In praise of Netflix OSS
Netflix accepted a Special Jury Award during the JAX 2015 conference in Mainz. Here we take a look at how the entertainment platform is doing open source right.
Once again, the contributions of open technologies were an central theme at this year’s JAX Awards. In the same year that the major open-source platform Google Code has disappeared, the concept of sharing innovation among the community has never kept so many projects alive as it does today. JAX Open Technology award-winner and founder of Akka Jonas Bonér even went so far as to say that his technology wouldn’t have been possible without the OS community.
There’s one company in particular that has embodied the open spirit particularly well. A company whose technology has not only revolutionised home entertainment, but one that is also changing our notion of how enterprises innovate and share that innovation.
Netflix OSS – open source and quality
The rate at which this entertainment game-changer has adopted new technologies and openly implemented them together with the community is setting new standards in IT. Vector, Turbine and Asgard are just a few examples Netflix OSS’s huge library of open innovation which it has shared with the community. But the most known of all is surely Hystrix, the library designed for making more resilient apps in the cloud, now being used by countless software teams to maintain their cloud infrastructures.
Not only does Netflix itself rely on a large amount of open-source technologies, but the company also builds on them together with the community. Frequently named by software vendors as a prominent customer, Netflix has continuously involved the broader community in its innovation, whether that means keeping one of the most enlightening enterprise blogs in tech, or offering a million dollar prize to a developer that can improve their recommendation algorithm.
In the company’s acceptance speech, Netflix Senior Software Engineer Ben Christensen confirmed the importance of an open approach to the success of Netflix software, stating that the external developers that contributed to the Netflix projects “resulted in our projects being of much higher quality than if we had kept them internal.”
Having amassed a library over 50 open-source projects, all hosted on the Netflix OSS GitHub repository, Netflix has now launched a project called ZeroToDocker, specifically designed to make it easier for developers to understand and deploy their tools.
The difference between open source and community software
Senior Software Engineer Andrew Spyker has previously commented on the varying degrees of community involvement in what enterprises are often quick to call ‘open source’.
“There’s open sourcing and just sort of throwing it over the wall, and there’s open sourcing it of doing it in a community. Putting it out on GitHub and trying to build a community around it, I think that’s almost more important than just the pure open sourcing part.”
Making your software technically open source isn’t enough, argues Spyker – it takes real resources, engagement and support to make something that a larger community can build on and use.
The JAX Jury statement
“Although we have witnessed several few worthy tech achievements this past year, there was an overwhelming consensus among the jury that the pioneering work from Netflix’s developer team has made a huge impact in IT. Furthermore, the company’s cloud strategy has made it a role model for the successful management of cloud infrastructure. Countless programming teams, from within companies like IBM to the Obama election campaign are relying on the essential open-source tools of the Netflix OSS library for their own projects.
“This year’s JAX Award jury agreed that, above all, Netflix is showing that architecture is cool again. It shows that it can be used as a business differentiator, and when done right it is a huge advantage. Their developer team show the power of internalizing DevOps into their architecture, and that’s something that all architectures will be doing in future.”