Published on 21-Dec-2006
Online Game Services, Inc (OGSi) provides high-performance hosting services to its online game company clients by implementing IBM BladeCenter servers and IBM System Storage DS4800 Fiber-Channel storage.
To build a scalable, reliable and highly secure yet flexible infrastructure on which to create a dedicated, enterprise-class hosting service that serves the rapidly growing online games industry.
IBM BladeCenter® servers and IBM System Storage DS4800 based storage area networks, combined with game industry-specific design and consulting services.
Allows OGSi to focus on more value-add services to game companies; Enables OGSi to rapidly scale to meet the needs of each of the game companies it serves; Provides higher-performing hardware than many game companies can afford on their own; Offers faster response and greater scalability; Robust common platform reduces support costs; Economies of scale and leverage through large-scale implementation and multiple business strands.
A dilemma for game companies
Online games have become incredibly popular, with millions of players around the world playing on a regular basis. The vast majority of these games run on large collections of servers, and gamers expect very high quality of service at all times. For game companies with limited financial resources, this presents a problem – how to get the high levels of performance, reliability and scalability they need on an ongoing basis, while minimizing risk and keeping costs under control.
The online game industry is highly competitive and its audience very fickle. A game might become an overnight sensation...or a commercial failure. Both scenarios are risky for game companies when it comes to investing in infrastructure. In the first case, a sudden surge in popularity creates the problem of rapid infrastructure scaling, while the second raises the grim possibility of the company being left with a multimillion dollar investment in infrastructure and insufficient revenue to pay it off.
OGSi – Offering an alternative
Silicon Valley-based Online Game Services, Inc. (OGSi) was created to give game companies an alternative to making such potentially risky investments in large-scale, high-performance IT infrastructure: an extensive, robust hosting environment based on leading IBM server technology combined with OGSi’s industry expertise. The company is a game industry-specific business unit of Global Netoptex Inc. (GNi), which provides hosted infrastructure solutions for a range of mainstream enterprise clients, including a number of Fortune 500 companies.
“We exist for a simple reason,” says James Hursthouse, CEO of OGSi. “It’s a matter of core competency. We believe that game companies should focus their resources on innovation, enhancing game play and creating superior graphics. They shouldn’t have to be in the business of owning and managing infrastructure. That’s our core competency. We give our customers superior infrastructure and skills, while at the same time reducing their risk.” By supporting multiple game companies, and leveraging GNi’s wider client base, OGSi is able to spread the risk of infrastructure investment across its entire client base.
OGSi’s hosting infrastructure is based on the flexible, versatile IBM BladeCenter server platform, with storage provided by IBM System Storage hardware. The architecture of the IBM BladeCenter platform provides online game companies with high-performance processing power and cross-server connectivity at an affordable price. BladeCenter systems offer twice the performance density of existing 1U rack-optimized solutions, as well as an unprecedented level of shared redundancy with no single point of failure.
The flexible design of BladeCenter helps OGSi provide a key capability for its game company customers: rapid scalability. A characteristic of online games is that there can be a sudden need for more capacity, driven either by marketing promotions or unexpected events. This can be a significant problem for game companies that host their own IT environment – it’s impractical for them to keep excess capacity on hand to deal with periodic activity spikes. OGSi, as part of its normal service, maintains additional BladeCenter server capacity for each client that allows it to scale up to ten percent in a matter of a few hours...and a further 25 percent in the supply channel, ready to deploy in 24 hours. This provides its clients with significant flexibility that they generally cannot afford on their own.
Staying on the leading edge
OGSi appreciates the IBM BladeCenter platform because the range of models allows them to offer customized solutions for each client. “We do what our customers want...we buy servers to meet each client’s specification, and the BladeCenter lets us do that while retaining a common platform. That simplifies management and reduces cost while allowing us to maintain the highest quality of service,” says Hursthouse.
OGSi’s infrastructure services are sold under a one-year contract with a predetermined, recurring monthly fee. At the end of the contract, a game company can either choose to upgrade part of its infrastructure – moving to newer, higher-performance IBM equipment at the same cost – or receive a discount and keep using the existing BladeCenter servers that were installed when it first signed up with OGSi.
“We offer second- and third-year discounts to counter the assertion that if a company buys its own infrastructure, once its paid off their costs drop. The problem with that point of view is that by the time the equipment is paid for, it’s also no longer at the leading edge of performance.
“By using our services, a company can eliminate that headache and stay at the forefront of technology...without incurring the risk of additional capital investment,” Hursthouse says. “After four or five years with us, the customer will have spent the same amount as if they’d bought their own infrastructure...but during that time, the quality of service and performance they get from us are much higher, thanks to IBM’s technology leadership.”
Economies of scale play a large role in the OGSi business model. Older servers that no longer meet the high-performance requirements of game companies are repurposed and used by other Global Netoptex clients with lower performance needs. IBM server technology fits in well with this model because of IBM’s commitment to open standards. As the hardware ages, it continues to be useful and helps to avoid technological dead ends. The servers therefore have a long, useful life, driven by performance demands.
Thanks to the volume generated by supporting multiple game company clients, OGSi can implement high-end equipment – the OGSi model allows its customers to deploy a better infrastructure than they could possibly afford on their own.
“For example, our storage area network is based on IBM System StorageTM DS4800 Fibre-Channel disk storage units,” notes Hursthouse. “Many game companies have limited resources, and they’re unable to consider such a powerful solution by themselves; thanks to the fact that we have multiple customers, we have the funds we need to invest in top-flight solutions such as this. A typical game company simply doesn’t have that option if it deploys its own infrastructure. It has to settle for a less-expensive, less-capable system...which means lower performance and a lower quality of service. Which in turn means more risk.”
OGSi chose IBM as its infrastructure partner for several reasons. Physical and performance considerations were a significant factor – with so many servers to manage, density was important. “We did a review of what was out there, looking at price/performance and power utilization. The highest density system we could get was IBM,” says Derek Wise, president and CEO of Global Netoptex.
“Also, the technology was better. The custom chipsets in the BladeCenter made a difference in performance to our clients, and IBM offered a greater breadth of computing power. And there’s physical robustness...a lot of other products aren’t built for longevity, just for instant power.”
In IBM, OGSi found a partner with a strong commitment to the game industry, providing industry-specific support as well as the infrastructure technology and skills that OGSi needed. Wise concludes, “When we entered the game space, we realized quickly that we needed scale and response from our team of vendor partners. IBM was the only one, with its dedicated global team focused on this market, interested in the success of our business model, helping us close deals, and establishing and bolstering relationships in the game industry.”
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