AWS Case Studies: Netflix

Let’s look at the journey of Netflix over the years. We must study it’s journey to understand the role AWS plays in making Netflix what it is today. So Netflix started off as a DVD shipping business and was going well until 2008, when they experienced a major database loss that meant that they could not ship out any DVDs to their customers for 3 days.

This was when, Netflix’s Senior Management realized the need to shift from vertical scaling (which led to the problem of single points of failure) to a more reliable and scalable horizontal scaling method. They chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) despite having Amazon as a competitor, for the simple reason that it provided them with the greatest scaling capabilities and the biggest set of available features. The problem Netflix faced while operating through their own data centers were frequent outages. Netflix did not shift to cloud for cost reduction reasons, but Netflix’s cloud costs ended up being a fraction of their cost which was pleasant surprise. This was due to the elasticity factor of cloud computing, enabling Netflix to continuously optimize instances to grow and shrink as per requirement without the need to maintain large capacity machines. Economies of Scale helps Netflix in this scenario. It took 7 years for Netflix to shut down their last remaining data centers and shift completely to the cloud.

“Amazon Kinesis Data Streams processes multiple terabytes of log data each day, yet events show up in our analytics in seconds. We can discover and respond to issues in real time, ensuring high availability and a great customer experience.”

-John Bennett
Senior Software Engineer, Netflix

Netflix itself has continued to evolve exponentially by using many new features and relying on ever-growing volumes of data. Supporting this fast growth would not be possible earlier using their own in-house data centers. Netflix could not have racked the servers fast enough to support their own growth. While Cloud brings elasticity, allowing Netflix to add thousands of virtual servers and petabytes of storage within minutes to makes the entire process smoother and faster.

Netflix uses Amazon Web Services (AWS) for nearly all its computing and storage needs, including databases, analytics, recommendation engines, video transcoding, and more, hundreds of functions that in total use more than 100,000 server instances on AWS.

It uses multiple AWS Cloud regions which are spread all over the world to create a better and more enjoyable streaming experience for Netflix members wherever they are. The needs of Netflix fulfilled by using the cloud are its scalability, computing and storage needs (not only video streaming), Netflix’s business logic, distributed databases, big data processing, analytics, recommendations, transcoding and hundreds of other functions that are used by Netflix all go through their Cloud infrastructure. Netflix also has their own Content Delivery Network (CDN) known as Netflix Open Connect which is used to deliver videos globally in an efficient manner.

So the reason for it’s success seems to be that Netflix migrated from a single application to thousands of micro-services by using AWS cloud.

To all the curious readers, hope you found this a little helpful. Have a great day, and keep learning!

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Janhavi Jain

Hi there! I write about many technologies like Docker and Hadoop in an easy to understand language. My LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/janhavi-jain