Quick Summary:

“This blog explores how Airbnb’s migration to AWS was crucial in addressing their early infrastructure challenges and supporting their rapid growth. By adopting a phased migration strategy, leveraging AWS’s scalable and secure services, and optimizing their applications, Airbnb overcame scalability issues, reduced downtime, and improved cost efficiency. This blog is a perfect example of transforming m a startup’s ability to scale and innovate, ensuring sustained growth and global reach.”

Table of Contents


Imagine launching your innovative app and users flocking to your platform. It’s a dream come true—except for one thing—your initial IT infrastructure, designed for a smaller team, is struggling to handle the growth of your success.

This is the common scenario for almost all startups dreaming of making it big. Initially, every startup is focused on launching the product. IT infrastructure is something that no one cares about because a small team is managing the basic setup without anticipating what the future holds for them. But as the user base explodes, cracks start to appear.

Airbnb Faced Similar Struggle:

Something similar happened with Airbnb. The initial concept of renting air mattresses in a San Francisco apartment evolved beyond what the creators had imagined. The creators were surprised as their platform quickly drew in thousands of users. The challenges became evident; their IT system needed help handling the surge in hosts and guests. Servers crashed, the website experienced downtime, and customer service became swamped.

During such a period of growth, numerous new businesses need help to prepare for expansion in advance. Airbnb’s experience highlights the significance of predicting achievements and constructing an IT framework for effortlessly expanding. It serves as a lesson that groundbreaking concepts may encounter obstacles on the path to triumph. Nevertheless, displaying resilience and adapting strategically can transform these hurdles into chances for development and progress.

By adopting a strategic approach, Airbnb’s AWS migration proved to be a huge success. It enabled Airbnb to overcome many of its challenges and scale its infrastructure to meet the demands of its ever-growing user base.

About Airbnb

In 2008, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia, and Nathan Blecharczyk launched Airbnb, changing the travel and hospitality sector by letting people rent out their homes or spare rooms to travelers. What began as a way to earn money by renting out air mattresses during a San Francisco conference quickly evolved into a sensation. The concept was straightforward yet impactful: offer an alternative to hotels with personalized accommodations that range from cozy city apartments to secluded cabins in picturesque settings. This idea resonated with budget travelers. Tapped into the increasing desire for genuine travel experiences.

Reasons Behind Airbnb’s AWS Migration

When Airbnb first launched, it quickly gained popularity beyond the founders’ expectations. The founders were taken by surprise at how the platform grew and the overwhelming demand it received. The sudden surge in users highlighted the need for an infrastructure to manage the increasing traffic smoothly.

After a year of being launched, Airbnb encountered challenges with its existing system, which led to its switching to Amazon Web Services (AWS). They decided to go with AWS because they knew that AWS offers various services that support business expansion. With Airbnb’s AWS migration, they could automatically adjust capacity based on demand by utilizing features like elastic load balancing, autoscaling, and Amazon EC2 instances.

These features made Airbnb feel confident handling peak loads, ensuring a user experience even during high traffic.

Here are some of the common reasons behind Airbnb’s AWS migration.

Reasons Behind Airbnb’s AWS Migration


Airbnb faced challenges with its infrastructure as it struggled to cope with increased user activity and data. The servers frequently hit their capacity, causing delays in loading and sometimes disrupting the service. Amazon Web Services (AWS) provides options, like Amazon EC2 and auto-scaling, which adjust capacity automatically depending on the need. Airbnb wanted to leverage this service to handle traffic levels and efficiently provide users with an experience.

Reliability and Uptime:

Due to the increasing user base, servers crashed frequently, making downtime common. Besides, the limitations of existing infrastructure needed to be robust enough to provide consistent service. In contrast, AWS offers a reliable infrastructure featuring services, like Amazon RDS and Amazon S3, that prioritize durability and availability. With a strategic approach to Airbnb’s AWS migration, they believed these Amazon Services would help reduce downtime and enhance their platform’s reliability.

Security Concerns:

With an increasing user base, Airbnb’s team was concerned about data safety and compliance with stringent data protection rules. Their current IT infrastructure was not scalable enough to handle these issues. Moving to AWS offers a range of security measures and resources such as data encryption, Identity and Access Management (IAM), compliance certifications, and more. Using these features, Airbnb was confident it could enhance its data protection capabilities.

Cost Management:

Your expenses start increasing when you start achieving growth. While Airbnb was enjoying growth, they started to realize the increasing expenses they had to incur for managing in-house IT infrastructure. The cost of maintaining servers, storage, and resources accelerated, giving them one more reason to migrate to AWS. One of the critical reasons for Airbnb’s AWS migration was to leverage its Pay-as-you-go model. Airbnb was positive that they would control costs if they had to pay only for the resources they would utilize. Undoubtedly, it would help Airbnb manage costs more efficiently while scaling its infrastructure to align with its growth.

Speed of Development and Agility:

Undoubtedly, Airbnb experienced limitations regarding the rapid development and deployment of new features. They needed a more hostile and agile environment to iterate quickly and bridge the gap between user demands and product updates. AWS appeared to them as a solution to overcome their challenge. With the versatile development tools offered by AWS, such as AWS CodeDeploy and AWS CodePipeline, Airbnb wanted to facilitate rapid deployment and development. This would help Airbnb to innovate faster and respond to market demands quicker.

Global Reach and Performance:

Erasing the local boundaries when Airbnb became a global unicorn, even Airbnb founders failed to understand. However, they interpreted that their initial IT infrastructure must be improved and optimized for global performance. Offering secure and reliable access to its worldwide users became a challenge. Leveraging AWS’s global network of data centers, Airbnb would easily deploy its applications closer to its user base. It would help them reduce latency and enhance performance, providing a better customer experience for its worldwide users.

15 Minutes of Downtime and Airbnb Migrated to AWS

Airbnb needed a way to expand its server capacity as its business boomed quickly. Traditional methods needed to be faster and more convenient. They found the answer in Amazon Web Services (AWS). This cloud platform allowed them to add more server power whenever needed without extra staff or long-term commitments.

Speed was crucial during the migration. Airbnb could only afford to keep its users locked out of the marketplace for a short time. Thankfully, the move to AWS was incredibly smooth. They could migrate their entire database to Amazon RDS with only 15 minutes of downtime, which minimized disruption and kept users happy.

Airbnb estimates that AWS saved them money on staff costs and provided the flexibility they needed for future growth. They were impressed by AWS’s responsiveness to customer needs. If a needed feature wasn’t available, it could be soon. Ultimately, AWS’s ease of use and affordability decided to switch to the cloud, a clear winner for Airbnb.

Airbnb Migrated to AWS

AWS Services Optimizing the Future of Airbnb

After Airbnb’s AWS migration, a powerful engine under the hood fuels Airbnb’s phenomenal growth story – Amazon Web Services (AWS). Here’s a breakdown of the essential AWS services that keep Airbnb running smoothly and scaling seamlessly:

Amazon EC2 - Elastic Servers on Demand:

Imagine having a fleet of virtual servers you can easily adjust. That’s what Airbnb gets with Amazon EC2. They use 200 EC2 instances for their applications, data caching (memcache), and search functions. It allows them to scale up or down their server capacity based on real-time demand. Need to handle a surge in bookings during a holiday or weekend? That is no problem; they can easily add more servers. User activity slows down during weekdays? They can scale down seamlessly to optimize costs.

Our practical guide to creating EC2 Instances from Scratch

Elastic Load Balancing - Automatic Traffic Distribution:

Have you encountered a website that loads slowly due to traffic? Airbnb prevents user frustration by using Elastic Load Balancing. This service automatically distributes incoming traffic across their pool of EC2 instances. Think of it like a traffic cop ensuring a smooth flow for all users, regardless of how many visit the platform. After Airbnb’s AWS migration, there has not been a single instance of slow website loading.

Amazon Elastic MapReduce - Big Data Processing Power:

Airbnb gathers approximately 50 Gigabytes of data daily! It must organize and analyze this data to understand user behaviors, enhance listings, and improve recommendations. To efficiently handle this responsibility, Airbnb depends on Amazon Elastic MapReduce (EMR), a service that provides a budget solution for processing datasets and uncovering insights from the information.

Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) - Secure Storage for Everything

When storing information such as user backups, photos (10 terabytes!), and static files, Airbnb turns to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3). This service provides scalable storage solutions for all their needs. It functions like a vault where all their digital assets are stored securely and can be accessed from anywhere.
Review our detailed guide on Amazon S3 Pricing

Amazon CloudWatch - Keeping an Eye on Everything:

To ensure operations across its AWS environment with components in play, Airbnb utilizes Amazon CloudWatch as its monitoring hub. This tool allows them to effectively oversee the performance of EC2 instances, databases, and other AWS services. By using Amazon CloudWatch as its control center, Airbnb can swiftly identify any issues that may arise and maintain the operation of its platform.

Amazon Relational Database Service - Database Made Easy:

Managing databases can be quite challenging. Airbnb simplified this task by switching their database to Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS). RDS handles time-consuming duties such as backups and scaling, allowing Airbnb’s IT team to concentrate on strategic projects. Moreover, they introduced a Multi-Availability Zone setup for dependability, ensuring the security of their data during unforeseen circumstances.

Amazon EFS - Overcome Challenges in scaling its CI/CD pipeline:

Their code storage system (GitHub Enterprise) struggled to handle increasing daily code changes and updates (over 100,000!).

They switched to a service called Amazon EFS. This acts like a central storage space accessible by all their code repositories. Think of it as a shared folder everyone can access and update simultaneously. This solved the traffic jam and ensured all their code was always in sync.

Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) - Smoother Updates:

Another challenge was keeping their code repositories synchronized across different locations. Here, Amazon Simple Queue Service (SQS) came in handy. Imagine a line where code updates are added individually, and the system processes them efficiently without losing any information. This allowed their engineers to focus on building new features without worrying about updates getting stuck or data loss.

Airbnb’s AWS Migration

Airbnb Saves Money and Gains Insights with AWS

Airbnb needed to manage costs and optimize its cloud usage as its business boomed. To this end, it leveraged several AWS services.

Cost Tracking & Insights:

  • Used AWS Cost Explorer and Cost & Usage Reports to visualize and analyze spending.
  • Built a custom data pipeline for deeper cost analysis.

Cost Savings:

  • Adopted Savings Plans for predictable discounts on computing resources (Amazon EC2).
  • Used Amazon S3 Intelligent Tiering to automatically store data in the most cost-effective tier based on access patterns.
  • Optimized storage costs with Amazon S3 Glacier for infrequently accessed backups.
  • Reduced logging costs with UltraWarm storage for Amazon OpenSearch Service.

Cut Costs and Increase ROI by following our guide on AWS Cost Optimization Strategies.

Growth Achieved After Airbnb’s AWS Migration

  • Airbnb operates in 191 countries, delivering a global travel experience.
  • With over 5 million hosts and 7.7 million listings, Airbnb offers a range of accommodation choices that fit all preferences and budgets.
  • Wherever your adventures lead, Airbnb has you covered! Listings are available in more than 100,000 cities.
  • Airbnb has facilitated over 1.5 billion guest stays, connecting travelers with memorable experiences.
  • Airbnb sees a new guest checking in every single second!
  • On average, an Airbnb stay in North America offers accommodations at $163 per night. Guests typically spend 4.3 nights per booking.
  • Booking an Airbnb stay is simple—the average app user completes the process in 11 minutes and 31 seconds.
  • Joining as an Airbnb host can bring benefits, with the typical host earning around $13,800.
  • Airbnb is a player in the vacation rental market, holding 20% of the market share. Valued at $113 billion
  • Airbnb’s success story showcases the power of platforms. Have you ever imagined spending a night in a lighthouse (there are 300) or an igloo (140 waiting for you!)?
  • Airbnb can make that dream come true. They also provide over 1,600 islands for those seeking the ultimate getaway experience. In 2020, Airbnb had an initial public offering (IPO), selling each share for $146.
  • With a user base exceeding 150 million globally, Airbnb brings together travelers worldwide.
  • In the US, there are over 45 million Airbnb users.
  • The year 2022 proved to be exceptional for Airbnb as its revenue surged by a 40% year, over year, reaching $8.4 billion.
  • Airbnb has facilitated over 1.5 billion guest stays, connecting travelers with unique experiences hosted by over 5 million people worldwide.

Inspired by Airbnb's AWS Migration success story?

Imagine replicating their smooth scaling and cost optimization on your cloud journey. Our team of AWS experts possesses the experience and know-how to guide you every step of the way. We’ll ensure a seamless migration to AWS and work with you to streamline your environment, identify optimization opportunities, and unlock the full potential of the cloud.

Like Airbnb, achieve agility, scalability, and cost efficiency—propel your business to new heights. Leverage our AWS Migration Services today to discuss your cloud migration goals!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Airbnb needed better scalability, reliability, and security to handle its rapid user growth and evolving business needs.

Airbnb adopted a phased approach, starting with less critical services and gradually moving to core functionalities. They conducted a proof of concept, optimized applications, and rigorously tested each component before a complete migration.

Airbnb used AWS tools like AWS Snowball and Direct Connect for data transfer, AWS CloudWatch for monitoring, and services like Amazon EC2, RDS, and S3 to enhance performance, scalability, and security.

Rigorous testing and validation ensured that migrated components functioned correctly and met performance and security standards, reducing post-migration issues.

AWS provided tools like Snowball and Direct Connect for data transfer and services like EC2 and RDS for improved performance, scalability, and security, making the migration smoother and more effective.

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