Netflix delivers using commodity hardware and open source software

Netflix delivers using commodity hardware and open source software

Summary: Netflix begins the deployment of their own content delivery network

TOPICS: Hardware

Having previously used commercial content delivery networks to get their streaming video to their customers (and accounting for about 30% of all Internet Service Provider peak traffic in the US) Netflix is taking the step of deploying its own Netflix Open Connect CDN with custom hardware deployed to ISPs who merit the need to have cached copies of the Netflix content at their datacenters.

The Netflix Open Connect appliance is a rack mounted directed cache appliance that contains as much as 100 TB of Netflix content, limiting the need for the ISP to route traffic elsewhere on the Internet to service their customers Netflix streaming needs. The appliance (or multiple appliances, depending upon Netflix's assessment of the needs of the ISP) handles the traffic that is directed directly at the Netflix service; it is otherwise blind to the traffic at the ISP.  The ISP controls the network for sources of data for the appliance (updates and cache content) and for the client network access to the device, but otherwise is not responsible for the appliance once installed. Monitoring, maintenance, repair and replacement are handled by Netflix.

First deployed at the end of 2011, the appliance is a 4U standard rack sized device that contains 100 TB of disk storage and 10 GbE connectivity.  A custom chassis from TST Corp, and assembly and design by systems integrator Intequus completes the package which is otherwise built from over the counter hardware:


Vendor & Model


Chassis TST custom 1
Motherboard Supermicro X9SCM-F 1
Processor Intel E3-1260L 1
Memory 8GB ECC 1333MHz 4
Hard Drive Hitachi Deskstar 5K3000 3TB 36
Hard Drive (alternate) Seagate Barracuda 7200.14 3TB 36
Controller LSI SAS 92016-16i 16 port 2
Network card Supermicro AOC-STGN-i2S 1
Redundant Power Supply Unit (AC/DC options) Zippy MRW-5600V4V/DMRW-5600V4V 1
Misc. 2U active CPU Heatsink, SATA Cables, NIC optics
The operating system on the appliance is FreeBSD 9.0, the web server is nginx, both selected by Netflix for their proven scalability in the Netflix environment. Video and audio is served via HTTP in all cases. The CPU is minimally involved, as it's only task (beyond running the OS) is moving the bits from storage to the wire. This allows the use of a low-power Xeon processor (though the technology in the latest generation of Xeon CPUs may be even more applicable to this environment).

Getting control over the CDN that delivers their content to subscribers is one of the better moves that Netflix has made over the last year, and one that provides a noticeable improvement in service to their customers.

Complete details on the Netflix Open Connect Content Delivery Network can be found here.

Netflix launches content delivery network: Open Connect

Topic: Hardware

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Netflix delivers using commodity hardware and open source software

    [i]The operating system on the appliance is FreeBSD 9.0[/i]
    Thank goodness they had the good sense to use FreeBSD and not linux. This is another black eye for linux considering how many users have netflix. And just because they use FreeBSD in this device I'm going to pick one up.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • I wonder if licensing was a factor

      If Linux was used and Netflix made changes, they'd have to provide the ISPs with source code. And many of those ISPs (e.g. Comcast and Time Warner) are trying to break into the streaming business. With FreeBSD you don't have to worry about that.

      Plus FreeBSD is known for its excellence in security, which is important because hackers would love to get their hands on Netflix's data.
      Michael Kelly
      • Not An Issue On How To Go Play This to This IP and Device

        What?? No BSD was chosen for the use of BSD. Its a good choice and is used for many services. The web is still ruled by Linux servers though.
    • Black Eye What??????

      How is this a black eye on Linux???? I use a FreeBSD server at my house because it is a good server OS as well as Linux. How is this hurting Linux????

      Also what in the world did Linux ever do to you :)
  • Just SATA?

    It would seem to me with SATA, you would be limiting your available concurrent connections? Can you stream SD and HD content for enough users? How many users does a single server support?
  • Who cares?

    I still can't watch Netflix on my Linux PC or laptop. So while they profit off of using open source they screw the end user using it.