Clouds in Equinix: Hybrid Cloud Adds Speed, Not Costs, for Foursquare

The big idea behind Foursquare is that no matter where you are, if you’re looking for a prime place for food, entertainment or nightlife, Foursquare can find one for you.

But when the company was having trouble finding what it was looking for – namely, speed and performance to support its rapid growth – it turned out Equinix was the place to look.

Foursquare moved from an Amazon Web Services-only technology platform to a hybrid cloud inside Equinix and got striking results. The shift to a hybrid cloud doubled Foursquare’s database performance, and the company saw a five-fold increase in data transfer speeds.Foursquare logo

“The migration was seamless, and it has allowed us to more than double the number of requests processed while holding operational costs fixed,” said Robert Joseph, Foursquare’s director of site reliability engineering, in a case study by Equinix.

Foursquare launched in 2009, a year after co-founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai began working on it from the kitchen table of Crowley’s apartment in New York’s East Village.

Foursquare is a local search and discovery application that helps more than 45 million users make the most of wherever they happen to be. Users share the places they visit, and Foursquare returns the favor by giving them personalized recommendations when they’re looking to check out something new wherever they are.

The site counts more than 5 billion check-ins since it launched in 2009. It also helps more than 1.6 million businesses attract people nearby with mobile ads and promotional offers.

Foursquare built its technology platform on AWS, but as it expanded, it ran into limits in processing capacity, network transmission speed and disk performance. The company needed to add resources, but that came with significant added costs. Foursquare also wanted more control over its technology platforms and better insight into network performance.

A hybrid cloud made sense to Foursquare because it could build a private cloud to customize servers and data analytics to meet its specific needs, but still use the Amazon public cloud to store data and access needed computing power when workloads spiked.


Foursquare chose Equinix’s massive data center campus just outside Washington D.C. as the home base of its hybrid cloud.

The company created a private cloud that could manage and analyze massive amounts of data. And it was able to easily integrate its private cloud with its existing AWS resources because AWS Direct Connect was available inside the Equinix data center that hosted Foursquare’s systems.

Using the direct connection, Foursquare can synchronize its 6-plus terabyte data set nightly in six hours. The same synchronization process could take days over a public network connection.

A hybrid cloud platform inside Equinix also positions Foursquare to better adopt the coming multicloud, which will enable companies to connect to complementary services on many clouds simultaneously. The multicloud will be built most efficiently and affordably in data centers that have a high concentration of cloud services and networks. With more than 975 networks and 450 cloud providers, that’s Equinix.

“Equinix was the smart place to build Foursquare’s cloud,” Joseph said. “We gained direct access to AWS and are ideally positioned to add to our cloud capabilities as our company grows.”

Download the entire Foursquare customer case study here.