According to a report by Vice, Redditor PoisonWaffle3 shared a new post detailing how he managed to snag one of Netflix's 10-year-old caching servers for free. Even though it is a decade old, it packs some serious hardware even by today's standards and features an impressive 262TB of storage. This post represents one of the very few times we've seen Netflix's server infrastructure up close and personal.
The Redditor says he received the Netflix server courtesy of the company he works for, an internet service provider. Apparently, the ISP has used these Netflix servers for years but is now upgrading its infrastructure with newer hardware, which is how PoisonWaffle3 managed to get this server for free.
According to Vice, this server is known as a Netflix caching server and was part of Netflix's open connect content delivery network (CDN). This system is still in use today and is designed to reduce overall bandwidth demands on the Netflix platform by giving ISPs their own Netflix caching server. This allows popular Netflix content to play directly from the ISP's servers instead of traveling from Netflix's server farms.
The server is painted in bright red and comes in the form factor of a 4U rack-mounted server chassis. An LCD for monitoring server health is on the front, along with a pair of VGA ports and a pair of USB ports. To the left is a pair of thin power supplies that are likely hot-swappable.
Specs feature a Supermicro motherboard packing a single Intel 10-core hyperthreaded Xeon E5 2650L v2 chip, 64GB of DDR3 memory and a 10 GbE card. For storage, the system utilizes six 500GB Micron SSDs and 36 7.2TB 7200RPM drives. We don't know what protocol the drives are running on, but we can presume them to all be SAS drives (including the SSDs).
Even by today's standards, these core specifications aren't bad and were incredibly good back in the early 2010s when this server was first deployed. 64 GB of memory and 262TB of storage is nothing to sneeze at, especially for home use as a network attached storage (NAS).
Putting aside the beefy specifications, the unit is apparently pretty simple on the software side of things. According to Vice, Dave Temkin, Netflix's former VP of NSI says these Netflix servers are just Intel FreeBSD boxes, while some run on Linux. This makes sense, considering the servers were only designed to cache video files coming from Netflix servers and nothing more.
According to the Redditor, his Netflix caching server did need some repairs, including replacing a few noisy fans and one failed drive, but that's about it. He says the server will get a second life operating as a NAS at home.
My 80TB QNAP says - 'meh'.
I hope for the best, really, but if video game companies don't want their 13 year old dev kits for irrelevant HW out in the wild, I can't see Netflix feeling much differently.
As someone pointed out above, power and heat are issues (as is noise). So all things considered, while cool to have at work, while I wasn’t paying for electricity and AC, it’s overkill for a plex server and basic file serving.
Anyone in the market? Dual 10-core Xeons, 64GB ram and 4x 10Gb intel ports…
I'm a little surprised it was only single-CPU, especially given that each additional Xeon proportionately increases PCIe lanes. However, as this is pre-NVMe, it probably just has some x8 RAID cards for storage + the network card.
Not only that, but my experience with servers is that many are designed without dust filtration, under the presumption they're operating in a clean environment. Run it 24/7 in your home, for a couple years, and the inside will likely be caked with dust.
In the article (I read) it discusses that the system was wiped and did not come with software. The new owner put FreeNAS on it according to that, so don't really see where they would or could have issue since as far as I could tell (also by the article) that they are the ones who gave it to him while doing other work onsite.
I admittidely didn't read it and went by the obvious clickbait/misleading title. It implies it's still a functional caching server. But yeah if it's wiped I guess no issue.