DaaS-appearing trick: Netflix teases desktops-as-a-service product

Aimed at VFX creators working on shows it has commissioned, not the rest of us sadly

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Netflix has teased a desktop-as-service (DaaS) offering.

It’s not, repeat not, a sign that Netflix has any ambitions to challenge Microsoft, Citrix, Teradici, Virtuozzo or VMware as a mainstream provider of virtual desktops.

The Register offers that analysis because Netflix’s announcement of the service names it “NetFX” and describes it as “a cloud-based platform that will make it easier for vendors, artists and creators to connect and collaborate on visual effects (VFX) for our titles.”

So totally not a mainstream DaaS even if the building blocks are identical. Netflix says the service offers “virtual workstations, integrated storage and full access to secure rendering in a connected environment” and is intended to “provide collaborators frictionless access to infrastructure to meet Netflix’s demand for VFX services around the world as our library of original content continues to grow.”

“Vendors will be able to contribute artist resources to optimize capacity and individuals can participate on-demand,” Netflix’s post says, adding “And this work can take place safely in a virtual environment, which is ever more important during the global pandemic.”

A friend of The Register who works in TV production suggested the mention of safe virtual work is a nod to the fact that the VFX industry relies on high-end workstations that animators may not currently be able to access due to COVID-19 movement lockdowns. While it is possible to remotely access such machines, the results don't deliver the speed animators adore.

By spinning up cloud workstations, Netflix thinks it can offer a better experience that helps both its suppliers and its production pipeline (and maybe makes a few workstation vendors nervous).

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Netflix can conceivably deliver a satisfactory experience for animators because it is known to be a colossal customer of AWS, which offers a desktop-as-a-service product called “WorkSpaces”. One WorkSpaces instance type is called “GraphicsPro” and packs 16 vCPUs, 122 GB of RAM, a GPU and 8GB of video memory. That’s a decent spec for many graphics applications.

It’s also possible to create a custom WorkSpaces image, so it is not hard to imagine Netflix has created a WorkSpace full of its preferred software for creating and sharing VFX.

Netflix’s post says the service is currently offered to some of its Canadian suppliers and in 2021 will be offered to creative types in India.

“As the platform develops, we hope to offer NetFX in regions where infrastructure can be deployed,” the post adds. ®

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