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An Overview of Netflix's Data Storage Solution

Netflix is one of the biggest websites globally and it has a huge amount of traffic visiting it from a variety of platforms – computers, smartphones, consoles and tablets are just some of the devices that connect to the site. Netflix, primarily known for its streaming service, hosts thousands of movies and TV shows that need to be available around the clock for their customers to consume. With many millions of subscribers in over 40 countries, it’s paramount that Netflix have a solid data plan for the huge amounts of transfers taking place every second.

Netflix first launched their streaming service back in 2007 and used an Oracle database on the back end. “We had a single data centre, which meant we had a single point of failure,” said Adrian Cockcroft, cloud architect at Netflix. “We were approaching limits on traffic and capacity. Now that people can watch Netflix streaming programming from their phones, from Wii devices, Roku boxes, and many others, the demand for availability increases all the time. We have more customers every quarter, more customers are using streaming, and they're using streaming at a greater rate.”

Of course, a single point of failure is certainly not a good thing and with their subscriber count mounting Netflix needed to ensure that they had a stable plan. In 2010 the firm began to move their data onto Amazon Web Services. They then replaced their Oracle database with Apache Cassandra, an open source NoSQL database.

The architecture of Apache Cassandra ensured that it was constantly available and was able to be tuned and scaled, making it an obvious choice for Netflix. It offers the firm agility, meaning they don’t have to worry about running out of space.

“I can create a Cassandra cluster in any region of the world in 10 minutes,” said Cockcroft. “When the marketing guys decide we want to move into a certain part of the world, we're ready.”

Netflix doesn’t just have to store the data of the films and TV shows, though. They store around 95 percent of their data on Cassandra, which includes movie ratings, metadata, bookmarks and customer information.

Back in 2013 it was reported by Infoworld that Netflix have more than 50 clusters with over 750 nodes. They processed more than 50,000 reads per second and 100,000 writes per second across all clusters. A year later, as of time of writing, and those figures are only going to have risen.

Using Amazon Web Services has the benefits of being global and scalable. For a streaming service like Netflix, scalability is critical – within minute’s notices. They can spin up thousands of services, handle a load for a few hours or days, and then spin them down when no longer needed. It’s efficient and highly available. Additionally, the fact that AWS is located in places such as America, Ireland and Tokyo, the firm are able to stream their content to global customers with ease and with the high level of service and quality that Netflix wish to output.

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