Jul 23, 2015

Customer spotlight: CrowdStar reduces costs and improves performance

Ansley Kilgore

CrowdstarAs a mobile entertainment company, CrowdStar designs games specifically for women. The company’s flagship game, Covet Fashion, was released two years ago and continues to gain popularity.

CrowdStar began as one of several companies that initially launched social games on Facebook. But around 2010, CrowdStar shifted their strategy entirely to mobile gaming. The company’s decision to focus on games for women was based on the success of earlier games within this demographic. While women didn’t historically purchase console gaming systems, mobile capabilities have allowed the surge of social gaming for women. As a result, CrowdStar has filled a void in an underserved yet growing mobile entertainment market.

A hybrid approach

As Covet Fashion revenue and the number of installs began to rise, CrowdStar needed to ensure an optimal experience for their growing user base. The company sought a high-performance, low-latency infrastructure that could improve performance and scalability to accommodate traffic surges and facilitate easy rollout of game upgrades.

According to Jose “Tachu” Avila, CrowdStar’s vice president of engineering, the company’s architecture demanded a hybrid cloud approach using bare-metal and virtual cloud infrastructure. CrowdStar uses OpenStack virtual cloud, bare-metal cloud and Performance IPTM service from Internap to create their hybrid environment.

Performance-driven results

After moving its real-time rendering engine to Internap, CrowdStar saw a reduction of 60-70 milliseconds on average per render. With hundreds of renders taking place per minute, this represented a significant cost savings and also provided a better user experience.

The ability to spin up bare-metal servers on demand was a game changer for CrowdStar. When traffic spikes happen, the company can’t afford to wait days or weeks to scale its infrastructure and accommodate changing workload requirements. CrowdStar wasn’t able to achieve this degree of scalability with its previous provider.

Overall, CrowdStar expects to achieve cost savings of 30-40% as a result of performance improvements from a hybridized infrastructure that includes dedicated processing power, higher disk I/O and low latency.

Virtual and bare-metal cloud

User requests and game logic run on OpenStack virtualized instances, while storage of user data including purchase history and other persistent storage runs on bare metal. This approach avoids storing user data on shared infrastructure, where it could be mixed with dynamic game data.

Virtual cloud – CrowdStar can scale up based on demand without affecting game performance or uptime by spinning up new virtual instances to handle traffic spikes. The ability to deprovision these instances after the influx subsides provides a cost-effective way to scale without overprovisioning resources.

Bare metal – The large amount of memory and CPU power required by CrowdStar databases isn’t typically available on virtual instances. “Going native” with bare metal removes the hypervisor from the equation, which makes the entire server instance dedicated to the workload at hand.

The ability to combine OpenStack virtual cloud, bare-metal infrastructure and IP services allows CrowdStar to achieve better performance and reduce costs.

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Ansley Kilgore

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