Simple controls over complex technologies, as we put it, wouldn't be possible without neat UIs for our user areas including start page, dashboard, settings, and docs.
Initially, there was Django. Back in 2011, considering our Python-centric approach, that was the best choice. Later, we realized we needed to iterate on our website more quickly. And this led us to detaching Django from our front end. That was when we decided to build an SPA.
For building user interfaces, we're currently using React as it provided the fastest rendering back when we were building our toolkit. It’s worth mentioning Uploadcare is not a front-end-focused SPA: we aren’t running at high levels of complexity. If it were, we’d go with Ember.js.
However, there's a chance we will shift to the faster Preact, with its motto of using as little code as possible, and because it makes more use of browser APIs. One of our future tasks for our front end is to configure our Webpack bundler to split up the code for different site sections. For styles, we use PostCSS along with its plugins such as cssnano which minifies all the code.
All that allows us to provide a great user experience and quickly implement changes where they are needed with as little code as possible.
The 350M API requests we handle daily include many processing tasks such as image enhancements, resizing, filtering, face recognition, and GIF to video conversions.
Tornado is the one we currently use and aiohttp is the one we intend to implement in production in the near future. Both tools support handling huge amounts of requests but aiohttp is preferable as it uses asyncio which is Python-native. Since Python is in the heart of our service, we initially used PIL followed by Pillow. We kind of still do. When we figured resizing was the most taxing processing operation, Alex, our engineer, created the fork named Pillow-SIMD and implemented a good number of optimizations into it to make it 15 times faster than ImageMagick
Thanks to the optimizations, Uploadcare now needs six times fewer servers to process images. Here, by servers I also mean separate Amazon EC2 instances handling processing and the first layer of caching. The processing instances are also paired with AWS Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) which helps ingest files to the CDN.
Uploadcare has built an infinitely scalable infrastructure by leveraging AWS. Building on top of AWS allows us to process 350M daily requests for file uploads, manipulations, and deliveries. When we started in 2011 the only cloud alternative to AWS was Google App Engine which was a no-go for a rather complex solution we wanted to build. We also didn’t want to buy any hardware or use co-locations.
Our stack handles receiving files, communicating with external file sources, managing file storage, managing user and file data, processing files, file caching and delivery, and managing user interface dashboards.
At its core, Uploadcare runs on Python. The Europython 2011 conference in Florence really inspired us, coupled with the fact that it was general enough to solve all of our challenges informed this decision. Additionally we had prior experience working in Python.
We chose to build the main application with Django because of its feature completeness and large footprint within the Python ecosystem.
All the communications within our ecosystem occur via several HTTP APIs, Redis, Amazon S3, and Amazon DynamoDB. We decided on this architecture so that our our system could be scalable in terms of storage and database throughput. This way we only need Django running on top of our database cluster. We use PostgreSQL as our database because it is considered an industry standard when it comes to clustering and scaling.
Uploadcare is mostly remote team and we're using video conferencing all the time both for internal team meetings and for external sales, support, interview, etc. calls. I think we've tried every solution there is on the market before we've decided to stop with Zoom.
Tools just plainly don't work (Skype), are painful to install for external participants (Webex and other "enterprise" solutions) can't properly handle 10+ participants calls (Google Hangouts Chat).
Zoom just works. It has all required features and even handles bad connections very graciously. One of the best tool decisions we've ever made :)