Skip to main content

AWS re:Invent 2015 – Netflix and AWS


How does Netflix operate on AWS?

Netflix has been on AWS since a devastating fire destroyed their own datacenter in 2010. By 2015, their Cloud migration was complete and, thanks to AWS, the scale they have achieved has been outstanding.
Josh Evans – Director of Operations Engineering at Netflix described the Netflix’s microservices architecture as a living organism, with critical components, internal flows and failures. The infrastructure is composed of hundreds of completely decoupled and independent microservices involving thousands of daily production changes to many thousands of AWS instances.
Josh identifies two main challenges to achieving operational excellence:

Product innovation

In order to offer the best user experience – and therefore win their customers’ “moments of truth” (i.e., get them to watch watch more video content) – Netflix has to move and change fast.
Their innovation strategy involves the massive use of A/B tests on every facet of the product. During the last year they ran more than 1,400 experiments (meaning at least 25 experiments running in parallel every day). Of course the goal is to increase user engagement, and this explains why each user’s Netflix experience is sort of unique, both because of the customized recommendations they’re shown, and the unique combination of experiments.

Scale and complexity

Netflix currently handles hundreds of thousands of requests per second from about 60 countries. Their infrastructure runs multi-zone and multi-region, serving users from three different AWS regions. The only component running outside of AWS is their Netflix CDN, which currently covers about 37% of US Internet traffic.

Operations Engineering

Achieving operational excellence also involves a tough tradeoff between availability and rate of change (i.e. quality versus speed). Netflix is keen on trading some of their availability to enable fast change, and they approach the problem by means of continuous improvement of management, design, and function of operational environments. This kind of approach leads to greater quality, velocity, and competitive advantage.
The culture behind this choice can be summarized as “You build it, you run it”. It means 100% ownership, starting from designing, coding, building, testing and deploying…all the way to operating, configuring, monitoring, and responding (while doing it all globally!). They built their own software tools to enable this approach, like Spinnaker, Eureka, Hystrix, Atlas, and Vector (available on Github).
These tools are based on software engineering standards and advanced technologies:

  • Anomaly detection: to identify anomalous patterns on short windows of time series events.
  • Outlier detection and remediation: via unsupervised machine learning and clustering techniques.
  • Canary release process: new versions of the software are available to a small percentage of the traffic, with automatic canary analysis.
  • unsupervised monitoring and decision making: take humans out of the equation and provide automatic alerts.
Netflix Fault Tolerance

Chaos Engineering

Another important component of Netflix’s approach is chaos engineering. Being aware that components are going to fail, they work hard on building confidence in the system’s capability to withstand turbulent conditions (directly in production). You can find their SimianArmy on Github. By using FIT (Fault-injection Testing) they can simulate service failures, both on an instance- and region-level.

Netflix Keystone

Director of Engineering at Netflix, Peter Bakas – after proudly taking a picture of the crowd – explained how Netflix handles data streams of up to 8 million events per second.
Keystone handles about 550 billion events every day (more than 8 million events per second) and manipulates more than one petabyte of data, composed of hundreds of event types. Their data pipeline solution is based on open source projects, such as Apache Kafka, Apache Chukwa, and Apache Samza, besides Docker and MySQL.
Netflix Keystone

Netflix Core Team

Dave Hahn talked about how it feels and how it is possible for a few DevOps engineers to handle more than 37% of the US Internet. His team – the CORE team (Cloud Operations Reliability Engineering) – is responsible for crisis management, availability reporting, reliability best practices, AWS relationship, and operations education. It is mainly composed of crisis leaders and its goals are the following:

  • Protect customer experience. This is crucial at Netflix and is the key point of each operation.
  • Make failures unique. This means making errors happen only once, by identifying the real root of each problem and fixing it.
  • Achieve constant improvement. This takes a lot of individual effort and can be helped along by incident reviews and by encouraging honest and open feedback.

Dave described the DevOps culture they have built based on the 100% ownership concept, and made easier by the many tools developed for software engineers to enable easy ownership, including service discovery, solid communication, automated recovery, continuous deployment, and data persistence.
Insights are a key factor as well: Netflix records about 2.5 billion metrics every day and needed in-house tools to help them visualize and analyse relevant patterns, via prediction and automation.

Written by

Alex Casalboni

Alex is a Software Engineer with a great passion for music and web technologies. He's experienced in web development and software design, with a particular focus on frontend and UX.

Related Posts

— February 11, 2019

WaitCondition Controls the Pace of AWS CloudFormation Templates

AWS's WaitCondition can be used with CloudFormation templates to ensure required resources are running.As you may already be aware, AWS CloudFormation is used for infrastructure automation by allowing you to write JSON templates to automatically install, configure, and bootstrap your ...

Read more
  • AWS
— January 24, 2019

The 9 AWS Certifications: Which is Right for You and Your Team?

As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in the cloud.As the market leader and most mature p...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS certifications
— November 28, 2018

Two New EC2 Instance Types Announced at AWS re:Invent 2018 – Monday Night Live

The announcements at re:Invent just keep on coming! Let’s look at what benefits these two new EC2 instance types offer and how these two new instances could be of benefit to you. If you're not too familiar with Amazon EC2, you might want to familiarize yourself by creating your first Am...

Read more
  • AWS
  • EC2
  • re:Invent 2018
— November 21, 2018

Google Cloud Certification: Preparation and Prerequisites

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) has evolved from being a niche player to a serious competitor to Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. In 2018, research firm Gartner placed Google in the Leaders quadrant in its Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service for the first time. In t...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
Khash Nakhostin
— November 13, 2018

Understanding AWS VPC Egress Filtering Methods

In order to understand AWS VPC egress filtering methods, you first need to understand that security on AWS is governed by a shared responsibility model where both vendor and subscriber have various operational responsibilities. AWS assumes responsibility for the underlying infrastructur...

Read more
  • Aviatrix
  • AWS
  • VPC
— November 10, 2018

S3 FTP: Build a Reliable and Inexpensive FTP Server Using Amazon’s S3

Is it possible to create an S3 FTP file backup/transfer solution, minimizing associated file storage and capacity planning administration headache?FTP (File Transfer Protocol) is a fast and convenient way to transfer large files over the Internet. You might, at some point, have conf...

Read more
  • Amazon S3
  • AWS
— October 18, 2018

Microservices Architecture: Advantages and Drawbacks

Microservices are a way of breaking large software projects into loosely coupled modules, which communicate with each other through simple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs).Microservices have become increasingly popular over the past few years. The modular architectural style,...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Microservices
— October 2, 2018

What Are Best Practices for Tagging AWS Resources?

There are many use cases for tags, but what are the best practices for tagging AWS resources? In order for your organization to effectively manage resources (and your monthly AWS bill), you need to implement and adopt a thoughtful tagging strategy that makes sense for your business. The...

Read more
  • AWS
  • cost optimization
— September 26, 2018

How to Optimize Amazon S3 Performance

Amazon S3 is the most common storage options for many organizations, being object storage it is used for a wide variety of data types, from the smallest objects to huge datasets. All in all, Amazon S3 is a great service to store a wide scope of data types in a highly available and resil...

Read more
  • Amazon S3
  • AWS
— September 18, 2018

How to Optimize Cloud Costs with Spot Instances: New on Cloud Academy

One of the main promises of cloud computing is access to nearly endless capacity. However, it doesn’t come cheap. With the introduction of Spot Instances for Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (AWS EC2) in 2009, spot instances have been a way for major cloud providers to sell sp...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • SpotInst
— August 23, 2018

What are the Benefits of Machine Learning in the Cloud?

A Comparison of Machine Learning Services on AWS, Azure, and Google CloudArtificial intelligence and machine learning are steadily making their way into enterprise applications in areas such as customer support, fraud detection, and business intelligence. There is every reason to beli...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Machine Learning
— August 17, 2018

How to Use AWS CLI

The AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) is for managing your AWS services from a terminal session on your own client, allowing you to control and configure multiple AWS services.So you’ve been using AWS for awhile and finally feel comfortable clicking your way through all the services....

Read more
  • AWS