About a year ago, when Facebook set out to build its email-meets-chat-meets-everything-else messaging system, the company knew its infrastructure couldn’t run the thing. “[The Facebook infrastructure] wasn’t really ready to handle a bunch of different forms of messaging and have it happen in real time,” says Joel Seligstein, a Facebook engineer who worked on the project. So Seligstein and crew mocked up a multifaceted messaging prototype, tossed it onto various distributed storage platforms, and ran a Big Data bake off.
The winner was HBase, the open source distributed database modeled after Google’s proprietary BigTable platform. Facebook was already using MySQL for message storage, the open source Cassandra platform for inbox search, and the proprietary Haystack platform for storing photos. But in the company’s mind, HBase was better equipped to handle a new-age messaging system that would seek to seamlessly juggle email, chat, and SMS as well as traditional on-site Facebook messages.