TweetPhoto cobbles together cloud services for storage

New Twitter add-on service stores files on Cloud Files and Cloud Sites from Rackspace Inc.'s Mosso cloud service, but turns to WebBasedCron to speed the upload process for users.

A startup generating buzz in the Web 2.0 world has turned to Rackspace Inc.'s Mosso cloud service to store users' photos, but found it needed the assistance of another third party to speed the upload process.

TweetPhoto Inc., in beta since late March, is looking to become an add-on service to the popular social network Twitter. The service would allow customers to upload and display links to mobile photos on Twitter, similar to an already-established service called TwitPic, but with more advanced photo sharing and sorting features.

TweetPhoto co-founder and CEO Sean Callahan had used Rackspace's Mosso subsidiary to store files for another project beginning approximately a year ago. He said TweetPhoto hooked up with Mosso's Cloud Files for storage and Cloud Sites for Web hosting about a month-and-a-half ago. TweetPhoto houses its own databases and middleware.

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Callahan said there were hiccups as TweetPhoto developers worked to join their code with the Cloud Files service during the beta process, but they've been able to collaborate with Mosso engineers to resolve scripting errors on TweetPhoto's part.

"The site has been up consistently, and the support has been really good," Callahan said. "However, there's one thing I would add to the [Mosso] service—a change in the limits on cron jobs." A "cron" job, short for chronograph, is a Unix process that executes commands or scripts at regular intervals in time. TweetPhoto uses the cron jobs to search a catch-all email folder where end users send mobile uploads.

"We have to do cron jobs every 30 seconds to take the emails, parse them to look for photo attachments and upload them to the [TweetPhoto] service," Callahan said. "Mosso is limited to doing one cron job every five minutes – in the Twitterverse, five minutes can be like a lifetime."

To bridge the gap, TweetPhoto brought in another cloud service, WebBasedCron, to perform the jobs before photos get uploaded to Mosso. Callahan said he realizes that "if [Mosso] let people run cron jobs as frequently as I want to, they could bog down their service."

Mosso founder Jonathan Bryce, who handles online operations and marketing for Rackspace, says Mosso could let customers run more frequent chron jobs, but most don't need to.

"With our Cloud Servers service, customers can run a cron job at any frequency they choose," Bryce wrote in an email to SearchStorage. "On some services (like Cloud Sites), we impose certain limits, which is standard practice in our industry to allow hosting companies to better manage the cron load and help protect stability for all customers. We've talked about lowering it further, and may do so, but it's not something we hear a huge outcry from customers about. There are a limited number of cases where you need to do something more frequently."

Online backup providers Carbonite Inc. and SpiderOak Inc. say that building their own internal storage infrastructure from the ground up is a competitive advantage. But Callahan said TweetPhoto is more concerned with sticking to developing its application and business model than architecting storage.

"We eventually expect millions of people to come to the site," he said. "We want to pay for what we need on-demand."

Other third-party cloud storage services such as Amazon's Simple Storage Service (S3) have had high-profile outages in the last couple of years, in one instance bringing down Twitter itself. But Callahan said he trusts Rackspace's infrastructure. "They're a publicly traded company, and as a company their focus is solely on computing," he said.

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