Netflix innovation defined by getting out of developers' way

Developers key to operating cloud native applications, says architecture director of company's cloud systems team.

Building cloud native applications requires companies to get out of the way of innovation by unshackling developers, according to Adrian Cockcroft, director of architecture for Netflix's cloud systems team.

In terms of setting developers free, Cockcroft said the company does a number of things. "[Netflix] makes our Wi-Fi faster and faster," he said. "It gets developers going and it gets us out of their way." Cockcroft called it a "positive cycle."

He said it is key to treat developers like adults.

Speaking at the Glue Conference outside Boulder, Colo., Cockcroft, addressing the crowd from behind a pair of Google glasses, said focusing on cost reduction only slows developers down. And slow developers mean companies relying on cloud native applications - such as Netflix - won't be able to keep pace with competitors.

"That will put you into a death spiral," he said.

Cloud native applications (i.e. Google, Amazon) are those running entirely in the cloud, which for Netflix means "there is no datacenter." The company's entire technology infrastructure was moved to Amazon Web Services late last year .

Cockcroft focused on Netflix's video streaming business, which runs entirely in the cloud.

In this native cloud application model, he said, developers can become the bottleneck as companies attempt to construct a highly agile and highly available service from short-lived and often broken components. Companies must be aware of this pitfall and avoid it.

To help developers thrive, Cockcroft said it is also important to decentralize and automate operations activities, and to integrate DevOps into business organizations  - what he called Biz DevOps.

To do all this requires re-orgs - both to become cloud native and to integrate DevOps.

Later in the day, Cockcroft led a four-hour workshop on Netflix's Open Source Architecture and posted the tutorial online. (Cloud architecture tutorial: Constructing cloud architecture the Netflix way).

In addition, he challenged Glue Conference attendees to take part in the company's Netflix Cloud Prize, a contest looking for the best open source contributions to the NetflixOSS platform. The prize, to be distributed over a number of winners, is $100,000.

Part of this week, I am out of my box at a developer-focused conference where identity is only one topic.