Q & A with Alex Liu, OpenJS Board Member and Engineering Manager at Netflix

We talked with our recently re-elected board member from Netflix Alex Liu about his new position as OpenJS End-User Board Director and learned more about how Netflix finds value in the OpenJS Foundation.

Q & A with Alex Liu, OpenJS Board Member and Engineering Manager at Netflix

We talked with our recently re-elected board member from Netflix Alex Liu about his new position as OpenJS End-User Board Director and learned more about how Netflix finds value in the OpenJS Foundation. Alex represents the many end-users or organizations using JavaScript technologies to build their products and services.

In addition to the End-User Board seat, Netflix is a Gold member of the OpenJS Foundation. Each Platinum member is entitled to appoint one Director to the board, and Gold and Silver members vote to select their representatives. The board also includes community representation, with two Community Director positions elected.

Alex is the Engineering Manager for the Node.js Platform team at Netflix, responsible for curating the Node.js development experience for hundreds of engineers across the company. His team builds on the shoulders of the incredible open source communities that have found a home in the OpenJS Foundation and advocates for the continued support and sustainability of the vibrant communities that have made today’s ecosystem possible.

Using a serverless Node.js platform, you and your team at Netflix curate a complete end-to-end development environment for Netflix engineers who are creating, developing, and deploying Node.js services. How does being on the OpenJS Foundation board help your work at Netflix?

Being a part of the OpenJS Foundation has opened opportunities for collaboration and information sharing. We now have a better understanding of how Node.js is growing within the industry and how Netflix can play a meaningful part in that story. The deeper engagement goes two ways; it allows us to learn from the community and enables us to share unique challenges with our peers.

Within Netflix, Node.js traditionally focuses on server-side use cases separate from the larger front-end JavaScript space, but we leave a lot on the table by not exploring how we can bridge that gap. For many of our engineers building web applications and Node.js services go hand-in-hand and that mindset must be adopted to provide a more holistic development experience for our teams. Additionally, we have JavaScript use cases that are outside of the traditional browser experience. For example, the Netflix TV application experience is a JavaScript UI running on a native SDK, which brings a set of unique challenges. It’s a win / win for both sides as we look to share and grow together with the OpenJS foundation.

Node.js v18 will be released April 18. How does Netflix evaluate new releases of Node.js?

Similar to how AWS raised the abstraction bar for hardware management in the early cloud days, we’re raising the abstraction bar for service development. 

My team owns and operates a managed platform, “NodeQuark”, for Node.js services at Netflix. The mission of the platform is to provide not only the Node.js runtime, but all the integrations needed to hit the ground running in the Netflix ecosystem in a transparent manner. NodeQuark tracks Node.js LTS releases, and the managed architecture allows us to seamlessly test, validate, canary, and ship updates to both the Node.js runtime and our ecosystem integrations without having to involve our customers. Our platform customers need only bring their business logic. 

We do have scenarios requiring more traditional services that are not built on NodeQuark, where service owners are responsible for their entire stack, including evaluating new Node.js releases on their own cadence. In the future we will continue to explore these use cases more thoroughly to support them within NodeQuark.

As part of the OpenJS board, what do you hope to accomplish in 2022?

I’ve been discussing goals for the board with Robin Ginn, our Executive Director. Fundamentally, I want to build better relationships with people engaged with the foundation. Why are you showing up? What keeps you engaged? How is that benefiting you and your company? Better understanding these types of benefits and motivations will help the Foundation better support our members. And that will lead to eventual growth and further investment in the success of the Foundation.

What advice would you offer others wanting to get involved with the Foundation?

I’ve had the privilege of getting involved through Netflix. For individuals who want to share their experience, there is JavaScriptLandia. This is designed to be a part of the community where individual contributors can join and fully engage. My biggest piece of advice is to reach out, say hello, find out what the OpenJS Foundation is up to lately. I’m confident you’ll find a fun and engaging way to join our community!