6 Waves Limited (6waves) is a leading international publisher and developer of gaming applications on the Facebook platform. The company aims to publish the next generation of social games to cover every genre, language, and platform. Scouring the Earth to bring the most fun and exciting games to social network users in the languages they speak, 6waves estimates they have more than 50 million monthly players active on their games—a number that is quickly growing. Their most popular games include Happy Harvest, My Fishbowl, Mall World, and Resort World.
Currently, 6waves is using Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Amazon Elastic Block Storage (Amazon EBS), Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Elastic Load Balancing. Cosmos Tong, System Administrator for 6waves, describes how the services fit into the company’s architecture: “As the games we publish are relatively independent, we group servers of different games into separate AWS (Amazon Web Services) accounts and use Elastic Load Balancing to set up load balancing and AWS security groups to control access.”
Before moving to AWS, the company rented physical servers with other hosting providers. Tong explains why they sought another solution: “We needed to repeat the configuration process on each individual server and spent a lot of time ensuring every customization had been done. When we rented a physical server from another provider, they gave us a ‘standard’ server. Then, we had to spend at least half an hour to install updates, add users, customize the system, etc. And, we had to repeat the process each time new servers were added.” He adds, “Apart from installation, we needed to spend a lot of time monitoring the physical health of each server and handling problems like hard disk failure.”
Tong says 6waves selected AWS “because of the reputation of AWS in the industry, the ease of setting up new instances, and rich features.” He says, “With AWS, things are totally different. We can create and launch instances from our own customized Amazon Machine Image (AMI). After the instance launch, the only thing left to do is spend two minutes changing the server name. The decoupling of storage from the instance largely simplifies disaster recovery and sizing. When an upgrade is needed, we just shut down the old instance and launch a more powerful one using the same Elastic Load Balancing storage. No need to worry about data migration, version and configuration incompatibility, etc. By using AWS security groups, security is no longer implemented on individual servers but centralized. This helps simplify our work and frees us from the nightmare of locking ourselves out of the servers.”
6waves is also evaluating Auto Scaling and how the company might need to change its configurations to adopt it.
One lesson the company has learned is that the decoupling of each instance from the underlying hardware (through virtualization and the pay-per-use model) provides flexibility in implementing a high-quality service at a reasonable cost. Tong says, “We love the flexibility brought by the decoupling of instances and storage from the server hardware, the simple way to scale up and down with Amazon EC2 AMIs and Elastic Load Balancing, and consolidated accounts that help us group cost by cost center (i.e., by game), saving us from the work of manual grouping of individual server cost.”
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