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Twitter CEO Elon Musk pauses datacentre downsizing push in wake of outage

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has called a temporary halt to the company’s push to cut costs by downsizing its infrastructure expenditure after an outage left users around the world unable to post tweets

Twitter CEO Elon Musk has called a temporary halt to the social networking giant’s cost-saving datacentre consolidation efforts following a 30-minute site outage that affected users across the world.

The downtime incident was first flagged by the Twitter Support account just before 11.30pm on Wednesday 8 February 2023 and left users unable to post tweets, follow other accounts and reply to direct messages.

Meanwhile, a series of user-generated outage reports to the downtime monitoring website Downdetector shows Twitter began running into technical difficulties just before 10pm yesterday, with the peak number of reports occurring at 10.07pm. Shortly after, the frequency of outage reports dropped off.

According to a report by Fortune magazine, the incident prompted Musk – who acquired Twitter and took over as CEO in late October 2022 – to instruct staff in an email to “please pause for now on new feature development in favour of maximising system stability and robustness”.

Shortly after, a follow-up email was dispatched that also called for a temporary halt on the work Twitter is doing to shutter and downsize its US datacentre footprint, which includes sites in Sacramento, Atlanta and Portland.

The company has also been making a concerted effort, in the interests of cutting costs, to curtail its use of the Google Cloud Platform (GCP), which is another piece of work Musk has put on hold for now.

“[Twitter] should also pause on transitioning away from Saracmento, consolidating Atlanta… and reducing [GCP] usage until at least next week,” the email, seen by Fortune, stated.

Twitter is a long-standing user of GCP, with the company outlining plans in May 2018 to move a sizeable chunk of its Hadoop data processing platform to the search giant’s public cloud.  

This was followed up in 2021 by the news that Twitter had signed a multiyear cloud deal with Google that would focus on the company offloading more of its data processing requirements to GCP.

Musk’s $44bn takeover of Twitter was funded in part by $13bn in debt financing, which is repayable on a quarterly basis. According to media reports, the first quarterly payment totalled $300m, and Musk warned shortly after taking control of the site that it could go bankrupt given the level of debt it is in.

This is one of the reasons why Musk has reportedly sought to downsize Twitter’s datacentre estate and curb its cloud use since taking over the company.

According to a report by Reuters in November 2022, Musk has previously ordered the firm’s tech teams to find ways to trim up to $1bn from the company’s annual infrastructure costs, which is understood to have prompted concerns that the site might struggle to stay operational during high-traffic periods.

The report further claimed the site is looking to make cost savings of between $1.5m and $3m a day by downsizing its datacentres and cloud usage.

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