Gaming is serious business

Ilya Stechkin - September 8, 2016 - , , , , , , , , , , ,

G-Core Labs had a problem.

The Luxembourg-based global IT solutions provider, which offers a wide range of services, including hosting, CDN, peering network and different levels of support, focuses on creating custom solutions designed to address specific needs of their clients. This meant that securing the online gaming company Wargaming (the makers of World of Tanks, World of Warships and World of Warplanes) as one of its first customers led to G-Core building an unprecedented network infrastructure to support the explosive growth of Wargaming’s World of Tanks audience.

This expertise led G-Core to become the hosting provider of choice for many online gaming clients, but they soon discovered the demands are intense. Analysts estimated 2015 worldwide revenue for online gaming at $65 billion (almost twice the total revenue for movie theaters), predicting a 12 percent annual growth rate through 2019.

G-Core knew these demands first-hand. The company’s infrastructure had enabled it to contribute to setting several Guinness World Records for concurrent players online, with a total peak of 1,114,000.

The company knew it had to take a step forward if it was going to continue providing this level of service to its customers. It was going to have to start looking at the cloud.

Online gaming and OpenStack cloud

The game development industry is a very complex market, with multiple use cases for cloud environments such as OpenStack. For example:

  • Cyber-sports need video broadcasting
  • Game development is extremely resource-heavy; in order to enable developers to exercise their creativity (and get to market fast) their environment must be as agile as possible
  • In most cases, the game itself is only a portion of the computing resources needed; most games also require a significant web presence for player management, signups, and other marketing   
  • And of course, game processing, especially for Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORP)

“We are convinced the key to success in these projects lies not only in the quality of the game itself, but the infrastructure’s ability to evolve together with the project,” said Andre Reitenbach, G-Core Director. “Mirantis OpenStack gives us the flexibility to be even more creative and adapt even faster to players’ wants and needs.”

In G-Core’s case, their biggest concern at the start was securing resources for engineer creativity and marketing.

The challenges of moving forward

Initially developed to support online gaming, G-Core has three main KPIs: low latency, high availability and cost optimization. These parameters pervade many online industries, such as banking or streaming services, thereby expanding the potential client base far beyond gaming.

But moving forward with a cloud architecture is about more than just technical issues. The company would have to overcome business and cultural issues as well, and that meant that the restructuring of business processes had to be planned, together with the technological shift. After all, it’s not enough to implement a new tool; it’s important to understand — and communicate — how it can most effectively solve specific business problems.

For example, consider the change in the internal SLA between DevOps at Wargaming and the Admins at G-Core. The two teams had to communicate and understand what each expected of the other, and how to best take advantage of the new capabilities the cloud environment would bring.

All of this required a partner who could not only provide G-Core with the technology, but also guide it down what would initially be an unfamiliar road.

“On the whole, OpenStack satisfied the requirements,” Andre Reitenbach said, “but we needed a partner that would help build and customize the solution. Mirantis is one of the top contributors to OpenStack, which immediately attracted our attention.  Whenever we dealt with a new vendor, we thought that their experience left much to be desired. We conducted independent testing of Mirantis OpenStack in our datacenter, and the results we got were key.”

G-Core’s journey

Although it’s common to focus on the actual deployment of OpenStack, perhaps the most important part of a cloud project comes long before you ever deploy a single bit. The first step is to figure out just what it is you need, and how to get there.

G-Core was coming from an architecture that had been built on other virtualization environments, and was suffering from high capital expenses and long production times due to manual operations. Even without touching the production game engine, they knew they could do better.

Ultimately the plan was to create four OpenStack private clouds: Staging Trunk for personal virtual sandboxes that developers could use to debug/troubleshoot the code, Staging Stable for pre-release testing of the new software versions, Prod Test for pre-production small scale public A/B testing, and finally Production for publicly available production workloads.  G-Core and Wargaming would also create their own Murano application to provide basic integration of the OpenStack environment with their existing CMDB system so IP addresses and hostnames of the instances would comply with Wargaming policies and get registered in the database.

To start, G-Core and Wargaming have moved the user-facing website and forums for World of Warplanes to this architecture. Ultimately their goal is to make all of G-Core’s infrastructure more flexible, but already the project has resulted in cutting capital expense by half, increasing server utilization by 50%, and reducing time-to-production by using APIs and automation for manual operations. The migration to Mirantis OpenStack helped G-Core eliminate routine labor-intensive operations and allowed the company to fully automate internal processes, giving engineers the resources to focus on implementing new, innovative technologies.

“This use case is yet another demonstration of an acute need for open cloud in the media and entertainment sector,” said Mirantis CMO, Boris Renski. “Big names in the sector, like Disney and Sony Entertainment, have already been vocal about their OpenStack usage as a means of embracing Agile IT, but having legacy-free and natively agile clients of G-Core, such as Wargaming and Hitbox, embrace the technology is a true testament to the disruptive value of OpenStack.”

Looking to the future

Overall, Mirantis OpenStack cost-effectively addresses G-Core’s current pain points and offers a flexible solution to their Online Presence team without compromising on performance and scale, but there was one more piece to the puzzle.

Because G-Core would be operating the cloud themselves, Mirantis offered not only the technical part of the solution, but also training. Company engineers and operators were able to take Mirantis’ OS100 (to gain a detailed understanding of the steps necessary to operate an OpenStack environment) and FUEL100 (for both the theoretical knowledge and hands-on skill set required to operate Fuel to enable the deployment of OpenStack) classes in order to deepen their expertise.

Looking for more?

G-Core, together with its key client, Wargaming, has been building a worldwide solution that meets the highest industry standards. The complete service provided by G-Core, from hosting and CDN to network connectivity and protection from DDoS attacks, enables companies to entrust their IT tasks to trustworthy experts and focus their efforts on their core value expertise — in this case, game development.

Interested in more information about how OpenStack enabled G-Core to provide the environment Wargaming needed? Read the full case study today.

Tank by Conal Gallagher is licensed under CC by 2.0
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