Presentation: Netflix Play API - An Evolutionary Architecture

Track: Architectures You've Always Wondered About

Location: Ballroom A

Duration: 1:40pm - 2:30pm

Day of week: Tuesday

Level: Intermediate

Persona: Architect, Developer

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What You’ll Learn

  • Learn how to make decisions in your architectural design using the Type1/Type2 decision framework.

  • Understand how to ensure original architectural principles and decisions are maintained as architecture evolves.

  • Hear why evolvability and identity act as top guiding principles in the success of your architecture


The Play API Service is responsible for orchestrating all playback workflows whenever a user watches a title on Netflix. If the Play API service is down, Netflix is down. In its seven-year journey, the service has gone through three major re-architectures: Take-1 began with a traditional monolith where the API and its associated business functions were all part of the same service. Take-2 was about decomposing the monolith into a few key microservices - but, in the process, we inadvertently built a distributed monolith with tight coupling and thick client libraries. With Take-3, our goal is to break away from a distributed monolith and to build an evolutionary microservice architecture which puts change-driven-design first above all other principles.
This talk will deep dive into how we used a set of three core foundational principles to iteratively develop our architecture. Along with providing the necessary motivation behind our goals, I will specifically talk about what patterns we observed in our previous architectures and how we arrived at a list of practices to create an Evolutionary Architecture. If you are building a new set of services or considering a major re-architecture, this talk provides you with a framework to reason about your use-cases.
This talk is intended for engineers with experience in service-based architectures
Key Takeaways:
  • Three foundational principles that can guide you in designing a microservice architecture:
    • Why focussing on “identity” lays the foundation for your architectural design
    • Why it is important to identify Type1/Type2 decisions
    • Why evolvability is crucial, specifically when it comes to “known unknowns”!
  • Concrete lessons learned around:
    • Different types of coupling and its limitations
    • How we can choose a mix of async/sync architectures to unlock evolvability
    • Ensuring we are not building a Data Monolith

QCon: What is the focus of your work today?


Suudhan: I work on the Playback API team whose identity is to deliver Playback Functionality 24/7. I, along with a team of stunning colleagues, own and operate the critical Play API service which orchestrates playback functions like deciding the best playback experience, authorize every playback and collect playback data for business intelligence. For the past 2 years, i lead the initiative to re-architect this service to significantly improve our scalability, availability and developer velocity.


QCon: What’s the motivation for this talk?


Suudhan: Our API service have gone through 3 architectures. With Netflix scale, we often hit limitations of our architecture every 3 or so years. In this third iteration, we have architected a solution to optimize for evolvability. We fully expect things to change in 3-5 years time and we want an architecture in which each aspect of the architecture can be replaced with minimal overhead. My motivation for the talk is to share our learnings with this architecture and have an exchange of ideas with the qCon audience. I am particularly interested in hearing opinions about aspects which we might have overlooked or how some elements of our architecture can be applied to different domains.


QCon: How you you describe the persona and level of the target audience?


Suudhan: Target audience is a senior software engineer who has had some experience with owning and operating services. The talk will appeal to persons who are thinking about re-architecting any part of their services; or starting afresh on a new architecture.


What technology problem keeps you up at night?


Suudhan: These are some of the problems i am thinking about:

1) How to convert real-time data services to materialized views to significantly improve our throughput and reduce point of failures in our critical systems.

2) How to isolate request-response style APIs from fire and forget ones to optimize for different attributes (like availability for the former and consistency for the latter)

3) When we see an availability drop, how to shed load by smartly degrading our user experience till the issue is resolved

Speaker: Suudhan Rangarajan

Senior Software Engineer @Netflix

Suudhan Rangarajan works on the Playback API team at Netflix, responsible for ensuring that customers receive the best possible playback experience every time they click play. A few dozen playback microservices fill a key role in enabling Netflix to stream amazing content to 125M+ members on 1000+ devices. Prior to Netflix, Suudhan worked on the Audio/Video decoding pipeline in Adobe Flash and Adobe Primetime products helping many partners create a great video streaming client. Suudhan enjoys developing and running large scale distributed services, with a special focus on Netflix Playback API architecture and design. Suudhan has received a Masters in Computer Science from University of Texas at Austin.

Find Suudhan Rangarajan at

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