Commentary
8/18/2015
01:05 PM
Larry Loeb
Larry Loeb
Commentary

Netflix Completes Its Cloud Journey

By the end of the summer, Netflix will close its last data center and move its entire streaming service to the cloud with help from AWS. It's a lesson for companies large and small.



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Milestones for an industry do not always happen with a splash and a braying of trumpets. Some occur simply, as a continuation of a path that has been already established. Netflix and its move to Amazon Web Service is one of those.

Netflix -- the entertainment service that accounts for around 37% of evening download traffic on the Internet in North America -- has just announced its last consumer-facing data center will shut down this summer, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The service now totally lives in the cloud. This is the first time that such a large Internet installation has committed its business to the cloud alone, and it's a major milestone for the cloud-service business.

Starting at the end of this summer, Netflix will fully reside in Amazon's data centers in the cloud, as well as some ISP facilities, and the Internet exchange points that facilitate speedy Internet traffic.

It all started with a massive hardware failure in 2008 that gave Netflix, then a fledgling company, a massive black eye in the public view.

(Image: mphillips007/iStockphoto)

(Image: mphillips007/iStockphoto)

The process of the migration was described in a presentation Netflix's Neil Hunt gave last November at an Amazon conference.

First, Netflix's video player, discovery and search, iPhone-related technology, and accounts pages were brought into the cloud. Then the big data platform migrated in 2013, and billing and payments came aboard in 2014.

There is still hardware that Netflix uses directly, mostly in its content delivery network (CDN), that makes its videos stream well to customers. That hardware will stay, though updating of contents may occur through the various cloud services.

Netflix also has hardware acting as video caches inside some ISP installations, and that hardware is not going to go anywhere else in the foreseeable future.

One of the major parts of the migration process was Netflix rolling its own tools to do it.

[Read more about Netflix's history with the cloud.]

It has committed to open source tools that it developed in concert with other major AWS cloud players. The tools implement a decentralized architecture that is crucial for the system to run at all.

"Netflix's deployment technology allows for continuous build and integration into our worldwide deployments serving members in over 50 countries," according to the company. "Our focus on reliability defined the bar for cloud-based elastic deployments with several layers of failover. Netflix also provides the technology to operate services responsibility with operational insight, peak performance, and security. We provide technologies for data (persistent & semi-persistent) that serve the real-time load to our 62 million members, as well as power the big data analytics that allow us to make informed decisions on how to improve our service."

This is big-time stuff, and certainly no simple task. It underscores the importance of Netflix being able to pull this off at all, and serves as an example to other companies of how big tasks can be done in the cloud.

Larry Loeb has written for many of the last century's major "dead tree" computer magazines, having been, among other things, a consulting editor for BYTE magazine and senior editor for the launch of WebWeek. He has written a book on the Secure Electronic Transaction Internet ... View Full Bio
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