NETFLIX streams TV shows and movies to more than 60 million people worldwide. It’s one of the most popular Internet video operations on earth, delivering about 10 billion hours of the stuff each month. And for the most part, it delivers all that video from hundreds of computers that belong to someone else. It runs the Netflix video empire atop Amazon’s cloud computing service a service that lets anyone rent nearly unlimited amounts of computing power over the Internet.
Over the past year, the company has built a new tool for quickly and continuously deploying its latest software code to machines running in the Amazon cloud. Recently, it open sourced that tool, known as Spinnaker, sharing it with the world at large, so that anyone else can use it. Netflix has done something similar in the past. But Spinnaker is a little different. Netflix built the tool in tandem with Google, one of Amazon’s biggest competitors in the cloud computing market. And Spinnaker is specifically designed to deploy software to not only the Amazon cloud, but, yes, to Google’s cloud as well. Google spent a year working with Netflix to ensure this was the case.
Netflix’s Andrew Glover, who oversaw the development of Spinnaker, says that the company has no intention of moving its online empire off of the Amazon cloud and on to Google’s even in part. Inside Netflix, engineers only use Spinnaker in delivering code to Amazon. But it’s telling that Netflix has worked closely with Google in creating Spinnaker and that it’s publicly joining hands with Google in open sourcing it. It highlights the seemingly strange but enormously effective way that open source software helps drive the world of cloud computing. And though Netflix says it’s completely committed to running its empire on Amazon, the partnership also shows that cloud computing provides a certain freedom to move operations from place to place, and from vendor to vendor. Today, Amazon dominates the cloud computing market, pulling in an enormous $6 billion a year from cloud computing, but there’s always room for competition. No online business is stuck on one cloud, including Netflix.
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