For the first eight years of its life, you see, Dropbox stored billions and billions of files on behalf of those 500 million computer users. But, well, the San Francisco startup didn’t really store them on its own. Like so many other tech startups in recent years, Dropbox ran its online operation atop what is commonly called “the Amazon cloud,” a hugely popular service run by, yes, that Amazon—the world’s largest online retailer. Amazon’s cloud computing service lets anyone build and operate software without setting up their own hardware. In other words, those billions of files were stored on Amazon’s machines, rather than machines owned and operated by Dropbox.
But not anymore. Over the last two-and-a-half years, Dropbox built its own vast computer network and shifted its service onto a new breed of machines designed by its own engineers, all orchestrated by a software system built by its own programmers with a brand new programming language. Drawing on the experience of Silicon Valley veterans who erected similar technology inside Internet giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter, it has successfully moved about 90 percent of those files onto this new online empire.