Question about Facebook mechanics

I am not a computer person, so I apologize if my question is poorly worded or dumb. I am in the middle of watching **Social Network **and I have reached the point where one of the characters says that there are now 150,000 people signed on to Facebook. My question: What kind of hardware or equipment (how big, how expensive, etc.) would be needed to handle a complex site involving so many people? Is it something they could keep in their room at Harvard? Or would they have to lease space on someone else’s equipment?

A site with 150,000 users (not all of whom are using it at the same time) would require some midrange server hardware. There’s no way to predict what the hardware requirements would be from the user count alone; different applications have wildly different performance characteristics.

I have built a system for a larger user bases successfully using three stripped down 1U front-end web servers, two very beefy 3U database servers, and a bigass NAS. Altogether, about $20,000 worth of equipment, colocated at a datacenter where rackspace is rented.

But Facebook could have been running on hardware an order of magnitude smaller or larger than that at the time, depending on their load. My bet would be larger. Facebook is heavily read/write based, as opposed to something like a news portal which is primarily read-based. Writes are expensive, and this was when Facebook was built entirely on a relational database model instead of the denormalized system they use now.

Anyway, you’d need to ask someone with inside information.