Proof: Netflix OSS on Eucalyptus

The Netflix OSS team sure knows how to throw a good party.  We’ve been to their meetup twice now, most recently at their event last Wednesday, at which they unveiled the Netflix OSS Prize.  At this rate, given the amount of interest they’re generating, they’ll need to rent out hotel space for their next event.

What draws the crowd? It’s a good question. The simplest answer, I guess, is that they’re a cool company doing cool stuff — and people want to be like them.

At Eucalyptus, we certainly enjoy working with Netflix, and we enjoy hanging out with them generally, because they’re cool.  (And their headquarters are awesome — “spa-like”, one might say.)  But we also have very specific interests in following the Netflix approach:

1. Netflix understands cloud.  Surely this is obvious; Netflix is one of the most advanced user of cloud services on the planet. They were the first to understand the true value of the AWS model, and in taking full advantage of it, they’ve developed a reputation for being industry leaders who work at true cloud scale.  Other leaders now seek to learn from them and emulate their practices.

What does that mean, though — “working at true cloud scale”? In a nutshell: Netflix has embraced the reality that sometimes services just go away.  This is the single biggest shift that one must make when moving into the world of cloud: not just accepting, but embracing the idea that sometimes your systems just go away.  That’s the point of cloud, and if you don’t build your systems with that mindset from Day One, you’re Doing It Wrong. Netflix has demonstrated an understanding here that few organizations can match.  They’ve moved from Chaos Monkey, which randomly knocks over instances, to Chaos Gorilla, which randomly knocks over entire availability zones — and they’ve made these tools, and others like them, available for those who dare to follow their lead.

2. Netflix understands open source. Not just as users, but as producers.  They are willing to share some pretty amazing software, because they understand the difference between software that provides differentiating value for their business (the engine) and software that provides non-differentiating value (the plumbing).  The more they can share the cost of maintaining the plumbing, the more resources they can commit to the engine.  This is a highly strategic choice, which makes them all the more committed to it — they have 26 projects in their Github repo and counting, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

3. Netflix OSS requires real AWS API fidelity, and Eucalyptus provides it.  Netflix is completely committed to the AWS model, and all of their code currently assumes that you’re using AWS.  If you want to figure out if your own AWS compliant IaaS “just works”, the Netflix OSS tools represent the best possible tests of AWS API fidelity. The “Asg” in Asgard, for instance, stands for Autoscaling Groups — so as we get our own autoscaling functionality up to speed for the Eucalyptus 3.3 release, it makes perfect sense to use Asgard as the benchmark to test against.  Which is precisely why we demonstrated at the Netflix OSS event: Chaos Monkey for knocking down instances, Asgard for Autoscaling to replace the destroyed instances, and Edda for auditing the whole process — and all working on Eucalyptus precisely as it would work against AWS.

Here’s the point, and it’s a simple one: it’s easy and cool to claim that your private cloud is “AWS API compatible”.  But it’s another thing entirely to prove it.  At Eucalyptus, we stake our entire reputation on proving it, with every single release. At the Netflix meetup, people walked up to our demo station, and they could *see* Netflix OSS on a private cloud. Edda, Asgard, and Chaos Monkey, all running in the cloud that was sitting right there on the table next to them.

Don’t trust hype.  Trust proof.