the scenes at the Airship late last night: It was all hands on deck as the engineering team verified the deployment.

Open Source Bridge

•    Gavin McQuillan: Cloud Scaling: High Performance Even in Virtualized Environments

•    Gavin McQuillan: Designing Error Aggregation Systems

•    Michael Richardson: Starting and Scaling a Startup Outside of the Silicon Valley


•    Scott Andreas: Designing and Implementing Asynchronous Distributed Systems: Challenges, Strategies, and a Million Things That Go Wrong

•    Erik Onnen: Lean Big Data for Mobile

Thank you

“You should be so lucky to have problems with scale some day” is a popular saying among startups. It reinforces the risk of premature investment and scaling before product/market fit is achieved. Urban Airship’s new platform infrastructure strategy has clearly been necessitated by our early success. We’ve “become so lucky” and need to make these investments in order to sustain our growth and exceed customer expectations. First and foremost, this means continuing to provide a stable, scalable, low-latency, high-throughput mobile messaging platform. For our newfound “luck,” we have our customers to thank. Thank you for sharing your mobile messaging problems with us and believing in us and our vision. We look forward to continuing the conversation and can’t wait to show you what we have coming next!