The platform now has more than 167 million subscribers in most countries in the mode except China, North Korea, Syria and the Crimea, complies with US restrictions on US companies and consumes 15% of the world’s Internet bandwidth.
The platform works great but technically how does it work?
A short history of Netflix.
Netflix was created in 1998 and was an online DVD rental company that sent DVDs by mail.
In 2007 the company launched its multi-media VOD service allowing subscribers to watch movies and series on PCs, smartphones, tablets or game consoles.
The beginnings were laborious, requiring a lot of time and resources as the streaming platform started by creating its own datacenters.
After the success, the technical resources soon proved to be insufficient, leading to large investments in datacenters. In 2008 the video database was corrupted forcing Netflix to look for an alternative solution and the platform turned to the cloud.
The choice went to Amazon’s AWS cloud (Amazon Web Services), which is reliable, with a large storage capacity and moreover, redundant, requiring only the servers it needs and not burdened with unnecessary servers.
Netflix took 8 years to migrate all of its data to AWS.
The platform operates in 3 geographical areas (Ireland, Virginia and Oregon), and from each area the operator distributes to 3 zones, allowing it to compensate for the failure of a region that can be handled by one of the other two. Every month Netflix simulates a failure in one region and it takes between 5 and 6 minutes to take over the failure in another.
Amazon’s servers are used for everything except video streaming!
AWS is used for scalable computing (EC2), scalable storage (S3), business logic, scalable distributed databases, big data, and video encoding.
For example, AWS stores your personal information, customizes the banners you see according to your profile, offers you series or films thanks to big data and machine learning.
The proposals that are made for you are managed by an algorithm that is the heart of the Netflix machine. It must propose 50 titles, series, films or documentaries among thousands of titles so that you don’t abandon your search and find your program as quickly as possible.
However, before offering you a program Netflix must perform several operations.
Indeed, it must receive the videos from the studios, validate them and check them in terms of images and colorimetry.
Before sending you your program, the video has to be encoded according to your support, TV, smartphone, PC…, in the best possible format and the best quality. Hundreds of thousands of processors are used for encoding and several files are created depending on the media, Internet speed, languages and subtitles.
For example, season 2 of Stranger Things, required the creation of 9570 video, audio and text files.
That being said, you still haven’t watched your movie, but that’s where technology comes in that is not provided by Amazon’s AWS servers.
Over time, Netflix has gone through 3 different technologies to deliver its programs.
The last one that Netflix developed itself and is currently using is called “Open Connect”.
“Open Connect is a CDN (Content distribution network), which is a set of interconnected, geographically distributed servers that “work” together to send content to users. The files stored in Amazon’s AWS S3 service are copied to high-speed, high-capacity data storage servers, called OCA, around the globe to bring the servers closer to subscribers by providing them with the best connection and quality.
These OCA servers, which cannot hold the entire Netflix catalog, are powered by an algorithm that can predict what content will be the most popular and most requested the next day. Every night the algorithm makes queries to the central AWS S3 servers to integrate the content that will be most popular the next day with the OCA servers near you. But don’t worry, if the subscriber doesn’t choose the predicted programs, larger servers containing the entire catalog take over.
In short, this is how you can view your program on the Netflix platform by pressing the Play button.
Enjoy the movie!
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