How Amazon Web Services is Powering Netflix – Case Study!

How Amazon Web Services is Powering Netflix – Case Study!
June 02, 2018      3136 Views     1 Comment

Did you know that the company Blockbuster LLC had the opportunity to buy Netflix for a mere $50 million in 2000? Did you know that Netflix made $8.83 billion revenue in 2016? One would wonder how come a company which was worth $50 million in 2000 is now worth around $87 billion. A layman would guess it had a continual stupendous growth over 17 years straight. But did you know that Netflix was a victim of a major database corruption in 2008?

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Netflix’s Stupendous Migration to AWS

Back in 2008 Netflix was majorly working on DVD-by-mail service. Due to the database corruption incident DVD shipping was disrupted for three days. Netflix management decided to move to the cloud and away from relational systems in their data centers. The shift happened from vertical scaling of particular failure points to horizontal scaling of distributed systems which are highly reliable. The cloud was that of AWS (Amazon Web Services) which offered the company the ability to scale as much as they needed. Previously Netflix team had to sit with their IT team to implement the scale up when their demand increased. Scalability was a huge issue with physical data warehousing. After shifting to AWS, scaling became seamless as petabytes of data could be used to stream videos within minutes thanks to elasticity of the cloud. Based on user demand and with the help of AWS, data warehouse is scaledup or down.

Netflix itself admitted that it would have been extremely difficult to scale so much on its own data centers. It was in the process of shifting its huge streaming operations to AWS for all these years. In early January 2016, Netflix shut down its last data center which was used by their streaming service. Now there are eight times the users of Netflix as compared to those present in 2008. This represents the phenomenal growth of Netflix over the years. Now, the company currently streams about 15,00,00,000 hours of video content per day. It serves around 8,60,00,000 members from 190 countries across the world. Let’s see how video is delivered to users from Netflix. Open Connect is Netflix’s own Content Delivery Network (CDN) which it manages through Amazon. The videos that stream to a user are located in data centers within the networks of Internet service providers, facilities where traffic is exchanged among most network operators. The traffic is distributed directly to Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and similar network operators at such exchange points. When a user presses ‘play’ button, from these sites video get delivered to him.

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Before the video gets delivered to him, operations like searching videos or signing up the user for service is all handled in AWS cloud. Hence the business logic, personalization, search, data processing which gives the streaming experience are all live in AWS. The technology needed to maintain Netflix’s employees who are working in streaming business is also housed in Amazon. Do you know why Netflix took seven years to shift to Amazon? They rebuilt their entire software platform to leverage AWS cloud network to the maximum. ‘Chaos Monkey’ is a series of tools developed by Netflix to reduce damage in case of disruptions. On the Christmas Eve of 2012 the company suffered a streaming failure and at the time it was on a single Amazon region. They have since invested heavily in disaster recovery. Now, Netflix mainly operates on Oregon, Northern Virginia and Dublin regions. Suppose one of these regions goes down then Netflix redirects the traffic to other available regions within a moment’s notice. The company has many backups of all data which is stored in Amazon itself.

Distributed database Cassandra is chosen to store customer data where every data element is replicated many times in production. The primary backups of all data are generated into S3 (Simple Storage Service). Any kind of operator errors, logical errors, software bugs and many such corruptions can be dealt with from S3 backups. ‘Armageddon Monkey’ is Netflix’s attempt to recover from failure of all of its systems on AWS.

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The conclusion

Today Netflix is the 10th largest internet company in the world. Are you aware that during peak traffic hours more than one-third of North American internet traffic goes through Netflix’s systems? “Supporting such rapid growth would have been extremely difficult out of our own data centers; we simply could not have racked the servers fast enough,” Netflix’s blog post says. “Elasticity of the cloud allows us to add thousands of virtual servers and petabytes of storage within minutes, making such an expansion possible.” So that is the power of Amazon Web Services propelling one of the most ambitious companies on earth like Netflix into uncharted territory and runaway success!

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