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Foreign media recently published an article about how streaming media video service provider Netflix and its chief executive, Ride Hastings, have experienced and survived repeated blunders, eventually joining Silicon Valley's "elite community" story.
The following is the full text of this article:
In normal circumstances, Netflix's share of home Internet traffic in the United States usually accounts for nearly one-third per cent over the weekend evenings, higher than the share of YouTube, Hulu, Amazon, HBO go, itunes and BitTorrent. In any time zone, the flow of Internet traffic to Netflix usually peaks around 10 o'clock in the evening, at which point the Internet traffic graph looks like a python swallowing a cow. By midnight in the Pacific, the flow of streaming media services will drop dramatically.
But on January 31, when prime time was fading, there was a perverse tension inside Netflix. It's night, Netflix's political thriller, House of Cards, will first land on its streaming media platform. Before midnight, about 40 engineers gathered in a conference room at Netflix headquarters, a row of monitors on the wall, showing the state of the Netflix computing system. There are dozens of laptops, tablets, smartphones and other devices on the table that are loaded with Netflix apps ready to start streaming.
The "card House" ad in New York City
As the clock strikes 12, the full season of the Solitaire series appears on these mobile devices, as well as on the recommended view list of millions of users selected by an algorithm. The opening scene--a dog was crushed by an SUV--went back and forth, and by 12:15, when Kevin Spacey's role said, "I'm out of anger," everything worked out fine. Spacey "That's the time to celebrate the champagne," he said. "said Yury Izrailevsky, a Netflix vice-president for cloud computing. Netflix has always been a disaster for itself in the past, so Izrailevsky stayed in the boardroom to monitor it until the day dawn.
Just in case. During the period from midnight to early morning, thousands of Netflix users were watching the show. On April 19, the Midnight "ritual" was Hemlock, when Netflix's horror series, Hemlock Grove, first landed on its streaming media platform, and by May 26 it would be Grove (arrested Development) will be on the move.
Netflix has 3600多万名 users who watch about 4 billion hours of programming over 1000 different devices each quarter. To meet this demand, Netflix uses many dedicated video servers scattered around the world. When a user clicks on a movie for streaming, Netflix determines in a flash which server has the movie and is close to the user, and then the server chooses one of the dozens of video file versions, depending on what device the user is using. At Netflix's headquarters in California State Los Guedos (Los Gatos), several teams of mathematicians and designers are responsible for studying what programs people like to watch and developing algorithms
and interface to provide them with relevant video so they can always watch.
Netflix is one of the world's biggest users of cloud computing services, which rents servers and storage systems by the hour, and all of this computing power is rented from Amazon's cloud services, Amazon Web services. Amazon itself operates a video streaming service, one of Netflix's rivals. This means that the relationship between the two sides is a kind of "enemy and friends". Over the past few years, Netflix has developed a series of sophisticated tools to make its software work well on Amazon's cloud platform, while Amazon has been emulating Netflix's progress and delivering improved services to other business customers. For example, with the help of the code developed by Netflix's engineers, Barack Obama, US president, has been campaigning for "fuel" in almost every corner of the Amazon site.
2001 Hastings in a DVD mail-order distribution center in San Jose.
Netflix, which was just starting out as a rental service for the mailing of DVDs, has become far too complex to become an entertainment "Big Mac" with HBO and may even compete with HBO's parent, Time Warner. Netflix plans to lead the current shift towards providing television content via the Internet, a company that has developed sophisticated technology. Netflix has invested hundreds of millions of of dollars to produce original series, such as the card house, the Hemlock Grove, stunted development, the women's prison (Orange is, the New black), and Derek, starring Richie Gevist (Ricky Gervais) ( Derek) and the children's play "Snail: Fast" (TURBO:F.A.S.T), which is jointly produced by DreamWorks. And so on--they turned into a Hollywood member. "We believe that technology is a powerful tool for creating a better and more modern experience of what we have." Ride Hastings Reed Hastings, Netflix's chief executive, said. "What we really are fighting for is quite broad, that is people's time." ”
About 18 months ago, Netflix and Hastings spent most of their time trying to save face. Before that, Netflix dull announced plans to increase prices and split it into two companies-a DVD-mail-order service provider named Qwikster, and a streaming media service provider still known as Netflix-in the process The company lost thousands of millions users and its share price blew from $298 trillion to $52.81.
Netflix, in a hurry to apologize, ushered in one of the most glorious recovery scenarios in corporate history. The card house was widely praised and investors were enthusiastic about the company's first-quarter results. Netflix's first-quarter revenue was 1.02 billion dollars, up 18% from a year earlier. In the US market alone, Netflix has increased the number of users by 2 million, away fears that the company's growth rate has slowed. Netflix's share price is back to $200 trillion, one of the best performing stocks so far this year.
Hastings does not have a fixed office, he runs around the company's headquarters, sometimes talks to his employees about a problem, and sometimes sits down to work on an e-mail with an empty table. In need of a quiet place, he would go to his "watchtower", a glass house about the size of a normal room, built on the roof of the Netflix headquarters building. To get to the Glass house, the first thing to do is to climb up a ladder to the roof, walk through the air conditioner and other machinery along a narrow passageway, and usually someone will turn on the air-conditioner beforehand. The Glass House will get very hot because it is basically a greenhouse with a round table, and from the house, the spectacular Santa Cruz Mountains are at a glance.
In an afternoon, Watchtower's air conditioner buzzed. Hastings, 52, sat in a chair with little sheepskin, and gave a quiet breath. He had a goatee, and the whole man looked skinny and spoke with a strong Californian accent. He was talking to us about the future of Netflix. "We are trying to build this company into a continuous learning organization. He said, chewing on granola oats. "My role is to create that learning atmosphere." ”
When Netflix staged the Qwikster farce in 2011, there was really a lot to learn. In the "Saturday Night Scene" (Saturday Night Live) program, Jason Sudaisis (Jason Sudeikis) played the Hastings side to the consumer apology, while the introduction of increasingly complex business. "We know you hate us. The "Hastings" concludes this way.
Qwikster was a fiasco for Netflix, but the threat to the company was far less than the previous one. In August 2008, Netflix's technology infrastructure was paralysed when it was a DVD-mailing company and, for three days, Netflix was unable to mail the disc because a vital Oracle database had been in a state of operation. Journalists and clients are aware of this; by the end of the Netflix trail, an expensive third-party storage system was in disarray after a software update. Until today, speaking of this matter will still let Hastings depressed unceasingly. When we interviewed Hastings in Watchtower and asked the question, Neil, a Netflix chief product officer at the table, said that they would not name the storage-system provider. Hastings replied, "Even IBM is good." (IBM spokeswoman declined to comment.) )
Hastings and Hunter worked together on and off for 25 years, when they met at the research department of the Oil-service contractor Schlumberger Corporation (Schlumberger). According to Hastings, Hunter is currently in charge of Netflix's technology-related affairs. "Most things listen to Neil. "Hastings said. He is the first principle on the technical issue. But, according to Netflix engineers, after the 2008 delivery disaster, Hastings has dominated many meetings. He warns that if a similar technical problem arises in streaming media, it could even be more damaging. And Hastings has also begun to see that Netflix needs more computing horsepower than ever before, as streaming media business grows. For Netflix at the time, it could either hire an elite team of data center engineers to build their computing centers – like Google (Weibo), Microsoft and Amazon – or move everything to the cloud platform.
Netflix then began experimenting with cloud services from Amazon and Microsoft, and by 2009 Hastings began betting the company's future on Amazon cloud services. Until that moment, Netflix had never put so many key technologies on Amazon's system. At that time Hastings sent an e-mail to Jeff Bezos, Amazon's chief executive, announcing his plan. I asked him if he thought the idea was right. "Hastings said. "If not, then it will not go on." Then Bezos made a workable reply.
At any one time, Netflix will take advantage of 10,000 to 20,000 servers running in the Amazon Data center, which handle customer information, video recommendations, digital rights Management, encode video files into different formats, and monitor system performance. When new devices (such as a new Xbox or Samsung smartphone) appear, Netflix uses thousands of additional servers to transform the format of the movie files to serve the users of these new devices. During the day, some servers handle the heavy work associated with streaming video, and at night these servers are converted to data analysis. Netflix has been pushing the service to the extreme in its use of Amazon Web services. "We are more efficient at Amazon (cloud services) than Amazon's retail sector." Adrian Kaukokroft, Adrian Cockcroft, a cloud architect at Netflix, said. "We're pretty sure about that," he said. ”
Few companies in the technology industry have a relationship as complex as Netflix and Amazon. Netflix is Amazon's biggest customer, giving it a lucrative service price and establishing direct communication lines with top Amazon engineers. When Netflix wants a new software feature, Amazon will soon deliver this functionality, and in the end, other companies will benefit. "There is one thing in my mind that is no doubt that our platform has become more powerful in terms of performance and functionality because of our relationship with Netflix." Said Andy Jassy, head of Amazon Cloud Business, Andy Jassie.
To keep it alive, Netflix has been forced to develop a lot of software from scratch. Since relying on Amazon for data center services, Netflix's 700 engineers have focused on developing tools, such as how thousands of cloud servers can be automated to start and configure. In Silicon Valley, Netflix's most famous place has become the so-called "Great Ape Army" (Simian Army), laughingly, a variety of applications used to test system resilience. Chaos Monkey, for example, can simulate small-scale service outages by randomly shutting down services, while Chaos Kong (the King of Chaos) can paralyse the entire data center.
Companies such as ebay and Intel have begun to use these products in their cloud computing systems, and Obama used them in his last presidential campaign. Scott Vandenplas, who manages most of the Obama campaign's infrastructure, Scott Van Den Prass that he used a Netflix software tool called Asgard. This is a system management application, compared to a few hours or even days, a programmer can find a server group and have all the necessary software for it to do a specific job and finish the work in just a few seconds. "This application allows us to work faster and make decisions because you know you have this tool in your pocket." "Van Den Prass said. When Hurricane Sandy hurricane the U.S. East coast two weeks before the election, Van Den Prass shifted most of the Obama campaign's infrastructure from Amazon's east Coast data center to the west Coast. "If there is no Asgard, I don't know if we can do it." "he said. "Our operational efficiency has become a huge strategic advantage." ”
Hastings tends to waver in two emotional states: one is relaxed and attentive, the other is relaxed but contemptuous. Hastings will have a vigorous discussion of what he cares about, and he will shrug off everything else. Hastings claimed that he had never cared about the design of Netflix's headquarters, but had walked in and started working after being told that the headquarters had been built. "I don't pay attention to building problems, that's my style." "he said. But if you want to talk about contemporary computer science and technology issues, such as the value of distributed tag databases and key-value storage, then Hastings will be gushing to express their views.
In December 2005, Hastings as a geek. At the time, he thought, the star-rating system would provide Netflix with all the information it needed to make accurate predictions about what kind of programs people want to watch. In contrast, others in the company have argued that in addition to the system, Netflix needs more metrics to determine the user's preferences, such as whether people will play some of the programs at the start and then not watch them, or that users search for an actor to watch their favorite shows. Then, Hastings spent two weeks in the Christmas holiday making a spreadsheet of millions of users ' star rating information; he tried to develop an algorithm to defeat the user preferences forecast system designed by Netflix engineers.
The final result is that Hastings failed. But his efforts were not in vain, but spurred him into running the Netflix prize competition, and the individuals and teams that could improve Netflix's star-rated algorithm to the greatest extent would win the big game with 1 million of dollars in championship bonuses. For Netflix, it was a rare, meaningful "publicity show": The team that ultimately won was a team of independent engineers from around the world who developed a better predictive engine for Netflix. Since then, the company, which has been known for mailing DVDs, has come to be the focus of a "creative sanctuary".
Today, Netflix has the ability to hire almost any engineer it wants, not just because of its computer science-related work, but also because of its reputation as the highest-paid company in Silicon Valley. Netflix's management regularly surveys Silicon Valley's pay trends and then pays 10% to 20% higher salaries to employees. In addition, the Laid-off employees can also get super generous severance payment; Netflix's idea is that offering generous severance payments would remove the guilt of management and make it "say good-bye" to those who don't have enough skills.
Netflix is also inclined to hire older workers than its peers. "We like to hire adults who are already fully formed." "Test Kirkroft divert." "We like to have people working on Google for five years and then digging them up," he said. "Take a lap in the office of this company and you will know that this is true." Engineers work in a very closed cubicle, a style of office layout that is already obsolete in Silicon Valley, and open office environments have become the favorites of people. The only real genius of other Silicon Valley companies is that bathroom doors are decorated as entertainment legends (such as Simpson (Homer Simpson) Maggie Simpson (Marge Simpson) in animated sitcom "The Simpsons"), The conference room according to the famous TV series and the movie name, the glass wall also wrote some well-known movie and television golden sentence.
An engineering meeting is being held in the room of "work Bug" (Office space, sitcom). The golden sentence on the wall is: "I won't say I'm always passing by, Bob." "At the beginning of the meeting, everyone began to talk about what they had seen recently. One guy said he watched The hunger game (the Hunger Games) and that someone had started recommending "unmarried women" (Bachelorette) and "Go in" (The Longshots). "I'm not sure what these shows have to do with the game of hunger," he said. "he said. "They're all filmed like post Apocalypse movies. ”
The engineer in charge of the meeting opened a meeting record in the form of Google Docs in the central display. Netflix has put all of its e-mail and collaboration tools on the cloud platform, which has some obvious limitations. No one in the conference room knew how to enlarge the document or how to get it into the demo mode, so the room-full engineer had to squint at the almost invisible text projected through the projector. It doesn't matter, though, because the issues discussed at the meeting quickly shifted to a new feature of Netflix's Obiwan customer service system. After joining this new feature, the customer service system's software interface changes to look a bit like Facebook's "Information Feed" interface, where all customer complaints will have a track record and subsequent solutions will be included. However, the new system did not perform as well as the original system, so the engineers presented a complete set of tests.
Netflix is always testing a variety of things. The company will select a subset of the users (usually tens of thousands of) and treat them as mice. Netflix has made it possible for a subset of users to create avatars for each family member and then provide them with personalized advice. Other users who watched the Netflix video via Sony PlayStation had a voice survey, and Netflix asked the users what they liked to watch on the survey.
The most stringent tests are generally related to recommendations. Netflix has a huge number of movies and TV dramas, but most of the content is older and has limited appeal to users. To make users feel more valuable to Netflix's services, the company has tried to maximize the popularity of its programs in the user interface. A Netflix mathematician is called the "10-foot user interface administrator" because the distance between the users who watch Netflix on TV and the display is typically 10 feet (about 3 meters). The mathematician's job is to arrange the video's "Boxing Art", which is to make the video the biggest user attraction on the TV's big screen. In addition, Netflix has a "two-foot user interface administrator" and "18-inch user interface Administrator" responsible for work related to laptops and tablet users, respectively.
The original copy of all the movies and TV dramas available to Netflix requires 3.14PB (1PB equals 1,048,576GB) storage space. Facebook, in contrast, stores about 1 billion photos and only needs about 1.5PB of storage space. In the past, Hollywood studios provided the original copies of movies and TV dramas to Netflix in the form of CDs or thumb drives, and today the studios used a Netflix system called Backlot to send encrypted files directly over the Internet. Netflix then compresses the files and creates more than 100 different versions, each of which corresponds to the various bandwidth, device, and language requirements of different users-for example, the iphone, which takes about 150MB of storage space--and, in the end, This compressed directory occupies approximately 2.75PB of space.
Netflix makes an analysis every night to see which programs are the most popular. From two o'clock in the morning local time to five, Netflix fills its servers with all the right programs. If "Battlestar Galactica" (Battlestar Galactica) was popular in Houston in Tuesday, Texas's servers would load more episodes in the evening of Wednesday. The most human-bearing video consumes high-speed flash drives, while others are stored in lower-priced, slower hard drives. "We use this predictive model to make sure that we provide what they love before the user asks." "says Ken Florance, vice president of Netflix's content," Ken Florence.
For now, the biggest bet Netflix has made is original programming. The company will not disclose the cost of producing the two-season card house, but according to Hollywood blog Deadline.com, the total cost is about 100 million dollars. Netflix did not choose to play the show's model on a weekly basis, but instead released all 13 episodes in a single session. This means that the audience can sit there for a long time and watch the full season of Solitaire with the spirit of the marathon. It also means that the producer doesn't have to try to change the plot so that the end of each episode is so gripping that it attracts viewers to keep watching. "If you give people a more creative format, they can tell their stories better." "says Ted Sarandos, head of content at Netflix's Teide Salandes. Part of Netflix's goal, he adds, is to turn itself into HBO before HBO turns into Netflix. "They (HBO) provide excellent content that people love, and what do we do well?" is the delivery of the program's technology, is the user interface, video content and computing equipment integration, is seamless streaming playback. ”
Although the hype is not as big as the "card House", the Hemlock Grove attracts more viewers than the former, and "stunted development" may go beyond both. Jean Ki Cohn (Jenji Kohan), the Weeds of Showtime, the latest black comedy "Women's Prison" in July this year, will first land on Netflix's streaming platform. Mr Cohen's view of Netflix was that it was easy to work with the latter, and that Netflix would not interfere in the production of programmes. Cohen didn't even meet Hastings, "I just heard his name, and by the way, his name was a good fit for the role name." "she said. "That's a very romantic, fictional name. ”
Amazon is also launching its own series of dramas. In Hollywood, many people are looking forward to the news that Netflix and Amazon will spend huge sums of money creating more TV dramas. But Salandes said Netflix was careful about making original programming, and that the company would use its own algorithm to determine how many viewers were attracted by the actors starring in the show. "I can use the data we have to determine how much it is reasonable to spend, and we are far more confident in doing this than on TV networks," he said. "he said. Viewers rated the card house with a 4.5-point score of 5 points, and Salandes that this meant Netflix's approach was correct, "It's definitely a mix of art and science." ”
Salandes also said Netflix would use the data to help select actors and directors for future episodes.
Beau Willimon, a Bauer Willimon writer, said the storyline and cast were finalized before Netflix bought the show. "Each actor and story choice is determined by the creator." "he said. Although Netflix has a huge amount of data on the "card House" audience, Willimon is trying to avoid any statistics that are relevant to ratings. "That data is a dangerous thing. "he said. "If you think too much about that sort of thing, you face the risk of trying to please the audience." ”
Although Netflix has a lot of data, it refuses to release any ratings-related information. Unlike television networks, Netflix does not need to prove to advertisers how many viewers they have. "Television networks have had to spend tens of millions of of dollars on promotional campaigns for the largest programmes to attract as many viewers as possible." "Salandes said. "When we buy ads, we just need to let the industry know that something different is happening." "Netflix has angered Netflix," says Cohen. "They make a lot of people feel angry. "said Cohen. "People are angry because they don't publish their data. But I think the reason they are so brilliant is because everyone is talking about them. ”
Netflix's critics argue that the company has sacrificed technical control in order to gain a leading edge over its rivals. "The problem with Netflix is that they are hopelessly tied up with Amazon, forever. Paul Mariz Paul Maritz, Senior computing infrastructure expert and pivotal chief executive of cloud computing start-ups. "It would be difficult if they wanted to change the string," he said. "For such criticism, Hastings and his staff scoffed at it as a" grape sour "mentality.
Another worry is that Netflix is now in the field of original programming, so Hollywood Studios will stop authorizing content. Hollywood is wary of any entity becoming too powerful, which is certainly the right approach. As Netflix expands in overseas markets, the company plans to reach a global licensing agreement, rather than a nation-by-country deal. From the studio's point of view, this would give Netflix a highly profitable provision so that no local competitor could rival it.
Over the past five years, Netflix's stock chart has turned from a smooth upward curve to a messy line. Hastings seemed quite calm about the change. The experiment itself has been a goal, whether the experiment is related to the business mission of such a big event, or personal technology such a trivial matter. Hastings will only use Apple's products for one months, followed by only Microsoft's phones, tablets and notebooks for the next one months. May is Google month, Hastings has been using Chromebook pixel touch screen notebook. "That's how I keep rotating (using a variety of products)." "he said.
Netflix's share price has been hovering around the turn dollar, at 300 times times earnings. In Hastings's view, the share price performance is just another side effect of the learning process, so he doesn't find the road bumpy. "There has been a ' battle ' with blockbuster, and we have made mistakes like qwikster. Hastings said, clearly omitted the company's history of a lot of farce and near-death experience. "Besides, there is no big shock. ”
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