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Etsy Announces Move to Google Cloud (etsy.com)
171 points by xref on Dec 14, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 123 comments



I love GCP but honestly have no idea how these big internet properties can make the $ case for “the cloud”, unless they’re also planning to fire 90% of the Ops/SysAdmin team (ala Evernote).

We run on bare metal and to move to GCP would triple our hosting cost, not including bandwidth (which is free* for us).

Do people get discounts for doing PR? I’m really curious.


The hardware and bandwidth costs are only small parts of the full cost of running your own infrastructure. There are so many other benefits:

- you don't have to support your own low level services like Pub/Sub, Cloud Storage, Spanner, etc.

- you don't have to worry as much about things like HIPAA compliance

- developers don't have to wait for you to allocate more hardware, greatly slowing down the software development process

- it's much easier to test your applications, since you can spin up a full copy using rented infrastructure, and then throw it all away once your tests are complete

- many other benefits that I'm forgetting

And of course if you buy enough from them, you do get additional discounts.

For many (most? I don't have data) companies, the actual cost of the infrastructure and bandwidth itself is tiny compared to all the other "hidden costs".


So having experienced Ops in both cloud and non cloud companies. A few rebuttals:

- Bandwidth is VERY expensive in AWS compared to what you can buy in Datacenters. A 1 GBPS connection is so "cheap" you can get it and a 42U rack at HE.net for $400/mo ( http://he.net/colocation.html ). That same 1GBPS is roughly 300TB/month. Assuming it's all outbound - that's roughly $21k in AWS.

So bandwidth is a small cost IF you're not moving large amounts of data out of AWS. If you stream media - it can be a HUGE portion of your bill.

- HIPAA Compliance - That and other compliance aspects assumes that you need those compliance frameworks. In enterprise world that might be the case (SOC2 and ISO27k1 are very common requirements for Enterprise SaaS clients). However in the B2C? Users don't care.

- Waiting for hardware allocation. Once you get to a certain size you have hardware spare, typically. Developers can use that for their tests. You can also have your datacenter/operations group work with your developers during project planning so the code and HW can be ready at the same time.

That being said, I don't disagree there are advantages to the cloud. I'm AWS certified, I drink the coolaid. But saying that there are "so many other benefits" is ignoring the fact that there are "so many benefits" to on prem too. There are pro's and cons to both sides.


> Waiting for hardware allocation. Once you get to a certain size you have hardware spare

Requisitions for non-cloud server resources can takes hours, days, and in some places weeks; even when there is availability depending on the org. At best it takes close to an hour compared to a few seconds in the cloud via a web dashboard.


First of all, as the sibling comment mentioned, no one is waiting for weeks for hardware requisition. Everyone is using virtualized environments and have capacity to spare. Spinning up a new instance in VMware is not harder (in fact easier) than in AWS and hardware costs are SO much cheaper than Amazon's margins.

Furthermore, If you have spiking workloads or hyper growth and can't do proper capacity planning - that's exactly the original AWS value prop, run a hybrid private/cloud environment and extend to the cloud when needed.


I beg to differ, I am a systems engineer for a Fortune 500 retailer, and my team has been waiting weeks, and have been told it will be some time next year, for some vmware instances we need.

That being said, not every organization is as dysfunctional.

I think the best approach would be a hybrid one, where developers could spin up instances in the "cloud", and ops would migrate them into the main infrastructure when it made sense to do so.


I'm glad that I'm not alone in that experience (albeit from the development side). A two week turnaround for a development VM would be amazing; on average, we're closer to a month from request to logging in.


I've actually seen some customers span their openstack cluster across on prem & gcp. Giving them the ability to dynamically scale new hypervisor nodes on GCP.

This works great for gaming companies who can see 10x loads during the first few weeks/months of a new video game release.


I've had this experience as well at a Fortune 500.


Several of my family members and relatives who work in big corporations have waited months for a new server. It is more common than you think, and often it has nothing to do with physical capacity but rather bureaucracy and compliance overhead.


> no one is waiting for weeks for hardware requisition

I work for a Fortune 500 where we have to wait weeks for hardware. This is not unusual at non-tech companies.


I guess you've never worked for a large enterprise? The amount of beaurocracy and time wasting is staggering - where I work it takes days at a minimum to get a new VM up, but usually weeks.


> Everyone is using virtualized environments and have capacity to spare.

I don't understand this argument. Startups usually do not have money to have physical servers sitting around just waiting to be utilized, not to mention the IT resources to stand up those servers just in case someone might need them later. You're saying that everyone has a ton of servers sitting in the rack just waiting to have containers deployed to them? Who?


It's about bin packing. Underutilized servers can have more VMs packed into them. Not physical servers sitting around unused, but additional capacity on in-use machines.


you can do `bin packing` with k8s as well. Allowing you to have a best of both worlds.

From k8s webpage (https://kubernetes.io/): "Automatically places containers based on their resource requirements and other constraints, while not sacrificing availability. Mix critical and best-effort workloads in order to drive up utilization and save even more resources."


Bin packing is the actual academic term for this class of problems so the intended snark in using quotes is a bit misplaced.

Furthermore, running k8s to pack containers into AWS instances that are are themselves actually full blown VMs running on a hypervisor is of course one way to do computing. It is perhaps worth considering that there are others, more direct ways that can be achieved more economically.


You can use virtualization on prem; it’s trivial. No one is still racking hardware on demand. Don’t want to use Xen or KVM? Kubernetes is your solution if you’re a containers shop.

On prem delivery/provisioning is not slower when executed properly.


Could be wrong but I don't think virtualization or container technology is the blocker. It's the software that keeps track of who's allowed to use it and who's currently using it that's the problem. With AWS it's easy, because you pay money for the privilege. It's harder for large orgs, when divisions and teams don't directly pay to access servers. 3rd party clouds solve the issue when teams are given budgets to use them.


Yeah I definitely agree there are pros and cons on both sides. Every company is different, etc. What I wanted to point out is mainly that it's naive to think the costs of hardware and bandwidth are always most significant or even in the top 5 most significant factors behind whether or not a company should use the cloud. It's a frequent misunderstanding I see posted both on Reddit and hackernews.


GCP doesn't have a separate HIPAA cloud. GCP went through the trouble to certify the services themselves for HIPAA. That means you don't need to wait for us to update our `HIPAA` cloud. You are always getting the latest releases.

Here's a full list of our certifications. We're rapidly adding more. Feel free to email me at bookman@google.com if you have any questions: https://cloud.google.com/security/compliance


I don't have very detailed knowledge, but my impression is that this move doesn't make long-term financial sense for the company, but it's being pushed by activist investors / board members who want to appear like they're good stewards of money because investors think cloud is cheaper / etc. (Note that this is on investors.etsy.com, not their tech blog; you can also find a call for public cloud in the Black & White Capital letter, in the NYTimes story from a couple weeks ago, etc.) I heard some rumors about this when I was applying for a job right before the layoffs happened, and I didn't hear anyone expressing interest in moving out of their datacenters before the layoffs.


Yeah. The exact same thing happened at Evernote. They hit a sales slump, new “corporate” management, cuts etc -> GCP.

The Ops people there were pretty proud of their infrastructure, but they took it to a pretty extreme level. I think they were racking their own stuff and even running their own routers etc.


Racking your own servers and running your own routers is extreme? I don't know about you, but I haven't set foot in the DC in two years after initial setup.


Yeah I meant to put it in quotes. :) Hard to find B2C type SaaS companies doing that though (with the exception of Pinboard, who’s crazy :)

We actually haven’t had a hardware failure (apart from HDD that have all been replaced with SSD) in something like 7 years.

We don’t even pay big bucks for Dell, HP etc. Just cheap SuperMicro boxes.


What does your hardware and software stack look like?


>" I think they were racking their own stuff and even running their own routers etc."

There is nothing "extreme" about any of that.


The investor public market bit could be true but it's not about whether cloud is cheaper but how it is treated from a financial reporting perspective.

If you own the hardware or use debt it appears on side of the balance sheet where as if you just pay a provider then it is a cost of business like any other software license so it makes the company look finally better even if the overall actual cash cost is 10-20% more.

Also Etsy has had all Senior Management replaced so new technology leader could just be leading the charge as Etsy was a bit of an anomaly running their own infrastructure because that isn't really a competitive advantage for them from the business customer side.


it almost sounds like the move to Google Cloud is being driven by someone's career goals


To answer your question, people get discounts just for negotiating, no PR required. I would guess the conversation went something like this: "___ is how much we pay to host Etsy on bare metal right now. Can you match that?" "Yes."

I'm oversimplifying - there are a bunch of other considerations, like guarantees about future prices and capacity availability and whether having more flexibility makes it worthwhile for Etsy to pay more, but fundamentally Etsy looked at their current costs and asked Google to make an offer. (I would assume they actually had all three major players bid, and Google won.)

Also to your point, the announcement specifically called out Google's AI and big data capabilities. Those are workloads that can involve a lot of bursting, so the cloud might be especially attractive. Imagine trying to implement BigQuery in bare metal - you can do it, but you have to have a lot of extra servers lying around just in case someone tries to run an analytics query. The same goes even more strongly for something like a model training workload. For bursty enough workloads, running in the cloud can be cheaper than bare metal even given the cloud provider's profit margin.

Depending on how much model training Etsy wants to do, something like TPUs might have also given Google a fundamental edge in costs over bare metal or other providers. I don't know enough to know exactly what factors went into Etsy's decision, but I think these are reasonable ideas.


Okay, that makes a lot of sense. If Google told me they’d match my pricing then sure, I’d probably look at doing that too.

Still a lot of issues on GCP for low latency DB deployments though (no permanent NVME, higher latency on the network backed block storage, etc).

Presumably you start looking at Spanner but that’s it’s own world of hurt (higher latency than MySQL/Postgres, a reeaaallyy basic query planner, the list goes on). You have to change the way you think about data with it and pretty much re-architect your data access.

Agreed re machine learning etc.


I not sure about them asking AWS to bid as they'd see AMZN in a "conflict of interest" online ecommerce space.


As far as I know, which is very little generally, AWS doesn't bid. Prices are as advertised. Not sure if GCP is similar. Azure certainly does, though.


I know for a fact that AWS that AWS negotiates. My buddy used to work at Netflix and he told me that they got a really good rate for AWS that was not available to the general public.

They might not bid in the strictest sense of the word, but when the vendors are mostly 3 players (Google, Amazon, and Microsoft) you just ask each one for a quote. I don't see how functionally that is different from bidding.

Btw, I know there are other hosting providers out there (Rackspace comes to mind).

I can't think of any one of them that would be able to deal with Netflix scale without shitting the bed, missing features, or an almost unacceptable lead time as they build out infrastructure.


all the cloud vendors can offer holistic commits to give lower than list price. We're talking anywhere from X-XX% discount on a per service level.

Generally you need to have a certain amount of usage before companies will engage these discussions.


If you are looking to be acquired by someone like Walmart the you might as well build your infrastructure on GCP/Azure now!


As with everything else, the prices will reduce over time. But to be honest: you are not the market. If you have a functioning, reliable infrastructure that isn't too expensive or PITA to maintain, you have a good enough infra and should continue using that.

If you're a startup who wants to minimize capex and quickly spin up a reliable, secure infra to host your app on to get it out of the door ASAP, you would go with cloud.

If you're a non-technical company with a small IT department that wants to have an online presence and/or build internal online tools without having to build out DC's everywhere, you would go with cloud.

I could come up with dozens and dozens more. Cloud isn't optimal for everyone, but it is VERY helpful for certain organizations.


>If you're a startup who wants to minimize capex and quickly spin up a reliable, secure infra to host your app on to get it out of the door ASAP, you would go with cloud.

But that's exactly what Etsy isn't. They've been around for years. It's a stable, mature business (at least by the standards of the sort of business they're in). What possible advantage could they gain from switching to this cloud?


Some executive will get to lead a big cloud migration project, which will look great on their résumé when they bounce to their next job a few years later.

Oh, you meant advantages for the company? Never mind.


I chuckled at this comment, but this is actually a very astute observation. I've seen it happen way too many times (and destroy many companies and people's lives) to laugh about it :(.


It's called RDD. Resume driven development


Access to dozens of services that AWS offers, that you'd want to utilize entirely on their networks ideally. That service list is only going to keep expanding. The cost for Etsy to duplicate and maintain any of those, is high. AWS is also likely to be one of the leading platforms for AI services/tools, which Etsy will no doubt want to make heavy use of in the future; that's another expensive duplication effort if they do it all in-house.

Let's say AWS has 50 services today. Etsy won't have to duplicate any of those by building & maintaining their own versions. It's an extraordinarily time consuming and expensive process to do so. The capabilities AWS can enable will get greater, while the expense to replicate on your own what AWS can do, will also climb. The extrapolated result, is that AWS & the others will perpetually take market share for the next 10+ years from do it yourself approaches. More for the software duplication expense (time & money), than the hardware/bandwidth cost difference.


Uhh, it literally says "Google Cloud" right there in the headline. Not AWS.


> If you're a startup who wants to minimize capex and quickly spin up a reliable, secure infra to host your app on to get it out of the door ASAP, you would go with cloud.

Why on earth would a startup waste money like that? Just rent a few servers, most places will have it up in a few minutes, guaranteed, any large provider have automated that long ago. Much, much cheaper than the cloud. It seems, even in this thread, that there are two choices: cloud or colo. Hell no to either. Rent dedicated -- yes.

The only reason one would go with the cloud is if you plan to use their services ie not EC2 but the many others. However, those can have a runaway cost too and it's not clear whether a new startup should take on handcuffs like that -- once you decided you are depending on SQS etc it'll be hard to move to elsewhere.


> Why on earth would a startup waste money like that?

Because the cost of hosting a typical startup, even on GCP, is trivial compared to a single engineer's salary.


It really depends. When we were starting out keeping our hosting costs low with dedicated servers kept us afloat.

We actually make an effort to cut our hosting costs while expanding capacity pretty much every year now because Intel keeps making better chips.


"If you're a startup who wants to minimize capex and quickly spin up a reliable, secure infra to host your app on to get it out of the door ASAP, you would go with cloud."

I agree, but I don't think that's the market either.

I think the market is in massive big-corps, moving their IT infrastructure to the cloud.

Like regular, non-tech companies.

Small startup bills might be hundreds, thousands, possibly 100's of K but probably not millions. Big corp contracts may be millions - and stable.


At megacorp scales, you're wasting money going to the cloud unless your load profile is highly variable. GCP/AWS profit margins are very high versus bare metal, and if you're megacorp scale you can afford ops and bare metal you can depreciate over several years.

(and before you trot out Netflix, the vast majority of their bits are served out of OpenConnect appliances colocated at eyeball ISPs and peering points)


I recently watched a Mega Corp fire the entire IT Ops department and hire a handful cloud consultants to move all of their current vSphere (thousands of VMs) infrastructure to Azure.

The rationalization was that in the long run it was cheaper to maintain the status quo, and not have to worry about networking, firewall, and replication issues by hand. I'm pretty sure MS also gave them a large discount at that scale.


I don't doubt it. The winds change often, sometimes quickly. People going to move to the cloud, people going to move back to on-prem, as sure as the sun is going to rise.

My hunch is you'll see a lot of move back on-prem during the next downturn when hardware providers need to move a lot of hardware under duress while businesses look at cutting their opex (you have to pay for cloud compute/storage forever, whereas you can run on paid gear for the cost of power, network, cooling, space, and the tech people you need anyway).

To quote Warren Buffet, “You only find out who is swimming naked when the tide goes out."


"and if you're megacorp scale you can afford ops and bare metal you can depreciate over several years."

Don't assume this.

I worked at a 'big tech company' that made a very popular device.

Our IT was a disaster.

We made one of the world's most popular gadgety things - we couldn't make our email work.

Doing things the right way is extremely expensive sometimes, you have to pay zillions for consultants and they can screw it up.

If 'IT' is not a massive cost - often - the consideration is moot - move it to the cloud where things will work, and there is low overhead.

I'll bet $100 that Amazon is earning those margins easily.

Another example: why do companies use Windows instead of Linux which is free? Well, because Linux in a regular corp environment would be a huge nightmare. $50/employee to get something that works? That's dog-food heap. It's hardly a consideration, easy, just buy it. Maybe MS margins are huge. Who cares, because the value they created is monster.

Sometimes 'point and click' IT is worth a lot given all the risk factors etc. etc..


Most big orgs are dysfunctional. Moving to the cloud doesn’t fix company culture.


Yes, but it can take a bunch of paint points away.

If you think about it- why on earth did companies start having massive servers in the first place?

That was an anomoly.


Operation cost is only one side. There are more things:

* Well designed security / encryption may cost a lot.

* Compliance may be a pain.

* multi-DC and HA

* Surge resource usage over holidays.

* "Sleeping" resources at night or wasted.


There's also just all sorts of other extra features you may get for free. These are things that may not be worth it for you to spend precious dev time developing, but since cloud providers can make it once and offer it to thousands of customers, it makes much more sense. You can look at the full list of GCP features [0], and it's growing every month.

[0] https://cloud.google.com/products/


A critical security issue in public cloud is that users often misunderstand what infrastructure security entails.

I've been in public cloud pitches that sold their security measures as a golden standard that made my managers believe there's no need for a security team anymore. No need for protocols or proper architecture as x cloud has enough flashy certifications.


Support for auto-scaling services in a self-managed environment too


I work for a company similar to GrubHub outside the US. 'The Cloud' works great for us. Think, how many people order food at 9AM on a Monday? Therefore, we only have a very small amount of servers running. However, 7PM on a Friday... thousands.

Yes, it's still mega expensive. But allows us to scale when we need it and not have to worry about the hardware, cost, or management of it.


There is so much more overhead with bare metal.

There's an entire other side of building a web server that devs, thankfully, never have to see. OpenCompute [1] aims to standardize what that process looks like. To think that you can run bare metal, and do better than industry standards is naive IMO.

In the end, if you're worrying more about anything than business logic, you're not really delivering value -- you're solving engineering problems. You can sacrifice that control and solving problems for greater abstractions, i.e. serverless, fargate, etc.

Unless you have some extreme security requirements (which most don't) you probably don't have a good reason to run bare metal.

[1] - http://www.opencompute.org/


I think you're generalizing too much. The overhead for bare metal only exists for certain use cases and apps.

We run about 3 cages (~4k pieces of hardware total) for about a tenth of the cost of what we've priced out as AWS/GCP. This includes DC staff to swap/provision hardware, leases, capex, and our bandwidth contracts.


Cloud providers have to make money, though. You're doing more with bare metal, yes, but you're not doing much more (especially compared to learning how to use a cloud infrastructure effectively), and the cost may not be worthwhile. Generally, the cost of buying and running one server in a datacenter and staffing the ops team needed to keep the hardware running is cheaper than paying for a 24/7 server of comparable specs in the cloud. And if you're already running in a datacenter, it's extremely not obvious that the cost of moving your workload ever will be net profitable.

Of course, if you don't need comparable specs to an entire physical server (I do a lot of personal stuff on a t2.micro!) or don't need the same capacity 24/7, the math is very different. The cloud is definitely cost-effective for elastic workloads.


> Generally, the cost of buying and running one server in a datacenter and staffing the ops team needed to keep the hardware running is cheaper than paying for a 24/7 server of comparable specs in the cloud

I would disagree here. You can run the metrics for your stack, but it's likely cheaper on AWS. https://awstcocalculator.com/

If you don't need to compute something but twice a day, or just certain times -- you can pay pennies on the dollar for a serverless function. There's no need for an entire server for things like this.


GCP is an operational expense, whereas bare metal is operational + capital expense. It might be more expensive for cloud, but the accounting looks a little cleaner.

I worked for a company that had bare metal. They were always shipping parts around, lots of movement back and forth between the data center, lots of night deploys for ops team which meant a burden on the HR department. There was a general anxiety about security.

It might be "cheaper" on paper to run bare metal, but it means your managers and executives have to make a lot of dinky little decisions all the time. I'd happily pay more to "push and forget".


You don’t need to worry about that stuff with someone like IBM SoftLayer and a bunch of other professional unmanaged/semi-managed bare metal.

E.g. WhatsApp have been on SoftLayer for a long time and are still there many years post-acquisition.


I would be shocked if Etsy/Spotify/whoever else wasn't cutting a deal for a significant discount, getting these name brands on GCP is great PR for the platform.


You don't even need to be a name brand to get discounts.


Of course, but I'm sure being a name brand helps them negotiate a larger discount.


Related: "Etsy slashes almost a quarter of its staff in attempt to refocus" https://www.engadget.com/2017/06/21/etsy-layoffs-focus-on-co...


Lifetime costs for much of this technology is more people costs. Also, much of the benefit comes from what's on top of the hosting. (Not having to worry about old versions of software, containers, better security, no issues if the one person who knows what's going on quits, etc)


> I love GCP but honestly have no idea how these big internet properties can make the $ case for “the cloud”, unless they’re also planning to fire 90% of the Ops/SysAdmin team (ala Evernote).

What kind of price differences are you thinking about? How much hardware and how many people are employed to take care of this? Does the tripling of cost take salaries into account?

Having to hire a team that will maintain hardware, deal with scalability and give guaranteed uptime isn't cheap and requires a lot of management. I'm not saying it never makes sense, but offloading all that work on to someone like AWS and Google who have teams doing this for you reliably can be well worth the cost.


We should talk. Email me at bookman@google.com, and I'll be sure to get you a competitive pricing estimate.

(Disclamer: I'm a Cloud Solutions Engineer at Google Cloud)


most cost cuts come from automation (as you already noticed). but not just more automation in ops/sysadmin space, but mostly because you can just free resources you don't need. especially one-off jobs (analytics, etc.) take a huge amount of resources for a very short amount of time and after that time the resources aren't needed. on clouds you can hope to schedule them preemtivly.

also most cost savings come at night, if you are not active on the whole globe you probably only need half of your resources at night. even if your global the chances are high that at some time you still need way less resources. etsy is a marketplace on most marketplaces there are times where demand is really high and demand is certainly not so high. (christmas, black firday, regressions, etc..)

also if you self host, high availability can and is a pain. monitoring your database is a pain, it takes a huge amount of time, which most companies do not have.

p.s. working at a small company and services like RDS/gcloud postgres! (thanks google) google buckets (not sure how they are called their name is not as cool as s3)/S3 are a huge win for us.


Honest question: why not use both? If spinning up cloud computing resources is the most cost-efficient way to do those computing tasks, why not have that be the route for doing one-off computing tasks while your own machines run the workload for recurring stuff? Is there overhead for not having 100% of your computing done on a cloud platform that I'm not aware of or something?


"google buckets"/Google S3 is called GCS: Google Cloud Storage https://cloud.google.com/storage/

Aside: strangely enough googling GCS gives me Glasgow Coma Scale, you'd think by now google would have personalized the result for me


Two big savings opportunities:

* elastic demand, either in the sense that your global traffic has peaks and troughs, or your global traffic is steady but its global distribution changes such that the balance of where you're deployed would ideally change over time; in either case you can benefit enormously from automatic scaling

* workloads that can take advantage of the spot market (or whatever GCP's equivalent is)


With bare metal you pay for servers you don't use. Cloud is more expensive on the compute side but you can really scale on your usage pattern, also security on the cloud is way better that on bare metal.


These calculations don't make sense unless you really consider TCO over any appreciable amount of time.

It's easy to say you can buy a huge server for a few thousand but the "cloud" provides incredible agility, security, and basically removes operational overhead. When compared to buying, maintaining, and decommissioning servers and software along with the time and personnel costs, it becomes a much closer race. Include global scale, elastic capacity, managed services, and support policies, and it's closer still.

Rarely are companies paying 3x IT spend just to run in the cloud, especially for large companies like Etsy.


>I’m really curious.

I think you can imagine a scenario under which the end goal to have this headline was someone’s primary goal for the past couple of years.


Found some interesting contrasting statements from 2015 [1]:

> The company performed big data jobs early on in the cloud, using Amazon's Elastic Map Reduce service.

> “That [EMR] got us to a place where we think about what data we collect. At the time it was really inefficient from a cost perspective, but there weren’t any creative constraints,”

> The team eventually decided to bring it in house. “Our Hadoop cluster wields a huge amount of flexibility," said Rembetsy. "We can get a lot done on bare metal, and we know very much what we’re looking for. Cloud services, that’s where efficiencies fall away. Spin up and spin down doesn’t have the same value proposition.”

[1] http://www.datacenterknowledge.com/archives/2015/05/11/how-e...


EMR is really expensive, especially you are using spot instances. It is roughly $2 for the EMR tax on $1 instance


Sounds good. I was an early Etsy seller, as a glass artist and bead vendor, As well as a developer who worked with them as closely as I could for a few years.

They have always seemed a bit disconnected from their customers. The first regime, Rob Kalin, Haim and Revolving Dork, had an age and culture disconnect from most of their customers. The next group, headed by Chad Dickerson and Allspaw, seemed like they wanted to focus on technology for technology’s sake, more than what Etsy was actually doing with that as a company. They even made some statements to the effect of how they wanted Etsy to be known as a technology company, like Facebook, and be a platform, like Amazon.

All fine and good, but so far, what all of the leaders of Etsy have had in common is that they don’t really understand what it’s like to be a micro business person selling handmade art online. If I was an investor, I wouldn’t want to be paying for a bunch of guys to experiment with Mongo DB search engines and shards. As long as they’re still not understanding their core business, it’s a distraction.

Etsy should be focused on one thing: connecting buyers and sellers of handmade art with each other.


Disclaimer: I worked at Etsy, a long time ago.

> The next group, headed by Chad Dickerson and Allspaw, seemed like they wanted to focus on technology for technology’s sake, more than what Etsy was actually doing with that as a company.

I think you're missing quite a bit of this story. I was around during the transition of Chad from CTO -> CEO, and the truth is that Etsy needed to focus on the technology badly during that time. The site would go down constantly. We had very little insight into what was going on with sellers or buyers. Every busy day was basically us crossing our fingers that the site wouldn't go down.

We needed someone focused heavily on the technology. We could never have continued on that path and grown as much as we did.

> Etsy should be focused on one thing: connecting buyers and sellers of handmade art with each other.

Deciding what potential buyers are interested in and what items to display to them is a pretty difficult technology problem.

Detecting mass-produced goods in a way that's more subtle than "ban all Chinese sellers" is a pretty difficult technology problem.

If anything I would argue that Etsy didn't focus nearly enough on that, and focused way too much on "low-hanging fruit" (minor workflow adjustments for sellers and buyers).


Agreed, there is a whole lot more to the story that sadly this comment area is too small to contain. Dickerson and Allspaw definitely did a great job of modernizing Etsy from the relatively ragtag team that operated it prior, and it seems pretty robust now.

That’s great – for their engineering department. What about the guiding vision for their core business? It’s not enough to make IT top notch when their overall aim is floundering. As a customer and developer, I frequently felt that their communications and decisions missed the mark and heard this from fellow customers continually. Etsy needs to be run by artists and retailers, not technologists.

Part of the problem is that they want to address the things like eliminating mass produced goods as technology problems, to be eliminated with the right algorithm. I think it risks turning the cozy marketplace into some automated hell like Google or Amazon.


> That’s great – for their engineering department.

Well, no - it's great for you too. Nobody can buy anything if the site is down. First-time buyers are especially sensitive to that. If their first experience with Etsy is a timeout page they won't be back (we actually had numbers asserting as such). Amazon famously wrote that 100ms of additional latency cost them 1% of sales, and Etsy is very similar in that regard.

> What about the guiding vision for their core business? It’s not enough to make IT top notch when their overall aim is floundering.

The guiding vision was, and likely still is, to have Etsy be what it is today (but with much better execution, obviously). Amazon with a more hand-made slant to it.

I saw this frequently when I was there - sellers want Etsy to be more like ArtFire or ArtYah is now, but that's not what Etsy's leadership and funders want Etsy to be. They want Etsy to be Amazon, but for unique items.

Now sure, that's not what Rob Kalin wanted it to be. But that vision was lost years ago, way before Chad et. al took over.

> As a customer and developer, I frequently felt that their communications and decisions missed the mark and heard this from fellow customers continually.

No argument there. The decisions usually made sense internally, but the external communications were poor. I would not be surprised to find out it's part of why the C-suite was gutted. I'm really sorry you had to be a customer during that phase. Seriously.

> Etsy needs to be run by artists and retailers, not technologists.

They tried that. Rob Kalin is an artist, through and through.

Turns out artists don't always make great business leaders. And let me tell you, definitively, Rob Kalin would have ruined that company had he stuck around for much longer than he did.

> Part of the problem is that they want to address the things like eliminating mass produced goods as technology problems, to be eliminated with the right algorithm.

It is a technology problem. Etsy can't possibly afford to hire enough people to sift through items manually looking for mass-produced goods. They'd go bankrupt. The marketplace is just way too big for that.

Etsy can remain a small marketplace and do that, which is I'm guessing your preference, but that's not the preference of the VCs who backed Etsy. Unfortunately, money has the final say.


I realize that snappy pages help, as an engineer myself (who often depended on Etsy's API responses...). I appreciate the great job they did taking Etsy from the substandard heap it was circa 2009 to where it is now. My point is that Etsy needed more of a guiding light than their engineering department providing effective technology.

Rob Kalin was not an artist - what was his art, Swimmy? BS? A couple wooden computer cases? In my perception he was a con-man hipster who dabbled in craft. I have no praise for him or anything he did, and am not suggesting his vision, whatever it was, or certainly his management, would have been better. I believe he is the one who imbued Etsy with a toxic culture from which that they are still suffering. One inept conman doesn't disprove 'artists' being management, and that's not what I called for - someone with retail experience would be nice, ideally online as well as the typical setting where Etsy members sell their wares offline like art galleries, craft fairs, jewelry stores, boutiques, and so forth.

All the time I've dealt with Etsy, I've heard the excuse that it's impossible for them to police their market place in any sort of pro-active way. But the sellers in each category have no problem finding obvious violations in their categories every day, and reports have never been dealt with logically and promptly. I, and others, gave up reporting mass production and resellers after it seemed futile due to lack of response, or even Etsy would claim items that seemed like clear violations were not violations.

I don't have a preference for Etsy's future, as I gave up attempting to use it years ago and have recommended to my friends and clients for years that they buy a domain and set up a shop they actually control, using shopify or big cartel to make it simple.


> My point is that Etsy needed more of a guiding light than their engineering department providing effective technology.

They had that, though. Amazon for unique items.

I think that's just not the guiding light you wanted for Etsy, but it's been there for a long time. They were missing the technology ~2009 up until a couple years ago. It was absolutely the most important problem at Etsy at that time. Now? I'll agree, not so much.

> Rob Kalin was not an artist - what was his art, Swimmy? BS? A couple wooden computer cases? In my perception he was a con-man hipster who dabbled in craft.

I have no love lost for Rob Kalin as a CEO, and I would never work in a business run by him again, but this is an extremely unfair characterization of him.

He's an artist. Sorry. To call him otherwise is to pull a "no true scotsman."

> someone with retail experience would be nice, ideally online as well as the typical setting where Etsy members sell their wares offline like art galleries, craft fairs, jewelry stores, boutiques, and so forth.

Etsy had plenty of people like that in senior leadership roles. Not the C suite, sure, but high up there.

I also don't see any reason why Etsy needs people like that, to be honest. Bezos had little (if any) retail experience before starting Amazon. Clearly hasn't impeded them any.

> All the time I've dealt with Etsy, I've heard the excuse that it's impossible for them to police their market place in any sort of pro-active way. But the sellers in each category have no problem finding obvious violations in their categories every day, and reports have never been dealt with logically and promptly.

You're grossly unaware and underestimating of the volume of support emails Etsy got (and probably it's even worse now).

Sellers outnumber Etsy employees by a godawful amount. Reports outnumber Etsy employees by a godawful amount. Not sure if it's still the case, but we used to have so many reports that we needed employees to all go on rotations where they answered emails and went through reports.

I personally must've gone through close to 1,000+ support emails and reports a year during my time there just doing these support rotations. The full-time community staff probably handled that much each day, if not more.

Even with all that, I bet we answered maybe 25% of all reports and emails. And this was way, way before the IPO.

> I don't have a preference for Etsy's future, as I gave up attempting to use it years ago and have recommended to my friends and clients for years that they buy a domain and set up a shop they actually control, using shopify or big cartel to make it simple.

That's fine, but I think it's naive to assume Etsy's future would look anything other than this. Actively managing a marketplace of Etsy's size is a technology problem.

You can bring up Myspace/etc. all day, but don't forget that in addition to monitoring for resellers and mass produced goods Etsy also has to watch out for:

1) Illegal activity e.g. money laundering 2) Pornographic/inappropriate items 3) Scammers 4) Legitimate support complaints (missing items etc.) 5) General complaints (I don't like this new feature, etc.)

Support staff monitoring all of those numerous issues would bankrupt Etsy, even if they did farm it out to a developing nation for pennies.


Thanks, I’d love to respond to this when I have the chance.

As far as Rob Kalin, you didn’t answer the question - what is his art? What medium? I’m a member of a group that doesn’t have to stretch, claim or pretend to be artists, since we make things out of hot glass all day and it’s really obvious.

I find it odd that you’re convinced he’s an artist, but I’ve never seen any of his art. Are you referring to his personality? Does he actually create craft or art? Was he ever self employed to trying to sell it for a living?

A couple of times here, you are using outliers to try to prove broad principles: Kalin proves that artists wouldn’t know how to run Etsy, and Jeff Bezos proves that a retail background doesn't help to build a retail website. Hmm, I would be hesitant to draw conclusions like that.

Overall, Etsy is irrelevant to people like me, who were the people that it was nominally created for originally. Obviously, it was taken over by investors who don’t care at all about the original mission. What I’m still judging at by is the original intent, which they never managed to achieve.


https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15930796

If MySpace could employ people to sit around looking for the wrong pornography, Etsy could employ people to look through their marketplace for the wrong stores. This article explains exactly where we are at: solving the problem technologically hasn’t worked yet, and you have to have actual people look at it.

Some knock-off mass produced junk is just as jarring when set amongst handmade art as pornography is when set among family pictures, if you’re an artist. People paying Etsy hundreds of dollars a month for their stores deserve a clean marketplace, and Etsy could hire a dozen human reviewers for the cost of one or two engineers.

Of course, since my time, Etsy has slowly expanded their rules so that many of the things that would not be allowed six years ago are now encouraged.


Not much meat for the technically interested here unfortunately. The respective business departments were clearly in charge of this press release. Which was a business mistake in my opinion: these press releases are primarily interesting for the CTOs and similar - the fluff presented here would serve to remind them of how they are kept at arms length i many board rooms even in their areas of expertise, more than anything. My guess is both Google Cloud and Etsy would dip in their opinion as result of it.


It begs the question why Google Cloud and not MS Azure or Amazon's AWS?

Could it be a price break they got, and also the AI advantages of Google Cloud's offerings? I am sure that played a big part.


Many retail companies avoid AWS because they see Amazon as a competitor.

Source: work for a retail company, we went with Azure.


I think that certainly comes into it. Seems perverse to take the money you make from sales and give a cut of it to your competitor, who can then reduce the prices in their own store.


That and there's a trust issue I'm sure, regarding hosting all your data with your competitor.


Probably because Google extends really really good deal to them for the PR effect.

I don't think Etsy should consider itself as a competitor to Amazon, they simply can't. On the other side, AWS already has so many success stories that they are unlikely cater to Etsy specifically. That makes GCE the best option out there. As to Azure, I think people trust Google more as to cloud-based technology than Microsoft.


> they simply can't

Amazon is one of Etsy's most relevant competitors. They'd be insane not to consider them a competitor

https://www.amazon.com/Handmade


Price breaks would be my guess. Famous names can get discounts in exchange for going public with the transition. I don't have evidence to back this up, but I get the sense that Google offers the deepest discounts, possibly because AWS and Azure have more mindshare and Google wants to catch up.


Google's marketing engine just remembered earlier this year that they have a cloud product that they kind of forgot to push for the last 3-4 years and decided to cut the DevOps poster child a better deal in exchange for a high-profile migration to the exclusion of the other cloud providers.


Do you have any facts to back your claims?


> Etsy's transition to the Google Cloud Platform is expected to be complete within the next two years.

I have no idea what Etsy looks like internally, but that sounds like an awfully long time in this day and age. Anyone have an inkling as to why this is a multi-year project?


Having worked for two companies that have shifted to cloud providers, multi-year timescales is fairly usual even just for like-for-like migrations. You can’t just shut down the servers, image them and start them in the cloud, you need to have a plan to progressively migrate services while maintaining site operation.


Truth. This[0] is how we did it for the NYTimes Crossword platform. It took a year and a half, but was managed with a team of only 2 people (myself being one of them).

[0] https://open.nytimes.com/play-by-play-moving-the-nyt-games-p...


I would bet part of this has to do with the support cycle of the hardware they currently have, and other contracts: they have warranty/service/support on their current hardware, and contracts in place for their colocation facility, so they'll keep using those until they're (near) the end.


I'd imagine that the move would require some re-engineering of their services to make the best use of GCP. I'd also imagine that their would be a non-trivial migration process to ensure uptime is maintained and customers are not impacted during the move.


someone set their DNS TTL to ∞


Where are you going with this?


He saying that is the reason why it's going to take years; because their DNS names will be pointing to the same IPs forever and not move over to the cloud based servers.

It would of been funnier if you put a finite number, like TTL 3 years.


To infinity and beyond, obviously....


Did they use another provider prior to the move, or self-host?


Last I checked, they hosted their own bare metal machines.


Correct. I've seen their cages.


In a data center in Jersey, at least a few years back.


I would love to see a cost analysis of a company moving to GCP/AWS.

We were a 6M customer flash sale company sold for $200M. We had 3 devops engineers mostly helping developers with designing the system and pager duty - mainly because 24/7 was to demanding for only 2 people. We were SOX/PCI compliant.

Hosting costs all in all by year were around the same as the salaries I'd say.

People who moved to AWS/GCP, would I save costs in this scenario moving to AWS/GCP?


I’m not even sure Etsy will exist in two years.


Based on this alone?

Etsy seems to be fine for the most part. The only criticism I have of Etsy is that they've moved away or diluted their core business (small business/home business sales) by allowing mass manufactured goods to be sold on the site.

Etsy still has a place, and I've ordered several items from Etsy vendors this last year. They just need to keep a check on what they want to be otherwise they'll be subpar eBay clone.


eBay has made way worst choices for a decade and it's still around.


Okay so how much did they get for free by moving to Google Cloud? That's the question you should be asking.

Etsy has been hurting; why would they move infrastructure now unless t hey got kind of kickback for the PR?

This isn't an easy move; so there has to be a huge benefit to them.


Another DC to cloud story! I love these!

It's like watching a play in 3 acts:

Act 1) Yay, we did it, we're gonna save so much money!

Act 2) [a year later] Wait, we're spending how much money?!?

Act 3) It's going to cost us how much to leave our current cloud?!?

Haven't people figured out yet that cloud companies make a profit? Sure, companies like Etsy can get a huge discount, but everyone else who isn't a big name is going to pay out the ass.


That's not how any of this works.

Boeing makes a profit, but how much money will it cost to design and make a plane from scratch?


> That's not how any of this works.

Weird then, considering that I've seen >5 companies go through that process. Something that you say doesn't work one way clearly does.

Planes are vastly different than data-centers. Depending on what you need, a brand new data-center can run as little as a couple hundred dollars for a server + parts, and <$30 / month on everything else. What is the cheapest plane you can buy?


wasn't etsy the company that was using amazon and shifted back to their own infra because they said cloud is not as cheap as own infra?


No, they've always self-hosted on bare metal.


What's the difference between self-hosting and self-hosting on bare metal?


Self-hosted could mean running on a rented server managed by a vendor (e.g. Rackspace) often marketed as a "private cloud." The servers they're using are individually assigned to that client, the vendor manages the physical, the company manages every other layers.

Self-hosted on bare mental usually means the company owns the physical servers, storage arrays, and so on. No renting or leasing. No subscription fee-like service. They may still be renting space in someone else's data center, but it is their hardware.

The distinction isn't super important to be honest.


It was Dropbox




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