Netflix: A glance to its strategy

The Evolution of Netflix

Netflix, the #1 source of downstream web traffic in North America, started off with a very different business model and has evolved over time, unlike many other companies that were at the top of their game at the height of video rentals. Originally a DVD mail-order service, Netflix was founded in 1998 by Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings, two dot com entrepreneurs. Two years later Netflix added the monthly subscription service and killed the late fees, then in 2000 it dropped the single DVD rental option. 2002 saw the company’s initial public offering (IPO), and in 2003 Netflix had its first profitable year with revenues of $272 million dollars.

2005: it was shipping 1 million DVDs a day. Early on, the company found a way to take a traditional mail-order business and look ahead to what customers would want next. Most of the revenue comes from the monthly subscription of the service.

2007: Company successfully navigated shifts in consumer demand, especially with the addition of streaming TV and movies.

2008: It added streaming video via Xbox 360, TV set-top boxes and Blu-Ray players.

2009:  The service was available from Internet enabled smart TVs, the PS3 and other Internet -enabled gadgets.

2010: Netflix became available in Apple devices and even more internet connected devices. That year also saw Netflix begin to grow internationally with its expansion into Canada.

2015: it streamed more than 1,348 hours of content per second or about 2 months of content per second.

An assumption can also be made that Netflix with eventually work their way into the film industry where they start producing Netflix Original Movies that can only be viewed on the streaming service.

Strategy:

Can you imagine the amount of work, the technical architecture, the research, the billing systems, the kind of people that they needed and the thinking about these kinds of problems in order to make that happen?

The journey began when Netflix decided to move from its own data centers to the public cloud.

In 2008, Netflix was running relational databases in its own data centers when disaster struck. A data center failure shut the entire service down and stopped DVD shipments for three days.

The company’s owners faced a choice: turn Netflix into a world-class data center operations company or move the service to the public cloud.

Netflix was growing fast. The thousands of videos and tens of millions of customers was already generating an enormous quantity of data. The company would struggle to rack the servers in their own data centers fast enough to handle the ever-growing volumes, but the cloud would let them add thousands of virtual servers and petabytes of storage within minutes.

A. Microservices: A migration to the cloud was the clear choice. They soon became a poster child customer for Amazon Web Services (AWS), choosing the company for its scale and broad set of services and features.

The move would require a complete re-architecting of the company’s traditional infrastructure though. They could have fork-lifted all their monolithic enterprise systems out of the data center and dropped them into AWS, but this would only have brought all of their old data centre problems to the cloud. Instead, they chose to rebuild the Netflix technology in AWS and fundamentally change the way that the company operated.

The decision was for moving towards microservices, which made the infrastructure much more agile by breaking aspects of the service up into multiple microservices, managed by their own small teams who understood how their service worked and interacted with other systems.

In short a microservices architecture is a term used to describe the practice of breaking up an application into a series of smaller, more specialised parts, each of which communicate with one another across common interfaces such as APIs and REST interfaces like HTTP.

Each microservice tends to manage its own database, generate its own logs and handle user authentication. This also usually means that containers are involved at the management and operations level.

This provides clear, specific insights that make it easier to change the service, which leads to smaller and faster deployments. It also allows them to isolate services to understand the various performance profiles, patterns and securities in each microservice, and move away from any individual piece that’s causing a problem.

B. Cloud: It took Netflix seven years to complete the migration to the cloud. In 2016, the last remaining data centres used by the streaming service were shut down. In its place was a new cloud infrastructure running all of Netflix’s computing and storage needs, from customer information to recommendation algorithms.

The migration improved Netflix’s scalability and service availability and the velocity by which the company could release new content, features, interfaces and interactions. It also freed up the capacity of engineers, cut the costs of streaming, drastically improved availability and added the experience and expertise of AWS.

The cost model is also supporting that demands the payment for the service, which in turn allows to do a lot of experimentation. This gives them greater freedom to test new features and improve existing ones, such as the rows of content recommendations that are personalised every day.

C. Content Delivery: The cloud is only one part of the Netflix user experience. Everything that happens before they hit play takes place in AWS, but the video content that follows comes from a separate system: Netflix OpenConnect, the company’s proprietary content delivery network (CDN). The OpenConnect appliances store the video content and deliver it to client devices.

CDNs are designed to deliver internet-based content to viewers by bringing it closer to where they’re watching. Netflix originally outsourced streaming video delivery to third-party CDN suppliers, but as the company grew, these vendors struggled to support the traffic. Netflix needed more control over the service and user experience.

The company decided to design a CDN tailored to its needs.

It now installs OpenConnect appliances that store and deliver content inside local Internet Service Provider (ISP) data centres, which isolates the Netflix service from the wider internet. Popularity algorithms and storage techniques help distribute the content in ways that maximise offload efficiency. The system reduces the demand on upstream network capacity and helps Netflix work more closely with the ISP networks that host its traffic. OpenConnect is designed in caching boxes to hold the content, and wherever they can they install them inside user’s internet service provider’s network, so that when user see those video bits user aren’t actually transiting off of user operator’s network.

The new system cut the appearances of the loathed buffering wheel by an order of magnitudes. It also allowed Netflix to make the CDN software more intelligent. Now, whenever a customer presses play their device can get its content from numerous places on the internet.

The investment paid off when a fire in an ISP data centre in Brazil burned down Netflix’s entire stack of machines. Customers who had been streaming from the ISP didn’t experience any change in their user experience.

D. Chaos Engineering Culture: Netflix developers are well known these days for their unique approach to engineering culture. A self-service chaos engineering tool called the Chaos Automation Platform was pioneered to test problems in their production environments, so they can be sure that their software will behave as they want during a failure.

If the systems cannot auto recover, if they cannot handle bad situations, if they cannot self-repair, by the time I get a human involved, in the best-case scenario, minutes have gone by. You can get an idea of how many of our customers we’ve disappointed in the three or four or five minutes it may take to get a human involved, and in the right place and working. Chaos engineering is an excellent inoculation to failures.

They use the chaos engineering method to ensure Netflix can survive a failure in one of three AWS regions it uses. Every month, they turn off one of the regions and test that they can move all the customers that it was serving to another one within six minutes.

To embrace chaos without causing destruction, Netflix had to create a corporate culture that supported such ideas.

The relationship between Netflix and Amazon is mutually beneficial. Netflix is one of the largest customers of AWS. If Netflix one day decided to just leave AWS, it would hurt Amazon’s cloud division a lot, so Amazon has every incentive to keep Netflix happy.

Netflix also owns the most vital part of their infrastructure, which is the CDN. Infrastructure-wise, that’s their secret sauce. What Netflix has done by agreeing to use Amazon’s AWS is essentially to off-load the parts of their business that aren’t that special, so they can focus on the parts of the business that will give them the most strategic advantage.

Something else to keep in mind is that the only reason Amazon has a cloud service is for historical reasons. Amazon was built in the 90’s when there was no such thing as a cloud.

It made sense for Amazon to spend a ton of resources buying lots and lots of servers and data centers, so that they would dominate online shopping. But the main reason Amazon needed all that server capacity was for one time of the year, Christmas shopping. If people went to Amazon’s web site and it timed out because it was overloaded during these shopping spikes, people would get a bad impression of the company. So Amazon needed to have all of this server capacity, but most of the year, that capacity would be completely idle and wasted resources.

In other words, Amazon would have been the ideal customer for cloud computing. But since it didn’t exist at the time, they had to invent it. There is no reason for every other company to re-invent the wheel. Especially a company like Netflix that is trying to focus on just one business, streaming.

E. Multi-cloud: Recently, Netflix has embraced Google Cloud for certain workloads, mostly focused around artificial intelligence. It’s not clear how much work has shifted from AWS data centers to Google but even a minor shift marks the end of an era in which Netflix was held up as a model “all-in” AWS customer.

Times change. Google has been playing catch-up in the cloud market ever since it started to get serious about the business, but it is widely serceived as the leader in AI cloud services, which more and more companies are starting to find useful in their applications. It also has a world-class network built to handle the demands of Google search, and that infrastructure could be very useful to Netflix as a hedge against AWS issues as Netflix continues to grow.

There’s also a cost consideration. Google has been willing to come in much lower than other cloud providers in competitive bidding situations, according to lots of cloud industry watchers, as it tries to ramp up its cloud business. Google is well behind AWS and Microsoft in the cloud market, but it has started to sign deals with prominent customers such as Apple.

Netflix will likely keep a good deal of its workloads on AWS for the foreseeable future, given the investment it has made developing its infrastructure around AWS. But you probably won’t see Netflix on stage on re-Invent, the big AWS developer conference, in the future.

Netflix’s move also signals that multicloud strategies are moving from hopes and dreams to reality. Cloud vendors don’t always make it easy to move workloads between different public clouds, but companies are finding a way to spread their eggs around several baskets with technologies like containers and Kubernetes.

The migration improved Netflix’s scalability and service availability and the velocity by which the company could release new content, features, interfaces and interactions. It also freed up the capacity of engineers, cut the costs of streaming, drastically improved availability and added the experience and expertise of AWS.

Conclusion:

In short, we can say that in its 20-year history, the strategies adopted by Netflix has converted it from a DVD rental website with 30 employees to a global streaming service with over 5,000 titles, 130 million subscribers and $11 billion annual revenue that has drastically transformed the entertainment industry.

The Sun I

Like every other child, Sunday was my favorite day, during my childhood, because it is a holiday for us, we get nice foods and spend quality time with our family. As I grew up, while analyzing my horoscope, I came to know that Leo is my ascendant and the Sun is its lord planet. Then I started analyzing the impact of the Sun on my personality, strengths and my destiny. Even though, as per astrology, it is said that human life is mainly controlled by the placement of the major planets: the Jupiter and the Saturn in its horoscope, but the Sun also defines a destiny in the human life…! Why should not it…? Because Sun is the centre of the solar system, it is the lord of all the planets… Each of the twelve houses present in a horoscope, is signified by the name of any animal or object (Libra, Sagittarius and Aquarius), the objects are lifeless and Leo is the king of the animals. The king planet is the lord of king animal…! Wow…I became very happy after knowing that I have some kinglike qualities and if I work hard I can get the fame and power that a king is supposed to possess.  The sky deity, who represents the Sun, usually known by its perceived power and strength.

Then I took interest in the Sun, started reading many books to know about it and in this series of articles, I will narrate some of the interesting facts and stories related to the Sun.

Solar deities and the sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms, starting from Neolithic era, Mesopotamian, Incan civilisation, Proto-Indo-European religion, Germanic mythology, by Greek as Helios, Titan and sometimes as Apollo.  The Sun is sometimes referred to by its Latin name Sol or by its Greek name Helios,in Chinese mythology as  sun goddess Xihe, In Buddhist cosmology, the bodhisattva of the Sun is known as Suryaprabha and also by Arabians in the same of Shams/Shamsun,.

If we see the days of a week, then each day also represent to one planet. The week starts with Sunday for which the Sun is the planet who is the lord of all the planets., the moon for Monday, the Mars for Tuesday, the Mercury for Wednesday, the Jupiter for Thursday, the Venus for Friday and the Saturn for Saturday. Britishers are the first who started Sunday from 1843 as a holiday because In Christianity, God create this world in 6 days and Sunday he took rest. Christian Prays in Church every Sunday. So, to Pray in Church Sunday is holiday in Christianity. The British who were ardent followers of Christianity, wanted to impose the same laws that were prevailing in their country to their colonies too. In fact, in India Sunday was declared as holiday or Off day only in the year 1840 and same was followed in many of the countries. So, Sunday isn’t the funday that we have holiday for, let us take some time to visit the place of worship on Sunday.

In Rigveda, the Sun is described as one of the outward appearances of fire god placed in paradise by other gods. He is the brightest leading light, the glowing ball of light which gets transmitted to humanity. He is portraying as the eye of gods that beholds the actions of all worldly. He travels on a resplendent car driven by seven steeds that he unyokes at sunset. As he comes up in the horizon in the morning, the darkness of the night takes to its heels and the whole world is aroused to activities. As he rolls up darkness like a skin and the stars make good quality their run away like thieves the shines magnificently on the lap of dawn. It is with his light that he sustains the whole creation and energies it. All living being depend on surya who is their lead. He is poetically described as a bird flying through the unlimited spread of the blue firmament.

From the sentence: “He travels on a resplendent car driven by seven steeds that he unyokes at sunset”, I recollected a story behind the famous Sun temple in Konark, Odisha, which is categorized as one of the seven surprises of India.

So, here is the true story:

Every ancient temple or building tells the saga of India’s rich heritage, scientific and architectural marvel and extreme devotion. The Konark Sun Temple located on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in the small town of Konark of district Puri, Odisha is an outstanding proof of all this. This temple has been referred to as the Black Pagoda by European sailors, who marked it out as a prominent landmark during their voyages along the eastern coast of India. This name was given to the temple as it was constructed out of black stones.

Based on Brahmin beliefs, this temple was built in the 13th century by King Narasimhadeva of the Eastern Ganga Dynasty and dedicated to Sun God Surya. The beauty of the Sun-rise and the roaring voice of the sea charmed Narasimhadeva since his early life. The river chandrabhaga which is now dead, was once flowing within a mile to the north of the temple site and was joining the sea. On its banks, existed flourishing towns and important trading centres. Trade was carried on with foreign countries as well, by sea routes, as there was no better communication other than the river in those days.

Narasimhadeva had preferred the place for his proposed temple, for not only enabling him to bring his building materials from different places by the said river, but the sanctity of the was also considered by him. But, according to Hindu mythology, the Konark Sun Temple was constructed by Samba, one of Krishna’s sons. In one version of the tale, Samba had been cursed by Krishna because he entered the bathing chamber of his father’s wives. As a result of this, Samba suffered from leprosy. He was advised by a sage to undergo severe penance for 12 years at Mitravana, near the confluence of the Chandrabhaga River with the sea at Konark. This was pleasing to Surya, the Sun God, who is also believed to be the healer of all skin diseases, and Samba was cured of his leprosy by this deity. Krishna’s son showed his gratefulness to Surya by promising to build a temple in his honor. The following day, whilst Samba was bathing in the river, he found an image of Surya, which he took, and installed at the temple he built. The Konark Sun Temple has also been added to the UNSECO World Heritage List.

Like most of the ancient words, origin of Konark is also Sanskrit and it has been derived from kona (meaning angle) and arka(meaning sun). In terms of scientific and architectural development, ancient India was much ahead of today’s time. First of all, it is the flawless proportions and impressive dimension of the Konark temple and then is the complete structure of the temple that proves this. The entire temple is in the form of the chariot of Surya that is drawn by seven horses.

The main attraction of the temple is its twelve pairs of wheels located at the base of the temple. These wheels are not ordinary wheels but tell time as well – the spokes of the wheels create a sundial. One can calculate the precise time of the day by just looking at the shadow cast by these spokes. Isn’t it great? The wheels are also elegantly adorned.

Another unique feature of this temple is the presence of an iron plate in between every two stones. Massive iron beams have also been used to construct the higher floors of the temple. A 52-ton magnet was used to create the peak of the main temple. It is said that the entire structure has tolerated the harsh conditions especially of the sea because of this magnet. Previously, the unique arrangement of the main magnet along with the other magnets caused the main idol of the temple to float in air.

The temple was so oriented on the shore that the first rays of the rising sun directly fall on the main entry. These sun rays would cross the Nata Mandir and get reflected from the diamond just at the center of the idol. The diamond was positioned in the middle of this idol in the main sanctum. During the colonial period, these magnets were removed by the Britishers to get the magnetic stone.

Moreover, the temple presents a way to teach mortality. The Konark Sun temple has two huge lions on either side of the entrance. Each lion is shown crushing an elephant. Beneath each elephant lies the human body. Lion represents pride and elephant represents money. By looking at them it becomes clear that how both these flaws can crush a human being.

Ancient people loved to adorn their buildings with sculptures and carvings. Every single piece of the Konark Sun Temple is covered with sculpture consisting of deities, dancers, scenes of life at court, etc. To separate these figures are the beautiful carvings of birds and animals along with mythological creatures. Scroll work and neatly carved of human as well animal figures gives the Konark temple a distinctive appeal.

 

Many theories explain the fall of the temple in their own way. As per one theory, part of the Konark temple collapsed because of its incomplete structure. The Konark Sum Temple was not completed because of the early death of the king Langula Narasimha Dev who initiated the construction of the temple.

Next is the theory of lodestone (piece of the mineral magnetite that is naturally magnetized) located at the top of the temple. The lodestone’s placement caused a huge damage to the temple as many vessels passing through the Konark Sea were attracted towards it. Also, this magnet used to disturb the compass of almost all the ships in the sea. So, to remove the cause of the trouble, Portuguese voyagers stole the lodestone. The displacement of the lodestone led to total imbalance and so the Konark temple fell down. But there is no historical record either of this event or presence of such a great lodestone at Konark.

As per another very popular theory, the temple was destroyed by Kalapahad (Kalapahad was the title given to a Muslim governor Sultan Sulaiman Karrani of Bengal) who invaded Orissa in 1508. He had also destroyed many other Hindu temples in Orissa along with the Konark Sun Temple. In 1568, Muslims started ruling Orissa and destroyed many Hindu temples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 8: Software Product Management Body of Knowledge (SPMBoK)

In our Day6, we had learn about the key areas of  Product Management and when it comes to IT sector, in today’s session, we will learn how these key areas are mapped with the various phases of a Software development lifecycle, irrespective of any phase the product is in, which we generally call as Software Product Management Body of Knowledge (SPMBoK).

Generally, a product is a combination of goods and services and a software product is one whose primary component is software. It compares to non-software products in terms of high complexity, negligible manufacturing cost, great flexibility, and a high rate of change. So, software product management means the management of software products and software parts of software-intensive products, i.e. systems or services. Software parts of software-intensive systems that are not marketed and priced as separate entities are called embedded software.

Software-intensive systems can be products from all industries like healthcare, manufacturing, retail and BFSI. Software-intensive services, often delivered as cloud or internet services, can also be products from all industries like financial, insurance, gaming, social software, or personal services based on software support.

A software product manager is responsible for managing software with the objective to achieve sustainable success over the life cycle of the software product. This generally refers to economic success, which is ultimately reflected by the profits generated. Software product managers have the business responsibility across different versions, variants and associated services of a product. They act as a “mini CEO”, i.e. they must manage a broad set of product-related activities, typically they have direct responsibility for “Product Strategy” and “Product Planning”. For the activities under “Strategic Management”, software product managers participate by representing their products on the corporate level, e.g. in portfolio management, by providing input and making use of the results. For the activities under “Development”, “Marketing”, “Sales and Distribution” and “Service and Support”, the direct responsibility is typically with other units in the company, but software product managers must orchestrate these activities such that they are performed in line with product strategy and plan. Given the broad set of responsibilities, prioritization is needed on an ongoing basis and can be based on the respective estimated impact on short- and long-term profitability.

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