SEGA is a video game developer headquartered in Tokyo, Japan. The SEGA Online Operations team builds and maintains Internet platforms for the company's western divisions and subsidiary studios. These subsets include the main public websites such as; popular game forums such as Football Manager and Total War; and online game servers. The team's role is to drive development in cloud-based platforms for current and future online requirements.

Stuart Wright, IT & Network Director for the Online Operations team, explains why they opted to work with Amazon Web Services (AWS): "We chose AWS because it is a market leader offering low barriers to entry and a rapidly evolving feature set. The AWS Cloud allows us to have flexibility in our deployments and scaling that traditional server hosting does not provide." He adds, "The field is now sufficiently mature for us to consider AWS part of our long term digital strategy."

The team is migrating all public websites away from co-located servers onto cloud-based systems. Wright says, "Our web servers are scaled Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) clusters, and web content is accessed from pairs of high-availability Amazon EC2 networked file servers. Images and other static files are published to Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets and video content is served via Amazon CloudFront to a global audience."

In addition, the team uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) databases to store forum threads, site content, and project configuration data. They use the high availability Multi-AZ database deployment to handle live game metadata and user-generated content. This adds enterprise-grade fault tolerance for protecting their customer data. By managing time-consuming database administration tasks, Amazon RDS allows SEGA to focus on business critical applications.

Figure 1 provides an overview of the team's webserver architecture:

SEGA architecture diagram

Figure 1: SEGA's Webserver Architecture

As the team's build process is being continually refined, they are moving from simple build scripts toward AWS CloudFormation templates. Wright describes the current configuration: "Our web servers self build on startup from a base AMI using Puppet and Amazon EC2 metadata to determine the project and build modules. Content publishing and synchronization are done using PHP and tools such as s3sync."

Migrating to AWS has offered the team several advantages. Rapid on-demand server availability has been a great help when unplanned load spikes hit after game launches. Wright reports that another benefit of migration has been the reduction of server costs by over 50%.

Wright also reports that the migration process was generally smooth; however, the team found migration of similar services across regions to be more complicated than they expected due to region-specific AMI IDs, security groups, etc.

The team intends to make more use of Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES), Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS), and Amazon CloudWatch as they integrate AWS services into their build and monitoring systems. In addition, they are looking into video streaming via Amazon EC2 and Amazon CloudFront for PR and product development uses, and high performance Amazon EC2 clusters may be useful in future game server deployments.

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