Dropbox announces massive network expansion

When Dropbox announced it was leaving AWS last year and bringing the bulk of the operation in-house, you had to figure it was working on a significant network expansion, and today the company announced a massive global network growth plan that is designed to increase syncing speed for users and cut costs for the company.

The plan involves several approaches including custom-built infrastructure similar to other web-scale companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook, but the company recognized it would take more than building hardware for its own unique needs. It also needed to find ways to speed up the process, and that meant providing services as close to the user as possible. This is known as moving computing to the edge of the network.

They started with an enormous network expansion effort across 14 cities in seven countries on three continent, according to the company. “In doing so, we’ve added hundreds of gigabits of Internet connectivity with transit providers (regional and global ISPs), and hundreds of new peering partners (where we exchange traffic directly rather than through an ISP),” Dropbox’s Raghav Bhargava wrote in a company blog post.

But the company didn’t stop there. It also built a custom proxy based on open source software to power the entire project. “The edge proxy is a stack of servers that act as the first gateway for TLS & TCP handshake for users and is deployed in PoPs (points of presence) to improve the performance for a user accessing Dropbox from any part of the globe,” Bhargava wrote.

This type of service is typically offered by Content Delivery Network (CDN) providers like Akamai, but like many companies working at the scale of Dropbox, it ultimately decided it needed to build a custom solution to meet its unique requirements and to give it the ability to control all aspects of the stack.

Diagram: Dropbox

The company is deploying the custom proxy stack across its US data centers starting today. It plans to deliver it…

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