Amazon GameOn Achieves Ultra-Low Latency, Simple Change Processes Using AWS

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It could have turned into a train wreck. The launch date was just days away for Amazon GameOn—a set of flexible APIs enabling game developers to offer leaderboards, multiplayer play, and tournaments with real-world prizes, fulfilled by Amazon. Then the team found what Kaushik Chakraborti, the head of engineering for GameOn, describes as "a critical security vulnerability." He explains, "One of our tables lacked the at-rest encryption it needed. Fixing something like this can require changes in data flows, access restrictions, and even architecture—time-consuming tasks that could have jeopardized the launch."

Could have—but didn't. That's because GameOn is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS) and uses Amazon DynamoDB, where this table was located. "All we had to do was download the data, check a box to turn encryption on, upload the data again, and we were in compliance and could launch on schedule," says Chakraborti. "I was so impressed that AWS had thought of this."

Chakraborti may have been impressed, but he wasn't exactly surprised. It was this kind of foresight—on top of the need for simple, cost-effective scalability—that had led the GameOn team to build a native AWS architecture for GameOn. "One of the great things about running on AWS is that if you encounter a problem, there is a very good chance AWS has already thought of it and provided a simple solution," says Chakraborti. "Because AWS has such a strong record of releasing products and features to address new issues or changing requirements, we knew running on AWS would help us not only overcome the challenges of today but also help us future-proof against the challenges of tomorrow."

“Our customers tell us our response time is best in class, and although we'd love to take credit for that, it's really just down to running on native AWS.”

– Kaushik Chakraborti, Head of Engineering, Amazon GameOn

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  • Benefits
  • AWS Services Used
  • About Amazon
  • Amazon is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire tablets, Fire TV, Amazon Echo, and Alexa are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon.

  • Benefits
    • Delivers P90 latency of 47 milliseconds
    • Achieves 99.995% success rate for external API calls
    • Releases product updates biweekly and major features monthly
  • AWS Services Used

Biweekly Releases with Monthly Major Feature Launches

Released at the 2018 Game Developer Conference, Amazon GameOn offers a non-traditional approach to platform-agnostic REST API offerings for game developers. Whether developers offer their games on mobile platforms like Amazon Appstore, iOS, or Android for PCs and consoles, they are able to register their game once, receive an API key, and easily make use of modular GameOn components in as little as one week.

In addition to storing data in Amazon DynamoDB, GameOn uses Amazon ElastiCache and Amazon DynamoDB Accelerator (DAX) for caching; Amazon QuickSight running on Amazon Redshift for business intelligence and reporting; and Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) to run application logic. It also takes advantage of AWS Lambda, a serverless service that runs code in response to events, for orchestrating background jobs, data collection, fraud detection, and billing processes. One of the most important components in the GameOn architecture is Amazon API Gateway, a fully managed service that makes it easy to create, publish, maintain, monitor, and secure APIs at any scale.  

"We followed AWS recommendations to make heavy use of microservices, as opposed to building a traditional monolithic application," says Chakraborti. "Relying on Amazon API Gateway and a microservices architecture lets us make narrow, specific changes without affecting any other services or components, which is what enables a relatively small product team to release product updates biweekly and major new features monthly."

Another advantage of API Gateway is the ease of differentiating between what internal and external calls can access. "Let's say a specific API exposes 10 services, but we only want our customers to be able to access eight of those," says Chakraborti. "On API Gateway, we have the option to expose the service through two gateways, easily keeping the internal services away from customers without having to code additional logic or change APIs and signatures. API Gateway solves so many problems so elegantly that we never even considered using another product."

“Unheard of” Low Latency Using AWS

One of the most crucial advantages to running on AWS is the extremely low latency that the GameOn team can deliver for its customers. "During our planning and research stage, game developers were clear that they couldn't afford slow response time from our services, so one of our requirements was sub-second latency," says Chakraborti.

Mission accomplished—and then some. According to Chakraborti, for the hundreds of millions of external API calls to the GameOn gateway since launch—calls that had a success rate of 99.995 percent—the AWS architecture delivered a P90 response time of 47 milliseconds. "In my experience, that kind of speed is unheard of," says Chakraborti. "Our customers tell us our response time is best-in-class, and although we'd love to take credit for that, it's really just down to running on native AWS."

The team's scalability requirements have also been more than met. "Traditionally, someone in my role lies awake at night wondering what would happen if scale doubled tomorrow," says Chakraborti. "Because our architecture follows AWS best practices, we don't have any worries about Christmas or Amazon Prime Day, much less the rest of the year. DynamoDB autoscaling handles whatever we throw at it beautifully, without needing any engineering resources to monitor things and make adjustments."

Managing scaling isn't the only undifferentiated heavy lifting that the system's native AWS architecture crosses off the team's to-do list. "We knew we would greatly reduce operational overhead just by building everything the right way up front, and then AWS handles the rest," says Chakraborti. "Because AWS takes care of things like security updates, hardware upgrades, and operating system patches, less than 10 percent of my engineering staff spend any time at all on maintenance and administration, and even those engineers have plenty of time left over to help the rest of us brainstorm and prototype new products and features."

Although running on AWS has been trouble-free so far, Chakraborti isn't worried about finding answers if he does encounter challenges. "AWS offers such strong support, but a lot of times you can find the answers you need just by searching online. The external knowledge base for AWS is already huge and growing every day."

Best of all, according to Chakraborti, is that the GameOn team achieved all this without any customization or tweaks to the AWS services it is using. "It's amazing what a powerful, resilient, scalable architecture we were able to build simply using standard, off-the-shelf AWS tools and technologies.”


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