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Netflix highlights the Evolution of Cloud Platforms with "Spinnaker"

Premise: The Public Cloud Computing market is growing very rapidly, and a few competitors are beginning to follow Amazon Web Services in terms of features. For early-adopter customers, the opportunity to explore alternative Public Cloud Computing options is beginning to gain traction. 

For the past several years, Cloud Computing pioneer NetFlix has been releasing elements of their Cloud Native platform as open-source software (NetflixOSS). While many people initially dismissed it as code that could only be used for “Netflix scale problems”, the market has begun to adopt it for more broadly applicable use-cases.

Image 1: Feedback on Netflix using Public Cloud (Source: Adrian Cockcroft, Battery Ventures)
Image 1: Feedback on Netflix using Public Cloud (Source: Adrian Cockcroft, Battery Ventures)

For example, Pivotal now embed elements of the NetflixOSS stack within the SpringBoot and SpringCloud frameworks, which is part of Pivotal Cloud Foundry. Companies such as Twilio, IBM, Nirmata and many others have also embedded aspects of the NetflixOSS within their products or research.

Netflix also uses open-source contributions as a mechanism to increase the opportunities to hire top engineering talent. By publishing their software and being present at industry events, they allow potential employees to see the types of challenges that they would be working on, as well as a view into the Netflix engineering culture that allows members of the team to showcase their work with the world. Wikibon highlighted the need to hire and retain top engineering talent as a core element of any company’s evolution to building Cloud Native applications. Other Enterprise companies such as GE, Capital One, Target, ING, Nordstrom’s and others have been using similar techniques to attract top software engineering talent.


Enabling Multi-Cloud Use-Cases

With their current architecture, the Netflix platform is primarily built on top of AWS service. This past week, Netflix released the “Spinnaker” project as open source. Spinnaker enable Continuous Deployments across multiple cloud platforms, including Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform and Cloud Foundry. There are several interesting aspects to this announcement:

  • Netflix has often stated that AWS features and scale is several years ahead of other public cloud providers (via public talks from Adrian Cockcroft (@adrianco; formerly Cloud Architect at Netflix), they are now highlighting that it is beneficial to have their tools support additional cloud platforms.
  • Spinnaker not only supports unstructured PaaS platforms built on IaaS (AWS, Azure, Google), as well as supporting the structured Cloud Foundry PaaS platform, which can run on top of multiple IaaS technologies and platforms (VMware, OpenStack, AWS, Azure, etc.).
  • Spinnaker enables applications to be deployed to multiple clouds simultaneously, allowing companies to take advantage of pricing differences between clouds, or physical location of cloud data centers.
  • By supporting cloud platforms beyond Amazon AWS, NetflixOSS is now opening up the opportunity for broader sets of communities to collaborate on these projects.

As Wikibon recently highlighted that Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) platforms will be critical for businesses as they begin to transition to 21st century digital products and services. the CI/CD platform is becoming the digital ERP platform for Cloud Native Application development.

There has been speculation for many years that Netflix would like to have alternative cloud provider options besides AWS, since there is the potential for conflict between the Netflix Video service and Amazon’s native video service. There has also been speculation that Netflix would like to have additional cloud suppliers, so help better manage pricing arbitrage, which is not unlike how most Enterprise IT organizations will have multiple vendors for specific technologies. Netflix did not comment about whether or not the Spinnaker announcement addresses either of those concerns. While it’s likely that Netflix is working on those challenges, there is just as much value to NetflixOSS contributions helping Netflix to recruit great talent and be part of multiple communities attempting to solve engineering challenges at Internet-sized scale.


Action Item: As more non-vendors release software into open source communities, the opportunity increases for Enterprise IT organizations to look at this technology to solve their Hybrid Cloud challenges. These types of technologies are beginning to gain greater levels of adoption, and can be consumed as either open source or via commercial products. 

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