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Netflix opens door to leaving Amazon Web Services

Just this week, Netflix expects to finish porting its entire streaming business to Amazon

By Nancy Gohring, IDG News Service
November 30, 2011 04:50 PM ET

IDG News Service - Netflix designed its cloud architecture so that it has the option to move to an Amazon Web Services competitor, but doesn't expect a real competitor to emerge for a few years, a Netflix executive said on Wednesday.

"I don't see another cloud right now that has the scale and features we could operate on," Adrian Cockcroft, director of cloud systems architecture for Netflix, said. He spoke at the CloudBeat conference in Redwood City, California, on Wednesday.

Still, Netflix built its cloud implementations so that they are abstracted by layers of Java code, making them portable, he said. "We built it with the idea that it could be ported. It wouldn't be easy and we don't see a place to port it to right now," he said.

"We think in a few years' time we're likely to be in a situation where cloud vendors are interchangeable," Cockcroft said. "It's just not there now."

Netflix is an Amazon poster child of a large enterprise moving its core technology into the public cloud. Just this week, it will complete the process of moving everything it plans to to Amazon. "We've been moving the back-end data sources that still live in the data center one by one to the cloud. We're in the final stages this week," he said.

Netflix started experimenting with public cloud services in 2009, but got serious about moving its website and streaming business to Amazon last year. It continues to run its corporate IT services and DVD shipping business internally.

The company has around 1,000 virtual machines running internally and 10,000 with Amazon, he said. "A year ago our cloud deployment was maybe a fifth of that," he said.

Amazon offers Netflix "immense flexibility," he said. Netflix routinely spins up 1,000 machines in a weekend, and might decide in a day or two it doesn't need them. Few other services could support that volume, he said.

Netflix is in the process of setting up its streaming services from Amazon's Ireland data center in order to offer its service in Ireland and the U.K.

While Rackspace is starting to add cloud capabilities designed for larger customers, it started out targeting people deploying Web apps on 20 to 30 servers, Lew Moorman, CSO and president of the cloud at Rackspace, said. "At Amazon, they started with the super computing use case and now they're making it more useable for the average user. Adrian [Cockcroft] is not the average user. So we come at it in different ways. We're moving into high-scale elastic use case and they're moving down." He figures there are maybe 20 companies in the world with similar demands as Netflix.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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