Should you bother entering Netflix's fix-the-cloud contest?

Though the economics are stacked against developers, a successful contest could ultimately help everyone

Netflix is challenging developers to improve a few cloud features, including usability, quality, reliability, and security. What will the winners of this competion get? A check for $10,000 and, I'm sure, pretty good bragging rights.

There are 10 categories of cloud features, which will be judged by a panel of independent technologists, including CTO Werner Vogels, Thoughtworks chief scientist Martin Fowler, and Netflix cloud vice president Yury Izrailevsk. Each category offers a $10,000 prize, for a total kitty of $100,000. (This Word file contains the rules.)

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Should you bother entering? A few thoughts:

First, this contest centers on Amazon Web Services (AWS) -- one of the judges is the CTO of AWS, and Netflix is a huge AWS customer. It will be interesting to see if someone enters an OpenStack or Windows Azure solution. If so, it won't have a chance.

Second, just $10,000 per category? I suspect the time and effort put into building the proposed solutions will go well beyond that mark, as will the benefits to Netflix and AWS. However, developers have a strange habit of being drawn to these sorts of challenges (I was), and many will bite, despite the bad economics.

Don't get me wrong: Netflix has been an innovator in the world of public cloud computing for some time. This includes releasing its own open source software to help AWS public cloud users perform such tasks such as locating and removing "zombie" processes. Netflix itself is a user, and it has a history of giving back to the cloud community.

I can't really criticize this contest. Netflix and AWS get some free press, and perhaps some good technology. The winning developers get a nice boost to their résumés and perhaps enough money to buy a new scooter. However, it would be nice if it was an ongoing venture, where anyone at any time could bring innovative technology to any of these companies.

This article, "Should you bother entering Netflix's fix-the-cloud contest?," originally appeared at Read more of David Linthicum's Cloud Computing blog and track the latest developments in cloud computing at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.