With Amazon Web Services, we have not only had the flexibility to expand our services, but also the ability to establish live data and service replication for our core operations with the help of the AWS Professional Services. This has improved the reliability of our entire gaming operations system.
Jianping Wu IGG Senior IT Manager

Founded in 2005, IGG is a world leading mobile game developer and operator, providing games and game-related services worldwide. IGG is headquartered in Singapore and has offices in the United States, China, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Belarus and the Philippines, with customers in more than 200 countries and regions. As of the end of 2016, IGG boasts more than 340 million player accounts worldwide and 18.6 million monthly active users. In App Annie’s “Top 52 Publishers of 2016,” IGG ranked 27th. IGG was listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in October 2013 and, in 2015, made the leap from the Growth Enterprise Market to the Main Board. In March 2016, IGG became a constituent stock in the Hang Seng Internet & Information Technology Index, the Hang Seng Global Composite Index, and the Hang Seng Composite Index. 

IGG gamers are all over the world, requiring IGG to deploy servers in multiple regions to give gamers the best user experience. Before using Amazon Web Services (AWS), IGG had its colocation data center, complemented by facilities leased from a number of companies.

However, with rapid business growth, the original server deployment model began to face many challenges, three of which were the most noticeable. The first was the difficulty in managing server resources. Limited scalability and flexibility meant that when user traffic picked up the deployment of new servers would often lag behind, and when user traffic temporarily declined, existing server resources became wasted. The second challenge was controlling cost when developing and operating new games. While every game requires considerable IT resources to operate, its success is much harder to predict as it’s influenced by many factors. If a game is not as successful as it was once hoped, the server resources purchased for that game would be wasted. The third challenge was setting up an active-active disaster recovery system to ensure consistent and reliable service for gamers around the world under all circumstances.

In response to these challenges, IGG thought about using public cloud services to supplement its own colocation data center (“Company IDC”), ultimately choosing AWS cloud services after research, analysis and comparison. The decision was put into action a few years ago, when IGG began to adopt AWS services offered from Singapore, Frankfurt, Japan, the United States and other Availability Zones to create overseas gaming regions. In August 2016, IGG decided to establish an active-active disaster recovery system for its core operation systems in Northern California to improve the stability and reliability of the entire gaming operations platform. With the help of AWS Professional Services Team, IGG was able to build the redundant disaster recovery center using AWS services based on the Oregon Availability Zone, ensuring that its core operations will not be disrupted by unforeseen events.

IGG’s first experiences with AWS came from one of its projects a few years ago. The project was about an instant messaging product that required hundreds of high-performance servers to deal with the high and concurrent demand, which the Company IDC was unable to meet. Another challenge came from the project’s exploratory nature: If unsuccessful, hundreds of new servers would be wasted. AWS was perfectly positioned to deal with these challenges, as IGG only needed to pay monthly and could cancel anytime to reduce losses from changing or flagging project. “The results proved that [switching to AWS] was a very wise decision,” says Jianping Wu. Although there are other cloud service providers on the market, AWS’ global coverage, multi-functionality, proven and reliable technology, and professional-grade services are the reasons that convinced IGG to choose AWS.

Global Coverage

The AWS Cloud operates 44 Availability Zones in 16 geographic Regions around the world, including U.S. East, U.S. West, Sao Paulo, Ireland, Frankfurt, London, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Mumbai, etc. In addition, unlike other cloud service providers, each AWS Region offers multiple Available Zones, so users can easily deploy their applications across multiple Availability Zones in the same region for fault tolerance and lower latency. These features made it easy for IGG to deploy servers globally, and allowing it to provide fast, stable, and reliable services for gamers around the world.

Multi-functionality

AWS cloud services provide users with a wealth of features, encompassing computing, storage, networking, analysis, management, security and identity management, mobile services, and much more. “We can use AWS cloud services to fulfill the needs of every area of our business,” says Jianping Wu. For example, IGG’s global gaming operations platform requires a high level of scalability, security, and reliability. When a game’s player traffic surges, new servers need to be deployed and brought online immediately. IGG can use services like Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2), Auto Scaling, and Amazon CloudWatch to set up schedules and scripts to automate server scaling, achieving quick responses to demand peaks and the best gaming experience at a low cost. In addition, to improve the stability and reliability of the Domain Name System (DNS), IGG called upon Amazon Route 53: a fast, easy-to-use, and cost-effective service that can help create and manage DNS through the AWS Management Console. The rich functionality of the AWS platform enables IGG to continually take advantage of new services to eliminate the weakest spots in existing systems and to enhance system stability and reliability.

Professional-Grade Service

IGG’s gaming operations are global. The company provides not only games, but also a large number of infrastructure services. The core operations deployed by IGG in the North California IDC used to be without a disaster recovery system. However, considering the probability of earthquakes in the region, and their potentially disruptive effects on all of IGG’s core operations, IGG hoped to use AWS cloud to establish an active-active disaster recovery system. To that end, IGG engaged the AWS Professional Services, who helped the company to review its business requirements, conduct proof of concept, and build and test various experimental configurations to finally complete disaster recovery system. “Before we got in touch with AWS Professional Services, we thought that a traditional disaster recovery system would make for a poor investment,” explains Jianping Wu, “Furthermore, how to make the most out of AWS’ functions and build a disaster recovery system on the cloud was a challenge for us. Thanks to the help of AWS Professional Services, we completed a goal that would have been nearly unattainable ourselves.”

IGG now uses AWS services for all aspects of its business, customizing them to fit the particular needs of each region: In Northern California, AWS is mainly used for instant messaging; in Oregon, AWS powers the disaster recovery center which provides data backup and recovery services for IGG operations worldwide; in Frankfurt and Singapore, AWS helps deliver top-notch gaming experiences to gamers in Europe and in Asia, respectively. The cloud services that made all these applications a reality include Amazon EC2, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), Elastic Load Balancing, Auto Scaling, Amazon CloudWatch, Amazon Route 53, Amazon DynamoDB, Amazon Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), etc. Figure 1 shows the topology of IGG’s active-active disaster recovery center running on AWS. 

igg-arch-diag

Fig. 1: IGG’s Active-Active Disaster Recovery Center Built on AWS Technologies

Among the many benefits that IGG reaps from using AWS services, the biggest is the low cost of building its remote disaster recovery center. The center enables simultaneous real-time backup of core operations at remote locations, so that if the main server room was down, the cloud-based server would promptly pick up the operations and ensure continuous service availability. With an RTO of less than 30 minutes and RPO of 0, this system perfectly meets IGG’s business needs while also improving the stability and reliability of its gaming operations system. Moreover, choosing AWS also means significant cost savings when it comes to building a disaster recovery system – because unlike traditional, local systems, AWS-based solutions do not require a 1:1 resource allocation ratio to achieve live data and service replication.

The second benefit of using AWS is the substantial boost in flexibility and scalability to IGG’s gaming operations system. Whether it is a sudden uptick in sales or in the number of active gamers in a particular region, IGG can rest easy knowing that the pre-set configuration rules will automatically deploy new servers to address the surging demand. And thanks to AWS, this deployment time was shortened from four hours to a few seconds, ensuring an excellent gaming experience throughout. Conversely, once the demand drops, excess cloud servers will be automatically released to cut costs.

The third benefit relates to operations and maintenance. Simplified management process has reduced IGG’s O&M costs; and due to extensive automation, security and reliability of the whole system also see significant improvement.

To learn how to quickly bring amazing games to life and reach a global audience with the AWS Cloud, please visit our gaming details page.