A Design Analysis of Cloud-based Microservices Architecture at Netflix

A comprehensive system design analysis of microservices architecture at Netflix to power its global video streaming services

Cao Duc Nguyen
The Startup
Published in
19 min readMay 1, 2020

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1. Introduction

Netflix has been among the best online subscription-based video streaming services in the world ([12]) for many years, accounting for over 15% of the world’s Internet bandwidth capacity. In 2019, Netflix already acquired over 167 million subscribers, with more than 5 million new subscribers added every quarter, and operates in more than 200 countries. More specifically, Netflix’s subscribers spend over 165 million hours of watching over 4,000 films and 47,000 episodes daily. These impressive statistics show us, from an engineering perspective point of view, Netflix technical teams have designed such an amazing video streaming system with very high availability and scalability in order to serve their customers globally.

However, it took the technical teams over 8 years to have their IT systems as now ([1]). In fact, the infrastructure transformation at Netflix began in August 2008 after a service outage in its own data centers shutting the entire DVD renting services down for three days. Netflix realized that it needs a more reliable infrastructure with no single point of failure. Therefore, it has made two important decisions: migrating the IT infrastructure from its data centers to a public cloud and replacing monolithic programs with small manageable software components by microservices architecture. Both decisions have directly shaped today Netflix’s success.

Netflix had chosen AWS cloud ([4]) to migrate its IT infrastructure because AWS could offer highly reliable databases, large-scale cloud storage and multiple data centers around the globe. By utilizing the cloud infrastructure built and maintained by AWS, Netflix did not do the undifferentiated heavy lifting work of building data centers but focusing more on its core business of providing high quality video streaming user experience. Even though it has to rebuild the whole technology to allow it run smoothly on AWS cloud, the improvement of Netflix’s scalability and service availability has gained significantly in return.

Netflix is also one of the first major drivers behind microservices architecture. Microservices targets the problems of monolith software design by encouraging…

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Cao Duc Nguyen
The Startup

A software engineer with over 10 years of experience working in data architect roles to build cloud infrastructures and advanced analytics solutions.