June 6, 2011 - Python at AOL


Late because of traffic so missed part of the first talk. Some of the audience commentary was not as polite as it should be, and I’m guilty of a little of it. However, in conversing with other attendees and especially potential speakers, it was determined that as a group we need to be better at handling speakers.

By Jathan (Security Engineer)

  • Most of AOL is Java and Perl, and there remains a lot of TCL.

  • A third of AOL staff are developers.

  • Moving towards open source more and more!

  • But they had 7 people at PyCon 2011.

  • Still have 70% of the old infrastructure run by 25K employees now maintained by 4K employees

  • Data centers in:

    • Dullas, Virginia
    • Manassas, Virginia
    • Mountain View, California
    • Somewhere in Germany


A custom profile & personal analytics dashboard. Serves as a landing page for all your social sites.


  • Create, manage, and syndicate online video

    • aquired by APOL in 2010
    • AOL’s content farm
    • Seen eHow.com? Yeah, like that.
  • Web Services

    • Django
    • Gunicorn + Gevent
  • Video Transcoding (ffmpeg)

    • Celery
    • Fabric
    • Boto (EC2 interface)


“A major part of the AOL content infrastructure”

  • Topical, Real-Time News

    • Aquired by AOL in 2006
    • Subscription-based service
    • Like lingospot.com
    • Used by most of AOL web properties.
  • Topics API

    • All Django all the time

AOL Mail - Anti-Spam Operations

  • Protecting AOL users from spam

  • Whitelisting the Internet

  • Tons of CLI Tools!

  • Django Web Services

    • Anti-Abuse API
    • Mail Reputation Service

AOL Networking Engineering - Networking Security

What Jathan does for work.

  • Protecting AOL from becoming Sony

  • Blacklisting the Internet!

  • Firewall Policy Management

    • 4 data centers
    • 850K+ policy lines
    • 37000+ host nodes
    • 5,300 host nodes
  • Simian Python suite of tools:

    • Twisted

    • Django

    • SimpleParse

    • Suds

      • A SOAP library for Python
    • Netaddr

    • Nudge (Evite’s API library)

      • Not selling this product so they don’t need to worry about the GPL on Nudge.

History of Getting Python into AOL

  • Moved to Python from Perl in 2006.
  • Had to deal with thousands of moving components and twisted solved a major problem.
  • Entire network/security system is in Python.