Netflix Early Days with Greg Burrell

Netflix started with a DVD-by-mail product. The software infrastructure and operations practices needed for the DVD business were very different from those needed by a streaming video company.

Since the early days of Netflix, CEO Reed Hastings knew that the company would evolve to becoming a streaming video platform. But he did not know when the technology would be advanced enough to support video streaming, and he did not know how users would consume it.

Greg Burrell has worked at Netflix for 14 years. Greg was one of the first engineers to start working on video streaming, which Netflix first attempted to implement with a set top box that downloaded movies and played them on your television. After evolving this strategy, Netflix arrived at the current model of video streaming through apps on browsers and mobile devices.

As the company pivoted from DVD-by-mail to video streaming, Netflix encountered multiple challenges across engineering, operations, and communications across the company. At the time, there was no “DevOps” movement. There were not established continuous delivery practices. The available cloud technologies were immature and low level.

Greg joins the show to describe the evolutionary arc of Netflix’s engineering process. Greg also presents a model for software development that he describes as “Full Cycle Development”. At Netflix, engineering teams of full cycle developers work without dedicated operations or testing teams. It is a sophisticated approach to engineering management.

I spoke to Greg at the Fullstack Tech Radar Day, a software conference in Tel-Aviv put on by Tikal, an engineering community based out of Israel and San Francisco. This was a great conference, and we’ll be airing some additional content from it in the coming weeks.



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