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Netflix and Chill – Part II

I hope by now you know how this great idea of online streaming and watching your favorite shows started. If not, you can anytime go through Part I of Netflix and Chill. This post takes you to the technicalities of behind the scenes of our wonderful streaming experience. Let’s go to a Netflix journey and find out some of its secrets.

Netflix is a Service Based on the Cloud Selling Computers as a Service Over the Internet. If you didn’t get it completely, let’s break it into parts and understand. A service is a job you hire someone to do for you. The cloud rents computer as a service. The computers you are renting is in a datacenter located in some far-off part of the world. If you are wondering what a datacenter is, it is a building with lots of computers refer the images. Now on our system/computer/laptop/phone etc. we are accessing it using a program or app. To sum it up: You use your app to choose a movie which is sent from the cloud (datacenter) over the internet back to your running app and this is how you can watch it.

Now from where does Netflix rent its computers.?  

Netflix operates with help of two different clouds: Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Open Connect. Both the clouds work together to deliver endless hours of customer-pleasing video. For a much simpler understanding Netflix experience can be divided into 3 parts:

Client– i.e. the user interface on any device used to browse and play Netflix video. It can be an app, website or a smart TV.

Backend– everything before you hit play happens in backend, which runs in AWS. It includes things like preparing all new incoming video and handling requests from all apps, websites, TVs etc.

CDN (content delivery network)- it is the last part as soon as you hit play, things are handled by Open connect. Open connect stores all the Netflix videos in different locations throughout the world.

Till now you must be wondering Why Netflix is not running its own datacenters. Well, in 2007 Netflix introduced their streaming video-on -demand service that allowed subscribers to stream television series and films via Netflix website. At that time surely streaming video on demand was the future and many startups tried to achieve it but failed miserably. However luckily Netflix survived because the time it started in 2007, the internet was fast and cheap enough to support streaming video services.

They even started with building their datacenters, they did build two located right next to each other. But it didn’t work out. For 3 days in 2008, Netflix couldn’t ship DVDs because there was corruption in their database. They learn ’t their lesson- they weren’t good in building datacenters. They thus decided to focus on delivering rather than building better datacenters. AWS was just starting to build their data center at that time. They made a bold move to rely on AWS. It took more than 8 years for Netflix to complete the process of moving from their own datacenters to AWS. During this time Netflix grew its numbers of streaming customers eight-fold.

Netflix operates out of the three AWS regions: one in north Virginia, one in Portland Oregon and one in Dublin Ireland. The advantage of having three regions is that if any one region fails, the other regions will step up to handle the customers of the failed region. Let’s see the example: You are watching Stranger Things episode in London England. Because it’s closest to London, chances are that your Netflix device is connected to the Dublin region. What Happens if the entire Dublin region fails? Does that mean Netflix stops working for you? Of course not!

Netflix, after detecting the failure redirects you to Virginia. Your device would now talk to the Virginia region instead of Dublin. You might not even notice there was a failure. Netflix is a pioneer in figuring out how to make a system more reliable. No other known company goes to these lengths to make their services so reliable. This may be surprise but moving to AWS is cheaper for Netflix rather than building their own datacenters. It provides them with elasticity of the cloud. Now they pay only for what is needed.

How Netflix guesses your choice of show.?

Netflix collects a lot of information. Netflix knows what everyone has watched when they have watched it and where they were when they watched it. Netflix knows which video members have looked at but decided not to watch. Netflix knows how many times each video has been watched.…and a lot more.

It processes the data and analyses it to answer specific questions. There is something known as header image i.e. a display image for each video you watch. To select that header image, it analyses a lot of data. It will check with a single header image how many people were tempted to watch the video and that is how a header image will be displayed to you. Since your Netflix know you so well it will show you all related movies or series with the actors you like or similar content you like. Netflix is known for being a Data Driven company. It works hard to personalize your experience, even your Netflix home screen is completely different from your friend’s home screen.

The Information is detailed in Todd Hoff’s book: Netflix: What happens When You Press Play.? Go through it to know more details.

Hope You enjoyed knowing Netflix a little…Search for more, read and stay informed about Netflix the same way it stays so informed about you.

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