New Netflix Tool Could Ease Cloud Deployment for Big Companies

November 16, 2015, 10:26 PM UTC

Netflix, the streaming video giant, is quite the cloud jockey after developing a number software tools that it uses to run applications efficiently on Amazon Web Services.

On Monday, Netflix (NFLX) added to the stable by introducing Spinnaker, which automates the roll-out of new software features and updates simultaneously on both Amazon (AMZN) Web Services and Google (GOOG) Cloud Platform. Support for Microsoft (MSFT) Azure and Pivotal, the joint cloud venture by EMC (EMC) and VMware (VMW) will follow, according to the Netflix TechBlog.

Spinnaker may be of particular interest to the many Fortune 500 companies that are weighing not just a move to a cloud, but a move to multiple clouds. Most companies have decided that this migration is inevitable for much of their data and applications although many of them remain wary of using outside resources instead of their own servers and data centers.

That is one big reason they may prefer to adopt tools from Netflix, considered to be a leader in wringing the most out of shared computing resources. It has long been one of AWS’s largest customers and makes heavy use of Amazon’s web infrastructure, reportedly even closing down the last of its own data centers last summer.

There are a couple of trends here. First is the growing adoption of public cloud, which is a massive array of shared computing, storage and networking resources. Second, more companies like banks and car companies are deploying consumer applications that require near-constant feature updates. That is a stark contrast of the old enterprise software model in which applications ran on in-house servers and PCs and got upgraded every three or four years with a patchwork of fixes in between.

But serving up new features and integrating them poses a knotty problem. Spinnaker takes on that problem of efficiently adding new features and fixes to potentially thousands of servers across cloud infrastructure. It promises to take developers’ application code and create a workflow, or a pipeline, that takes it from inception to actual deployment.

Cloud consultant MSV Janakiram said that in this world, where there are so many parts, the notion of non-stop integration and continuous deployment gets very complicated very quickly. Spinnaker, which is the successor to Netflix’s older tried-and-true Asgard deployment tool, will help both startups and large companies that build big consumer apps used by tens of thousand of people tackle this problem better, he said via email.

Spinnaker is a great resource for big companies, said Adrian Cockcroft, former cloud architect at Netflix who is now technology fellow at Battery Ventures. Netflix, he noted via email, is a big company itself that has solved many problems “you only get when you have hundreds of developers and more than 600 microservices deploying many times a day.”

Less generally, the fact that Netflix built the tool to support multiple clouds could conceivably signal that it may go with more cloud providers going forward. Netflix does already use Google for some cloud storage but as stated above it is pretty much an AWS shop.

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