A Reddit user named PoisonWaffe3 recently purchased a 2013-era Netflix cache server that had been decommissioned and wiped for deletion, marking a rare opportunity for the public to have a look at the mysterious hardware, Vice reports.
The decommissioned cache server, called an “Open Connect Appliance” (or OCA), operated as part of Netflix’s Open Connect network for content delivery. Open Connect is a network of servers around the world embedded with local ISPs that hold local copies of Netflix video content, accelerating the delivery of that content to Netflix viewers by placing it as close as possible to the viewers (both geographically and from the perspective of network hops).
Netflix offers a lot of high-level documentation about Open Connect on its website, but what isn’t widely known is what specific components make the Open Connect servers tick — especially one that’s nearly a decade old. After removing three screws, PoisonWaffle3 took a look inside their unit and discovered a “pretty standard” SuperMicro motherboard, an Intel Xeon CPU (E5 2650L v2), 64 GB DDR3 RAM, 36 7.2 TB Western Digital hard drives ( 7200 RPM), six 500 GB Micron SSDs, a pair of 750 watt power supplies, and a quad-port 10-gigabit Ethernet NIC card. In total, the server contains “262TB of raw storage,” according to PoisonWaffle3.
PoisonWaffle3 acquired the bright red Netflix cache server because they work for an ISP that retired the devices. “We are retiring/replacing quite a few 2013-era Netflix OCA caches, and I was offered one,” they wrote. “Of course I couldn’t say no.”
The user originally asked for advice on what to do with the OCA, and suggestions ranged from mining the Chia cryptocurrency (which benefits from a lot of storage space) to running a Plex media streaming server. Originally, the OCA ran FreeBSD, but the server was completely wiped as part of the decommissioning process. Instead, PoisonWaffle3 installed TrueNAS, an open source operating system designed specifically for network storage applications. Whatever path PoisonWaffle3 takes with the hardware, 262 TB is still a lot of storage for one person, even in 2022.
Interestingly, the now-defunct online dial-up service Prodigy used a local caching system to more efficiently distribute data using the same basic principle as Open Connect in the 1980s and 1990s. Instead of streaming video, that service provided only text data and vector graphics NAPLPS files. Times have changed, but we still want fast data.