Will the Netflix Model Gain Traction? Why Service Providers Should Take Note

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Venture capital firm Battery Ventures has hired Adrian Cockroft, the head of the infrastructure team at Netflix, who will advise the firm on investments to help enterprises shift to the “cloud native” approach pioneered by Netflix. Cockroft has been a thought leader in the DevOps movement, which empowers developers to integrate operations skills and practice “continuous delivery” of enhanced code. He has been a popular speaker at conferences, evangelizing the Netflix architecture and its reliance on the Amazon cloud computing platform.

Cockroft has predicted that more enterprises will adopt the highly-automated cloud native architecture, and Netflix has made much of its code available as open source software to equip others to follow its lead. With his shift to Battery, Cockroft will help guide investment in technologies that can accelerate this shift.

“In my new role at Battery Ventures I will be continuing my conversations with large enterprise companies planning a move to cloud native, and SaaS vendors who are re-architecting for scale, to understand the gaps and demands of this market,” Cockroft wrote on his blog. “With that context I will work in the Battery Ventures team that is looking for opportunities to fund companies who are enabling the transformation of enterprise IT, and I will also provide advice and mentoring for portfolio companies.”

The Netflix Model as A Data Center Disruptor

Shifting enterprise IT from the on-premises data center to the cloud isn’t a new opportunity. But the Netflix “all in” approach to cloud has always been a notable outlier in the way large companies manage their infrastructure. As Cockroft notes: “The industry reaction to Netflix’s all-in public cloud strategy has evolved from ‘It won’t work’ through ‘It only works for unicorns like Netflix’ to ‘How do we get there?’”

The Netflix architecture is notable in that it relies almost entirely on AWS and a content delivery network. As such, it represents a larger threat to data center business models than the hybrid cloud model, which maintains opportunities for housing physical gear in both on-premises and third-party data centers. Wider adoption of the Netflix approach could boost Amazon at the expense of service providers.

Cloud pundits have often blathered about “the death of the data center.” My response is that “there is no cloud – it all lives in data centers.” There’s always physical infrastructure. The only thing that changes is the name of the data center operator. That’s true for Netflix as well.

But the Netflix model concentrates infrastructure at a single provider – most likely to be Amazon- to a greater extent than other approaches to the enterprise cloud. As such, it’s a trend that bears watching. There are good reasons why few enterprises have contemplated the leap to a Netflix-like dependence on a single cloud provider. It will be interesting to see if Battery’s $900 million warchest results in investments that meaningfully advance the “cloud native” model.

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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