By Steve Hamm
When the leaders of KUULUU, a game developer in Hamburg, Germany, began planning their roll-out of RECHARGE, a new Facebook game they’re developing for the music group Linkin Park, they knew they needed a cloud computing setup that would be global, could handle millions of users, and would not fail in the middle of a shoot-‘em-up battle. So they chose as their cloud service provider IBM’s SoftLayer–one of only a handful of outfits that could offer them the performance and dependability they need.
RECHARGE already has 300,000 users in its beta test phase and, when the game is ready for prime time, KUULUU hopes to be able to attract many of the group’s 55 million Facebook followers. “We expect a lot of traffic, so we need to perform flawlessly,” says Jendrik Posche, the executive producer at KUULUU.
Gaming is a huge industry that’s expected to grow to $111 billion by 2015—driven largely by the exploding popularity of online multiplayer games. SoftLayer is a major beneficiary—and enabler–of this trend. It’s the leader in the cloud gaming realm, serving customers ranging from giants with household names to small shops like KUULUU. Another new customer is Multiplay, of the UK, which hosts 60 games including the popular Minecraft and Battlefield 4. All told, SoftLayer’s global network serves more then 130 million active players.
Online gaming, with its fast action and global reach, is one of the most demanding uses for cloud computing. Gamers won’t tolerate delays. They want games to load quickly. They expect their games to be available at any time of the day or night. Those same attributes are valuable to other users of cloud computing—whether they’re consumer brands operating online stores or multinational corporations managing their global purchasing operations in the cloud. “If we can satisfy gamers, we’ll meet the demands of all of our customers,” says Marc Jones, SoftLayer’s vice president of product innovation.
SoftLayer, a company bought by IBM last year, offers a cloud computing in three different modes: public, private and something called “bare metal.” Typically, gaming companies run their games on bare metal—meaning they get server computers dedicated to them rather than shared with other customers. When they anticipate a spike in demand, they can get additional capacity from SoftLayer’s public cloud.
That’s the way KUULUU set things up for RECHARGE. Posche says the company also saw value in the fact that SoftLayer has 25 data centers worldwide—so it can serve a global audience of gamers.
There’s a feel-good angle to the RECHARGE story. Linkin Park supports the non-profit Music For Relief Power The World campaign, which promotes energy conservation. In RECHARGE, players are rewarded with extra points for using less energy when they fight a robotic army to free the world from tyrannical dictators. The idea is to get young gamers to be more sensitive to energy concerns so they’ll live more sustainably in the real world. While each participant plays RECHARGE alone, KUULUU tallies all of their energy savings each day and broadcasts the total—so, in a way, they’re all playing together. “The lesson is: You need each other,” says Posche.
It’s a theme that lies at the core of the cloud computing phenomenon. Through the cloud, we’re all connected, and, at the same time, we’re sharing resources. The cloud embodies the idea that we’re all in this together. Nice thought.
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