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Apr 18, 2013

Not your grandmother’s online gaming

inap admin

iStock_gaming_grandmother_300x150Recently, I was invited to attend a meeting of the Georgia Game Developer’s Association (GGDA). It made me remember my first experience with gaming, which involved the original Nintendo game console, and I fondly recalled my grandmother saying that she’d never “waste her time on one of those things.” By the following week, she was helping Link save Zelda in “The Legend of Zelda” and was forever hooked on the iconic role play game.

As I listened to the panel of speakers at GGDA who had just returned from the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco, one new piece of technology they were raving about was Sifteo Cubes. These are 1.7” cubes packed with more technology than my grandmother ever could have imagined. They communicate wirelessly with each other, and up to 12 cubes can be played at one time.

The techie in me began to think about the technology behind these innovative devices and the games that are played on them. To add games, one must download them via a desktop application and transfer them to a device using a USB cable. It made me wonder if Sifteo uses a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to support this type of download capability for their customers.

Internap’s CDN allows gaming companies to efficiently deliver content to gamers anywhere in the world at lightning fast speed. Using a CDN together with our Performance IPTM service creates a faster, more reliable online experience for users. The benefits to this are two-fold: gaming companies are able to distribute their content globally with minimal latency and their customers are able to download games more quickly and get back to gaming sooner. I wonder what my grandmother would have to say about that.

To learn more about the technologies that are essential to game developers, check out Internap’s Online Gaming Industry Handbook.

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Apr 16, 2013

Cloud and CDN: Friends or Foes?

Ansley Kilgore

Cloud and CDNToday’s online users expect high-quality, ‘anytime, anywhere’ access from a multitude of devices. This presents a challenge for content providers to deliver multiple types of large files, including streaming media, Video on Demand (VOD) and other large files to tablets and smartphones, all while maintaining the high-quality online experience that users have come to expect. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are often used as an efficient way to distribute large amounts of content in this manner.

But with the growth of cloud computing, companies have embraced new, cost-effective approaches to IT Infrastructure. The challenge of scaling is no longer prohibitively expensive, and the ability to scale virtually, on-demand has leveled the playing field for small- and medium-sized businesses to compete with large enterprises for market share. With the substantial performance and cost improvements provided by the cloud, this often leads to the misconception that the cloud alone can maintain the high-quality online experience that consumers demand.

In reality, the cloud and CDNs have specific purposes that make them well-suited to work together.

The cloud is a utility computing platform that consists of large physical stacks of computational resources, or, multi-tenant slices of a pre-built mass computational array. This type of dynamic computing power is ideal for processing big data and business intelligence problems, and evolved from the concept of mainframes in a past decade.

CDNs are utility delivery platforms that specialize in one-to-many distribution as opposed to the two-way interactive exchange performed by utility computing platforms. In contrast to the cloud, CDNs are designed specifically to deliver content from servers to the end-users as part of a repeatable process.

High-performance content delivery is a must for websites or online applications serving geographically-dispersed end users. Using the cloud and a CDN together creates a holistic system that meets the demands for content delivery as well as economical computing power. This best-of-both-worlds combination results in an optimal online user experience when incorporated into your IT Infrastructure strategy.

To learn more about the specific purposes and benefits of CDNs and the cloud and how these two platforms work together to meet the content delivery needs of today’s online users, download our white paper, CDN: A Cloud Accelerant.

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Mar 6, 2013

Customer Spotlight: YouSendIt talks cloud, mobile, performance and team leadership

Ansley Kilgore


YouSendIt is a leading cloud file collaboration service that gives users anytime, anywhere access to content via web, mobile and desktop applications. In this customer spotlight, Sumeet Rohatgi, Sr. Director of Engineering at YouSendIt, shares his vision on current technology trends, cloud security, performance and building a successful team. To stay successful and meet the demand for comprehensive content collaboration in the cloud, YouSendIt relies on Internap’s Managed Hosting services, scalable storage solution and global Performance IP connectivity.

Q. What are the biggest technology trends that will affect your business in the near future?

A. The current phase of technology is marked with a rapid expansion of mobile computing capabilities and applications, which are increasingly dependent on the cloud to provide rich content and functionality. Along with the rise of these productivity applications, users’ content is getting fractured and spread over multiple cloud repositories (sometimes referred to as the ‘personal cloud’).

YouSendIt provides cloud content collaboration governance tools for enterprise IT, such as remote wipe, centralized policy management, compliance reporting and encryption. To help end-users search, use and control content spread across their personal cloud, YouSendIt is rapidly incorporating cloudnostic search technology gained from a recent acquisition, Found. Cloudnostic is the idea that anyone can access their content no matter where it is hosted.

Q. How do the growing concerns about online privacy and internet security affect your business strategy?

A. The astonishing influx of new mobile devices in the market brings new capabilities and applications that pose security threats. To secure IP, especially as it relates to enterprise content, some CIOs resort to draconian measures, and limit content collaboration capabilities like MDM (Mobile Device Management), MCM (Mobile Content Management), and even block access to entire sites within their internal organization networks. However, these devices can and often do connect to multiple networks, and IP (content) easily leaks out.

As a result of these concerns, we offer a toolset to build a secure and safe environment for content collaboration. Our solutions put control of shared content in the hands of professional users with features like password protection and file expiration. Our enterprise offering complements this toolset with a single sign-on for enterprise users, both from within the enterprise network and outside. Additionally, governance features like whitelist/blacklist enterprise domains provide a safe and trusted environment for collaboration. We encrypt all content at rest and perform virus scanning on files before downloading. Our cloud operations are PCI compliant and our processes are SOC 2/3 compliant. All communications to user devices and our cloud are encrypted and secure.

Q. Tell us why performance is important to your business.

A. The ability to access your cloud content anywhere, anytime and the fact that we have over 40 million users puts an enormous performance requirement on our infrastructure. Downtime or inability to access content even for a brief period is an immediate loss of trust, and at times a loss of business. Our applications (web, desktop and mobile) use Internap’s Content Delivery Network (CDN) to ensure content is delivered rapidly. We also have storage servers in multiple locations to help make content transfer faster to our users no matter where they are globally.

Q. Your CEO has discussed the importance of building a great team. What do you think is the most essential ingredient for successful technology teams?

A. Successful technology teams start off by having a set of shared foundational values — namely, respecting and trusting the judgment of every team member. In today’s cloud technology environment, a broad range of skills needs to be present on the team: setting up/maintaining cloud servers, being polyglot in writing platform specific applications and architecting solutions that can scale and be flexible at the same time. To counter a rapidly changing environment, being agile is another necessary ingredient. The team as a whole needs to be able to quickly understand and take advantage of features being added by the platform manufacturers. If you do not have respect and trust in your team, none of the above can happen.

From the rest of the organization, the team demands a high level of support and trust in their decision making. Technology teams should be empowered to make and conversely be held accountable for their decisions. The organization needs to be tolerant of risk and comfortable with the possibility of failure, as this creates a culture of innovation which can lead to subsequent higher returns.

Watch the video to learn more about how YouSendIt controls their IT Infrastructure.

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Feb 8, 2013

Trends for content owners in 2013: the rise of the multi-tablet household

Ansley Kilgore

Trend 2: The rise of the multi-tablet household
Content owners are now faced with the challenge of providing an optimal user experience for a variety of devices, including tablets. As the number of multi-tablet households increases, customers are using them in different ways – smaller devices are more likely to be used for eBook reading, mobile-as-Web browsing, email and photo sharing, while their larger 10-inch counterparts may work better for browsing full versions of websites, reviewing presentations or watching full-length video. How will digital publishers meet the demand for content that is quick to load, always available and optimized for a myriad of devices?

To learn more, download our white paper, Five Trends to Watch for Content Owners in 2013.

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Dec 14, 2012

Hi-Rez Studios achieves performance and platform flexibility

Ansley Kilgore

How do online game developers make sure their players get the best user experience possible? Challenges such as latency, scalability and increased competition within the gaming industry can have an adverse effect on player retention and the number of daily active users.


Hi-Rez Studios, Inc., a recent winner of the TAG Excalibur Award, relies on Internap’s Performance IP, cloud hosting and Content Delivery Network (CDN) services to address these challenges. As an independent studio that creates online interactive entertainment, they have successfully launched two massively multiplayer online games worldwide while scaling seamlessly to support traffic growth from 100 gigabits per year to 1.6+ petabytes per month.

Learn more about how Hi-Rez Studios drives player loyalty and stays competitive with a high-speed scalable IT Infrastructure.

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Dec 13, 2012

Wii U update points to importance of content delivery services

INAP

 importance of content delivery servicesMany consumers who went home with a new Wii U on November 18 were dismayed by the need to download a firmware update that in some cases took more than an hour to complete. Nintendo recently announced another firmware update coming out for the console and warned that it also will take an hour or more to download for many users.

As a result, Content Delivery Network (CDN) and web acceleration solutions are becoming vital to the video game industry. You don’t want to have somebody buy a game that you just released only to have them wait an hour before they can even play it. If you are supporting digital downloads, you want to make sure the process does not take so long that users become frustrated with your game before they even make it to the title menu.

The evolution of system performance
As hardware evolves to the point that 1080p resolutions are commonplace, data distribution problems can emerge. The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are both outdated from a hardware standpoint. When the new versions of those consoles come out, which most experts anticipate will happen in 2013, the video game industry will likely take a major stride forward in game and hardware performance. Furthermore, the heightened hardware capabilities in consoles will likely lead to developers taking advantage of more PC capabilities as well, as they have been limited by the low baseline established by current consoles.

This creates an environment in which performance throughout games — not just in terms of graphics, but also in artificial intelligence, social interaction, network functionality and motion sensing — could rise in almost every genre and type of game. At the same time, system management will also become more complex, leading to the need for major firmware updates like the ones Nintendo is dealing with. All of this is compounded by the need to treat all consoles like computers from a security standpoint and make regular updates to deal with any vulnerability.

The future of content delivery
So, why does this evolution matter? When Nintendo asked users to wait more than an hour for a download, it was unheard of. This may not be the case for long. With the amount of data that will go into games and systems during the next few years, large updates will likely be necessary. This makes data delivery a priority for developers, publishers and console OEMs because they have to make sure data gets to end users without such long download times. Otherwise, update and patching speeds could become a customer service issue moving forward, something that is already prevalent in online video games and will likely become more prominent as games get more expansive and intelligent.

Nintendo’s initial struggles with Wii U firmware updates, while understandable, point to the problems that could be coming with next-generation video games. Some issues could be specific to the Wii U firmware and the nuances of the console, but the data transit climate needed to support advanced video game functionality should not be downplayed. Network services can help companies overcome some of these problems and put themselves in a solid position to keep their customers happy through efficient updates and content delivery processes.

To learn more about the importance of efficient content delivery for game developers and publishers, download the Online Gaming Industry Handbook.

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Oct 11, 2012

Design matters. Usability matters.

inap admin


This is our conference room in the NYC office.

You’re late to join a meeting in progress. As you approach, your brain hunts for context clues on how to open the door. The handles are identical on both sides; it’s not immediately clear whether you push or pull. You take a chance and pull, only to have the door clang loudly — someone walks over and slides the door horizontally as everyone in the room laughs.

I’ve personally watched that happen more times than I can count and every time the person thinks it’s their fault. That’s untrue — they didn’t blow it, the designers did.

Design matters. Usability matters.

Seemingly small interactions constantly impact our productivity and our mood, they impact your impression of a company. Design and usability are meaningful concepts, and with the addition of a newly formed team, it’s becoming a meaningful part of Internap.

In May of this year, the User Experience team was created here with the sole edict of improving the look, feel and experience of our customer-facing tools and interactions. We went on a hiring spree to bring in some of the best design & developer talent we could find and started thinking hard about what exactly user experience meant in our industry.

For a long time, it was acceptable that business software was complicated. Generally speaking, it was sold on raw functionality and the learning curve was expected to be high. Enterprise training agreements and healthy annual support contracts were the norm and all was right with the world.

Then people started using software in their everyday lives. All kinds of people. Your grandmother is on Facebook, my father has an android phone. Table stakes have been raised.

Nobody should have to use business software that is bad. The expectations of software have elevated dramatically over the last couple years and there are no more valid excuses to not have a functional, usable, beautiful application.

The hit list

First, we’ve set our sights on a ground up redesign of the customer portal. This is where you’ll go to manage your infrastructure, pay your invoices and open support tickets.

Initially, we will be supporting our Agile Hosting infrastructure and account management, and then expand functionality across the entire product set of Managed Hosting, Colocation, CDN and IP over the next several months. Our first public release is being built to function seamlessly across desktop, tablet and mobile platforms, using responsive design best practices to step down gracefully.

Along the way, we’ll be publishing a short series of posts to give you an idea of how we have approached the new portal. We’ll be talking about our foundational ideas, user personas, mistakes we made and share some screenshots that didn’t make the cut.

What is success?

Ultimately, the industry and our customers will collectively decide if we hit the mark. If it’s really great, you’ll hear about it. If you don’t, it’s because we missed the mark and produced something average.

Our goal is both external and internal. We want our staff to be impressed with our tools and excitedly show their friends. We want to attract the best employees to come work for us. We want the best customers to seek us out because they feel we’re a technology partner, not just their infrastructure provider.

A tall order? Probably. But when you feel like what you do really matters, you do your best.

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Oct 2, 2012

Five trends to watch for content owners: Mobile and the demise of the content schedule

Ansley Kilgore

managed hostingThis is week four of a five-part series on trends for content owners. Catch up on the rest of the trends here.

Humans are creatures of habit. We are hard wired to build routines and establish schedules, even subconsciously. It’s nice to know that on Thursday night at 9:30 PM ET you can sit down, turn on your television and see the first run of Parks and Recreation. Deloitte echoed these tendencies by recently predicting that in 2012, 95% of television programs would be viewed within 24 hours of broadcast.

But anyone who has used a DVR can attest to the satisfaction of not only replaying that episode you missed but also avoiding irritating commercials. In several major TV markets, DVR penetration rates are already above 50%. Although not officially classified as such, tablets and smartphones are in many ways, just portable DVRs. These devices enhance content replay by adding a view-anywhere element (dubbed “place shifting”) to the mix.

Music streaming services like Rhapsody and Spotify recognized this value to consumers early on by rolling out mobile versions of their streaming applications. Consumers quickly signaled they were willing to pay for this convenience. Spotify’s introduction of its mobile product drove 2x conversion ratio from free to paying subscribers.

Online publishers face a similar trend. According to Pocket, the developer of the Read It Later I/OS app that allows users to tag content they wish to read later, mobile users defer reading content at much higher rates than PC users. Regardless of when the news was published within a particular day, iPhone and iPad users shifted reading times back to the most convenient times for them — during breakfast, the morning and afternoon commutes, and right before bed.

How are content owners responding?

Mobile is hastening the move away from traditional viewing schedules. This changing landscape is driving publishers and advertisers to carefully consider when and where the user interacts with content. To get a fuller picture of the media consumer, content owners are analyzing device and location-based information as well as more traditional demographic and time-based metrics. It follows that the emergence of mobile payment services like Square and Google Wallet present huge monetization possibilities for content owners that understand where their media are consumed.

From an IT Infrastructure perspective, digital publishers that want to enhance their audience targeting are looking for service providers that have a full range of capabilities. In addition to having public cloud, managed hosting and enterprise-class colocation to effectively manage and store large location-based and customer-specific media libraries, content owners are also looking for IT vendors to provide native content delivery network capabilities that include geo-fencing and deep analytics to round out their content targeting requirements.

Stay tuned for our last trend on the list next week: HMTL5 versus Flash. While you wait, check out how AudienceScience leverages IT Infrastructure to deliver online advertising solutions.

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Jul 10, 2012

Three considerations for creating online gaming infrastructure

INAP

Three considerations for creating online gaming infrastructureThe 1980s marked the “golden age” of arcade video games. All you needed was a fistful of quarters for an afternoon of fun playing favorites like Pong, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man. Although you can still find those same classics on display as antiques in pizzerias, today’s gaming industry has morphed to include a multitude of genres across an array of platforms. With driving factors like the spread of high-speed broadband connections, Internet penetration and the popularity of social networking sites, online gaming seems to be a natural progression for the industry. These forces combined with new game varieties, new gamers and advanced technologies are fueling Business Insight’s prediction in their “Video Gaming Industry Outlook 2011” that the online gaming market will reach $25.3 billion dollars by 2014, a compound annual growth rate of 13.9% since 2009.

Intense competition for gamers, however, is a major concern for publishers. Gamers are a finicky breed, abandoning games that don’t offer maximum uptime and high speeds. Even one millisecond of delay for gamers is the difference between slaying the dragon and becoming the dragon’s lunch. Providing reliable downloads, eliminating buffering and delivering dynamic game rendering are real concerns for studios trying to capture these mercurial consumers. Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams put it well in their book, Fundamentals of Game Design, when they said, “Online gaming is a technology rather than a genre, a mechanism for connecting players together rather than a particular pattern of gameplay.” As a technology offering, it only makes sense to consider the IT backbone behind the title as a key differentiator in the online gaming realm. But where does a game studio begin? Here are three considerations to get you started:

  1. Enhanced Content Delivery Network (CDN) for fast game setup: Leverage a global network of edge POPs to cache game code and static media for initial downloads, patches and pre-rendering.
  2. TCP-accelerated CDN to speed downloads and eliminate buffering: TCP acceleration from the CDN edge server to the end user significantly reduces download times. A full CDN feature set ensures multi-device support including Apple and Android OS.
  3. Route-optimized IP for dynamic game variables: Because many game elements are highly variable, robust connectivity from the end user to the origin server is essential. Dynamic routing over multiple backbones mitigates latency and maximizes uptime.

Looking for more winning IT Infrastructure ideas? Check out our online gaming solutions sheet for more.

Image credit: Hi-Rez Studios’ Tribes Ascend

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Jun 28, 2012

London takes on IT of Olympic proportions

INAP

London takes on IT of Olympic proportionsYesterday, I watched a friend of mine compete in the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming. I streamed the live webcast and sat through race after race waiting for those 4 minutes and 11 seconds of glory when she would swim the 400 IM. Through countless heats, eight swimmers at a time dove into the pool and upon completion of their race, the results and times were instantly available on the screen. This got me thinking about the technology behind sporting events like these; imagining how complex one swim meet must be, I could hardly fathom the idiosyncrasies surrounding something like the Olympic Games!

A quick Google search tells me I’m right about the Olympics: they are one hefty IT operation. The Technology Operation Centre (TOC) for the Games opened last October, and ever since have been testing for every possible scenario. They held full technical rehearsals in March and May and have faked everything from computer and server failures, to employees calling in sick, to cyber attacks and beyond. The Olympics are known for being a worldwide showcase of the latest innovations and technology, and it looks like London has taken many precautions to make sure their IT Infrastructure can handle the weight. This video gives a brief overview of the TOC in action, so cool!

Is your IT Infrastructure ready for whatever hurdle comes its way? Internap’s Network Operations Center (NOC) provides 24/7 proactive customer support with a team of highly-certified engineers at your disposal. The NOC is just part of the reason why we can boast 100% network availability. Learn more about our extraordinary IT support from exceptional IT people.

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