Yes, You Too Can Eclipse Netflix

By Nicole Hemsoth

April 21, 2010

When we’re talking about strict hardware-related HPC, defining high-performance computing is usually straightforward. However, when we extend the concept of HPC into the cloud and then to even further complicate the matter by adding in discussion about how HPC and cloud are being utilized in commercial and large-scale enterprise class settings, the roots of those concrete hardware definitions start to peel away.

Every business wants supercomputer capacity on-demand. And who could really blame them? It seems that most enterprises need vast, scalable capacity to remain competitive. For smaller businesses, getting competitive out of the gate is finally an option since the law of “he with the most start-up capital for tech infrastructure wins” is on the wane.

After skimming some HPC and cloud-related news I chose, at first anyway, to ignore, I started to think about these things a little more in-depth. With a big group of engineers coupled with some general HPC backing, cloud power, and an Ultra Marketing Bot 5000 (not a real product but thought a Nexus 6 Publicity Model would have been too vague), could just anyone compete with a company like, say, Netflix?

If every enterprise’s capacity suddenly becomes unlimited, then does it all just boil down to who has the best architects and the finest sales force to convince the world it’s better than what already exists in droves?

Netflix Cloud Adoption in the News

When I first saw this New York Times news story about Netflix’s shift to the cloud I was reticent to draw everyone’s attention to it by sticking into the “This Just In” section here on HPC in the Cloud because it didn’t seem…relevant. After all, this is the mail-order movie business — the post office is involved, for crying out loud. Where’s the gritty HPC in that?

But you know, I didn’t think my omission of Netflix through, so I decided to go back and revisit it in this blog.

So rewind and let’s retroactively pop this into the April 18th This Just In…

When Netflix announced that it had moved into the public cloud space and was housing some of its operations with Amazon Web Services, the burning question was to what extent their operations had gone to the cloud already and how much — what percentage, that is — would be heading cloud-ward over the two-year implementation.

The New York Times and others touted this as a use case of a large-scale data-intensive operation going full-blown into the cloud, but following an interview this morning with Steve Swasey, Vice President of Corporate Communications at Netflix, this shift into the cloud isn’t quite as comprehensive as it seems — at least not yet.

The company has moved some of its major power-gobbling processes to Amazon Web Services’ public cloud, but the really good and juicy stuff — that’s all hoarded away on Netflix’s own internal servers. And that’s probably not going to change, according to Swasey.

From what it sounds like, Netflix took one particular type of process (the encoding of new film into the system to make it available as a stream on demand) and since it would have been foolhardy from a resource, time (and therefore cost) perspective not to do so, they plunked it down on AWS. While Swasey didn’t go into detail about other major operations in the public cloud, he did suggest that anything remotely sensitive was stored in-house. Other search tools, customer queues, and more customer-facing (versus internal) will be hosted in the cloud — but the buck stops there.

Netflix isn’t just shipping and receiving movies using snail mail and some scattered company PCs on an internal network, after all. There are multiple arms of this business that require vastly different resources and that also require immense scalability since there are most likely times and days of peak demand for instantly-available streaming movies on a PC. When coupled with the other side of the Netflix operation — the shipping, receiving and storing of films in over 50 centers throughout the United States that send automatic messages in vast quantities to its huge database of users alone is complex. When we factor in encoding video and then turning around to deliver it on demand, there are whole new levels of resource and scheduling issues.

According to Swaysey, the adoption of AWS took place quite rapidly; Netflix began testing Amazon’s public cloud at the beginning of 2010 and analyzed test results to gauge progress. The company found that it significantly reduced dependency on its own data centers as well as cut back on time and engineering time, especially for one of the critical functions of the Netflix service — taking the raw film from production houses and handling all of the encoding in-house so that the films could be streamed to customers on-demand at the touch of a button.

Until comfort in the cloud grows — something that we will monitor closely here — companies with wide-ranging, large-scale, data-intensive needs will likely experiment with the cloud to outsource resource-heavy operations but in the end, security and protection of sensitive data seems to be the biggest hurdle. Companies like Netflix are willing to bear the much higher costs of IT resources as they keep their special data close to home.

Does that mean that the quickest way for new enterprises who start with the cloud (versus having to be talked into migration) to get a head start is by taking the plunge and sending all (even the juicy, private, confidential, secure stuff) into a public cloud?

While Swayse was tight-lipped about anything in the way of specifics in terms of the compute environment, it just took some thinking-through for me to see that they are managing, scheduling, and balancing the same large-scale, data-intensive, mission-critical workloads “real” enterprises in science and research are — the difference is, well, it’s “just” movies.

If your startup costs were minimal and you relied on pure ground-up cloud architecture and a gaggle of really, really smart friends, would it be possible to compete with a Netflix? Will it all just boil down to who has the most innovate marketing versus the best capacity if everyone has unlimited capacity?

If only I had more time.

Subscribe to HPCwire's Weekly Update!

Be the most informed person in the room! Stay ahead of the tech trends with industy updates delivered to you every week!

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

ASC18: Tough Applications & Tough Luck

May 17, 2018

The applications at the ASC18 Student Cluster Competition were tough. Tougher than the $3.99 steak special at your local greasy spoon restaurant. The apps are so tough that even Chuck Norris backs away from them slowly. Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and the technology challenges ahead. These discussions happened in Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

HPE Extreme Performance Solutions

HPC and AI Convergence is Accelerating New Levels of Intelligence

Data analytics is the most valuable tool in the digital marketplace – so much so that organizations are employing high performance computing (HPC) capabilities to rapidly collect, share, and analyze endless streams of data. Read more…

IBM Accelerated Insights

Mastering the Big Data Challenge in Cognitive Healthcare

Patrick Chain, genomics researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory, posed a question in a recent blog: What if a nurse could swipe a patient’s saliva and run a quick genetic test to determine if the patient’s sore throat was caused by a cold virus or a bacterial infection? Read more…

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

ASC18: Final Results Revealed & Wrapped Up

May 17, 2018

It was an exciting week at ASC18 in Nanyang, China. The student teams braved extreme heat, extremely difficult applications, and extreme competition in order to cross the cluster competition finish line. The gala awards ceremony took place on Wednesday. The auditorium was packed with student teams, various dignitaries, the media, and other interested parties. So what happened? Read more…

By Dan Olds

Spring Meetings Underscore Quantum Computing’s Rise

May 17, 2018

The month of April 2018 saw four very important and interesting meetings to discuss the state of quantum computing technologies, their potential impacts, and th Read more…

By Alex R. Larzelere

Quantum Network Hub Opens in Japan

May 17, 2018

Following on the launch of its Q Commercial quantum network last December with 12 industrial and academic partners, the official Japanese hub at Keio University is now open to facilitate the exploration of quantum applications important to science and business. The news comes a week after IBM announced that North Carolina State University was the first U.S. university to join its Q Network. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Democratizing HPC: OSC Releases Version 1.3 of OnDemand

May 16, 2018

Making HPC resources readily available and easier to use for scientists who may have less HPC expertise is an ongoing challenge. Open OnDemand is a project by t Read more…

By John Russell

PRACE 2017 Annual Report: Exascale Aspirations; Industry Collaboration; HPC Training

May 15, 2018

The Partnership for Advanced Computing in Europe (PRACE) today released its annual report showcasing 2017 activities and providing a glimpse into thinking about Read more…

By John Russell

US Forms AI Brain Trust

May 11, 2018

Amid calls for a U.S. strategy for promoting AI development, the Trump administration is forming a senior-level panel to help coordinate government and industry research efforts. The Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence was announced Thursday (May 10) during a White House summit organized by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). Read more…

By George Leopold

Emerging Advanced Scale Tech Trends Focus of Annual Tabor Conference

May 9, 2018

At Tabor Communications' annual Advanced Scale Forum (ASF) held this week in Austin, the focus was on enterprise adoption of HPC-class technologies and high performance data analytics (HPDA). It’s a confab that brings together end users (CIOs, IT planners, department heads) and vendors and encourages... Read more…

By the Editorial Team

Google I/O 2018: AI Everywhere; TPU 3.0 Delivers 100+ Petaflops but Requires Liquid Cooling

May 9, 2018

All things AI dominated discussion at yesterday’s opening of Google’s I/O 2018 developers meeting covering much of Google's near-term product roadmap. The e Read more…

By John Russell

MLPerf – Will New Machine Learning Benchmark Help Propel AI Forward?

May 2, 2018

Let the AI benchmarking wars begin. Today, a diverse group from academia and industry – Google, Baidu, Intel, AMD, Harvard, and Stanford among them – releas Read more…

By John Russell

How the Cloud Is Falling Short for HPC

March 15, 2018

The last couple of years have seen cloud computing gradually build some legitimacy within the HPC world, but still the HPC industry lies far behind enterprise I Read more…

By Chris Downing

Russian Nuclear Engineers Caught Cryptomining on Lab Supercomputer

February 12, 2018

Nuclear scientists working at the All-Russian Research Institute of Experimental Physics (RFNC-VNIIEF) have been arrested for using lab supercomputing resources to mine crypto-currency, according to a report in Russia’s Interfax News Agency. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Inventor Claims to Have Solved Floating Point Error Problem

January 17, 2018

"The decades-old floating point error problem has been solved," proclaims a press release from inventor Alan Jorgensen. The computer scientist has filed for and Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Researchers Measure Impact of ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’ Patches on HPC Workloads

January 17, 2018

Computer scientists from the Center for Computational Research, State University of New York (SUNY), University at Buffalo have examined the effect of Meltdown Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Responds to Google TPU Benchmarking

April 10, 2017

Nvidia highlights strengths of its newest GPU silicon in response to Google's report on the performance and energy advantages of its custom tensor processor. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Deep Learning at 15 PFlops Enables Training for Extreme Weather Identification at Scale

March 19, 2018

Petaflop per second deep learning training performance on the NERSC (National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center) Cori supercomputer has given climate Read more…

By Rob Farber

AI Cloud Competition Heats Up: Google’s TPUs, Amazon Building AI Chip

February 12, 2018

Competition in the white hot AI (and public cloud) market pits Google against Amazon this week, with Google offering AI hardware on its cloud platform intended Read more…

By Doug Black

Leading Solution Providers

US Plans $1.8 Billion Spend on DOE Exascale Supercomputing

April 11, 2018

On Monday, the United States Department of Energy announced its intention to procure up to three exascale supercomputers at a cost of up to $1.8 billion with th Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Lenovo Unveils Warm Water Cooled ThinkSystem SD650 in Rampup to LRZ Install

February 22, 2018

This week Lenovo took the wraps off the ThinkSystem SD650 high-density server with third-generation direct water cooling technology developed in tandem with par Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPC and AI – Two Communities Same Future

January 25, 2018

According to Al Gara (Intel Fellow, Data Center Group), high performance computing and artificial intelligence will increasingly intertwine as we transition to Read more…

By Rob Farber

Google Chases Quantum Supremacy with 72-Qubit Processor

March 7, 2018

Google pulled ahead of the pack this week in the race toward "quantum supremacy," with the introduction of a new 72-qubit quantum processor called Bristlecone. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

HPE Wins $57 Million DoD Supercomputing Contract

February 20, 2018

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) today revealed details of its massive $57 million HPC contract with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The deal calls for HP Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

CFO Steps down in Executive Shuffle at Supermicro

January 31, 2018

Supermicro yesterday announced senior management shuffling including prominent departures, the completion of an audit linked to its delayed Nasdaq filings, and Read more…

By John Russell

Deep Learning Portends ‘Sea Change’ for Oil and Gas Sector

February 1, 2018

The billowing compute and data demands that spurred the oil and gas industry to be the largest commercial users of high-performance computing are now propelling Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

Nvidia Ups Hardware Game with 16-GPU DGX-2 Server and 18-Port NVSwitch

March 27, 2018

Nvidia unveiled a raft of new products from its annual technology conference in San Jose today, and despite not offering up a new chip architecture, there were still a few surprises in store for HPC hardware aficionados. Read more…

By Tiffany Trader

  • arrow
  • Click Here for More Headlines
  • arrow
Share This