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V3 Hot Seat: Netflix chief cloud architect Adrian Cockcroft

04 Jun 2013

netflix-chief-cloud-architect-adrian-cockcroftAdrian Cockcroft is chief cloud architect at online streaming company Netflix, where he previously managed personalisation algorithm platform development. He was a founding member of eBay Research Labs and a Sun Distinguished Engineer.

Most importantly, it’s Cockcroft we have to thank for keeping the Netflix site up and running when its millions of users are all trying to access the same programme at the same time – take 26 May for example, when the site posted all 15 episodes of series four of cult comedy Arrested Development in one go.

Cockcroft's Hot Seat follows those of BCS president Roger Marshall and Avaya UK and Ireland MD Simon Culmer as part of V3's weekly insight into what makes those in the IT industry tick.

V3: What would be your dream job?

Cockcroft: I’d like to be a partner in a venture capitalist firm, picking out the best new ideas to fund, mentoring the founders and connecting them to a support network to help them be successful.

What’s your current biggest challenge at work?

I’m running the Netflix Cloud Prize, and the challenge is to reach all the people who would be interested in using Netflix Open Source Software and to let them know that we have 10 prize categories, and they could win $10,000 cash, $5,000 in Amazon Web Services credits and a trip to Las Vegas for a useful contribution to the Netflix Open Source Cloud.

Which mobile phone and tablet do you currently use?

My mobile phone is a Verizon iPhone 5. I have an original 'day one shipment' iPad that I still use.

Which person do you most admire in the IT industry?

Bill Joy [co-founder of Sun Microsystems] changed the way I think about IT. He pointed out that the future is non-linear and that people always overestimate short-term changes and underestimate long-term changes. He also seemed to live a few years into the future, which inspired me to always be looking for what comes next.

Which technology has had the biggest impact on your working life?

Most recently Twitter has let me connect with a lot of interesting people. Sometimes I meet them in real life and some of them I know through the @clouderati; this is the community is where I get news, discuss recent events and try out ideas, discuss where to meet for beer, and make new friends.

What’s been the highlight of your career so far?

A big moment for me was when I was listed as one of the top 10 people in cloud for both 2011 and 2012.

What was your first job?

I worked as a software engineer at Cambridge Consultants, in Cambridge UK, building real-time control systems and managing a room full of Sun workstation development systems as a side job.

What’s your favourite thing about working in the IT industry?

The best thing about the IT industry is the high rate of innovation, there’s always something new. My favorite thing about working in this industry is that I can be part of the new things, like Alan Kay said, the best way to predict the future is to invent it.

What will be the next big innovation of the coming years?

I correctly predicted that the iPhone and iPad would be big successes when many people were unimpressed at the launch. The next thing that I think will be big is Google Glass. I signed up for an early one and hope to get it in the next few weeks.

What keeps you awake at night?

Hoping that my daughter (@rockyroadgirl), who lives in London, can get her career launched. She graduated into the worst employment market ever, and has been doing hourly paid jobs and writing a blog while she tries to find a way to leverage her talents into a real career.

What was the last book you read and was it any good?

Drift into Failure by Sidney Dekker. This is a very scary book, it’s a bad idea to read it while you are on a plane or visiting a hospital. It has many examples of how complex systems gradually degrade – people get complacent then everything goes horribly wrong.

Who is your favourite band/musician?

I listen to a lot of music, and particularly like local bands that few people have heard of. My friends Fractal (@momentuum) and MoeTar (@MoeTar) in the Bay Area, Eric Tessmer (@erictessmerband) in Austin TX and Matt Stevens (@mattstevensloop) in London.

Where’s your favourite place for escape?

I grew up on the coast in Weymouth UK, and like to go back and visit my retired parents, but I live a short drive from Asilomar Beach State Park in Pacific Grove California. Asilomar includes an historic hotel and conference center designed about 100 years ago by architect Julia Morgan. It has a great setting with interesting buildings, and the beach has rock pools and unspoilt dunes.

E-readers or real books?

I keep all my books in my pocket using the Kindle app on my iPhone and iPad. I don’t buy dead trees any more.

The Beatles or The Rolling Stones?

Neither, really. Can I pick King Crimson instead?

Favourite film?

Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I can recite most of the script from memory. Everyone who joins Netflix has to say what their favorite film and TV show is for their introduction email to the whole company.

Windows or Mac OS?

MacOS, since version 1.0 on the first Mac. For many years my desktop and home machines were Sun’s running Solaris. I had to use a Windows machine for a few years while I worked at eBay and hated it. Most people at Netflix use Mac OS nowadays.

If you want to volunteer for V3's Hot Seat, or want to suggest an IT leader you think should take part, please email Alastair Stevenson for more details.

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Madeline Bennett

Madeline Bennett is editor of V3 and The INQUIRER. Previously, she was editor of IT Week. Prior to becoming a journalist, Madeline was an English teacher at a London secondary school. Madeline is a regular technology commentator on TV and radio, including Sky, BBC and CNN. 

View Madeline's Google+ profile

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