A Reddit user named PoisonWaffle3 recently acquired a 2013-era Netflix cache server that had been taken out of service and wiped for disposal, marking a rare occasion where the public got a look at the mysterious material, Defect reports.
The decommissioned cache server, called the “Open Connect Appliance” (or OCA), was running as part of Netflix. Open Connect Content Delivery Network. Open Connect is a network of servers around the world integrated with local ISPs that contain local copies of Netflix video content, speeding up the delivery of that content to Netflix viewers by bringing it as close to viewers as possible (both geographically and from a network hop perspective).
Netflix provides a lot of high-level documentation on Open connection on its website, but what is not well known what specific components make Open Connect servers work, especially the one that is almost ten years old. After removing three screws, PoisonWaffle3 peeked inside their unit and found a “pretty standard” SuperMicro motherboard, Intel Xeon processor (E5 2650L v2), 64GB of DDR3 RAM, 36 7.2TB (7200rpm) Western Digital hard drives, six 500GB Micron SSDs, a pair of 750-watt power supplies, and a four-port 10-gigabit Ethernet network card. In total, the server contains “262TB of raw storage,” according to PoisonWaffle3.
PoisonWaffle3 acquired the bright red Netflix cache server because it works for an ISP that was shutting down devices. “We are removing/replacing quite a few Netflix OCA caches from the 2013 era, and I was offered one,” they wrote. “Of course, I couldn’t say no.”
The original user asked for advice on what to do with OCA, and suggestions ranged from harnessing the Chia cryptocurrency (which has plenty of storage space) to run a Complex 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 file storage applications. Whatever path PoisonWaffle3 takes with hardware, 262TB is still a lot of storage for one person, even in 2022.
Interestingly, the now defunct dial-up service Prodigy used a local caching system to distribute data more efficiently using the same basic principle as Open Connect in the 1980s and 1990s. Instead of serving video, this service simply served text data and NAPLPS files vector graphics. Times have changed, but we still want fast data.