​Netflix to hand infrastructure heavy lifting to AWS

The streaming giant has set a goal to hand AWS all of the infrastructure work that is not Netflix-specific.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

Netflix chief product officer Neil Hunt has revealed that the streaming platform will be handing over all of the company's infrastructure work to Amazon Web Services (AWS), especially where it is not Netflix-specific.

In taking the infrastructure heavy lifting off the hands of Netflix's staff, Hunt said the company's development teams can focus instead on adding the features that are unique for Netflix to deliver the "most compelling service" to its customers.

Speaking at the AWS re:Invent conference in Las Vegas on Thursday, Hunt explained that the company's migration was a fairly long process, having begun the journey in 2008.

"[At the time], the message to let AWS do the heavy lifting in managing the infrastructure resonated loudly and clearly with us," he said.

Globally, Hunt said Netflix has 86 million customers across 190 countries, which sees the service delivering approximately 150 million hours of streaming video every day. The platform is available in three regions and 12 zones, with about 100,000 instances running at peak times.

Netflix completed its migration earlier this year. Now a month out of its last datacentre, Hunt confirmed the streaming giant is 100 percent operating out of AWS.

"We don't have a datacentre anymore and that's great," he said. "We've achieved improved productivity, scalability, we've got a much more nimble architecture, but more importantly AWS pushes state of the art new features and every year we get to take advantage of them."

"We've restructured our systems; there's about 500 microservices by decoupling the modules so that each team can push independently for continuous deployment that gives us the ability to iterate faster."

Hunt said that over the past year, Netflix has seen the opportunity to embrace containers to further optimise its microservices architecture.

"So this year we've turned our attention to working with AWS on the features we need to be able to hand off more of that container execution environment," he said.

The goal now for Hunt and his teams is to then bridge the gap between the desktop and production environments, which he said will give Netflix a "finite granularity of isolation" touted as critical for running lightweight prototypes.

"To adopt containers into what will be a hybrid environment we built Titus, which is a container run-time environment for both batch and service-based applications. And we also built Fenzo, which is an open-source pluggable library," he explained.

"We really don't want or need to operate all of this infrastructure; we firmly believe that it's best to let AWS do the heavy lifting of managing the infrastructure.

"And that's where Blox comes in, as it's aimed exactly at the space we're heading to. We're excited to engage with the Blox open source effort that integrates those types of features into Blox and ACS. We get the features that we need to do that hand off."

According to Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, containers are driving changes in the way that systems are being built on AWS infrastructure. Although utilising containers sees an organisation let go of functions from within, Vogels said during his keynote on Thursday that letting go does not come at the cost of security, as AWS takes care of that.

"Netflix are going through a number of changes in the way that they are building systems," he said. "There's really no more advanced customer on our platform than Netflix."

Disclosure: Asha Barbaschow travelled to AWS Re:Invent as a guest of AWS.

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