Servers and Online Games: Getting Your Dataloads Right

The big MMORPG games are famous around the world, and extremely popular. They’re also one of the best imaginable examples of real time data management on Earth. These games have to manage enormous dataloads, quickly and efficiently. If you consider the sheer number of possible glitches, bugs, runtime freak-outs and the possible scale of any major crack-ups, the fact that these games run so well 24/7/365 is bordering on miraculous. The secret is good, expert use of dedicated servers.

Another issue is only obvious insofar as it’s the “normal” state of these games- They don’t have any downtime, unless truly exceptional circumstances apply. If anyone were to even claim their business network never had downtime, the next question would be “Why not?”, and with good reason. Business networks aren’t as efficient as games. They tend to be underpowered in terms of their handling at some points, and that’s where the problems start.

The irony is that the gaming servers are so much more efficient than their business equivalents. There’s a lesson to be learned here which could save businesses a fortune, and some very basic but core points for online gaming developers.

The Issues

There are several issues to consider in terms of using dedicated servers:

  • Traffic volumes
  • Sources
  • Performance
  • Capacity

There’s a basic rule and a physical constraint which applies to all forms of electronics- Optimum performance is usually in the 65-80% bandwidth load of the electronics. It’s a basic principle of engineering that all electrical and electronic equipment suffers some level of performance loss through any system. This simply blows the systems after a while, usually pretty quickly. Over and above the optimum performance level, servers are the same. Quality of servers can make a big difference, but the point is that they must be operating within realistic parameters relative to their capacity. Traffic volumes, data performance and sources of traffic all impact directly on servers.

This is a true “eye of the needle” effect, and no camels need apply to test it. Servers crash because they can’t cope. Arguably a lot worse in terms of performance for gaming, they’ll slow, dramatically, if they hit their thresholds.

The Gaming Effect

The big gaming sites test their systems for performance and the upgrades you see to games like World of Warcraft, Second Life and others are like best practice manuals for server management. These servers are under more demand for performance than any other type of server, except perhaps the big financial servers, which, for the record, don’t perform anywhere near as well as the gaming servers, relative to their uptime results.  You’ve been thinking that you’d knock someone out if your WoW server went down in the middle of a massive raid…


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Tags : MMOmultiplayerOnline GamingServers