Mind Palette is a cloud services vendor based in Tokyo, Japan, that develops and markets Snapeee, a smartphone picture-sharing app designed for young women who love Japan’s unique aesthetic of kawaii, meaning “cute.” With Snapeee, users can take pictures with their phone, decorate them with playful stamps, lettering, and frames, and share them with friends on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media.
When Mind Palette started developing Snapeee in October 2010 with a skeleton crew of two, it chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its cloud-computing platform in an effort to keep development costs to a minimum. As part of the solution, Mind Palette initially used the AWS non-relational database SimpleDB as its key-value store for processing images. Later, when growing data volumes hit the 10-gigabyte (GB) table limit in SimpleDB, the company transitioned part of the data to another AWS non-relational database, DynamoDB. For the solution’s aggregate analysis system, Mind Palette used the Amazon Relational Database Service with a MySQL open-source database engine.
Snapeee was released in May 2011, and downloads have been growing ever since. Today, Snapeee has around five million active users, mainly in Japan and surrounding countries, and Mind Palette is developing collaboration plans with many companies in an effort to achieve even more growth in the future.
As the number of users grew, however, data volumes and operating costs ballooned. The AWS system became increasingly expensive, in part because of its pricing structure. “Data is read from these databases with a high level of frequency, and because SimpleDB payments are made based on computer time, the operating costs simply became too high,” said Takamasa Kamio, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer/Chief Technology Officer of Mind Palette. In addition, Mind Palette, which is based in Japan, had to pay Amazon in US dollars. Mr. Kamio worried that this would make the service increasingly expensive as the value of the Japanese yen continued to weaken relative to the dollar.
Mr. Kamio was also concerned about the level of technical support provided by AWS. He said AWS engineers were highly skilled, but when Mind Palette had questions it often had to turn to the developer community instead of AWS for answers.
Mr. Kamio also wanted a system that was easy to program so that he could pass on programming duties to others in the future. “We want to continue providing Snapeee to our users for a long time to come, so obviously I can't be the only one who maintains it for the rest of my life,” he said. “To eliminate this concern, we needed an environment with robust support from the service provider and a system that would allow efficient management, like with an enterprise system.”