Games and virtual worlds

Analysis of how database and related technologies are used in games and virtual worlds. Related subjects include:

April 16, 2014

The worst database developers in the world?

If the makers of MMO RPGs (Massive Multi-Player Online Role-Playing Games) aren’t quite the worst database application developers in the world, they’re at least on the short list for consideration. The makers of Guild Wars didn’t even try to have decent database functionality. A decade later, when they introduced Guild Wars 2, the database-oriented functionality (auction house, real-money store, etc.) would crash for days at a time. Lord of the Rings Online evidently had multiple issues with database functionality. Now I’m playing Elder Scrolls Online, which on the whole is a great game, but which may have the most database screw-ups of all.

ESO has been live for less than 3 weeks, and in that time:

1. There’s been a major bug in which players’ “banks” shrank, losing items and so on. Days later, the data still hasn’t been recovered. After a patch, the problem if anything worsened.

2. Guild functionality has at times been taken down while the rest of the game functioned.

3. Those problems aside, bank and guild bank functionality are broken, via what might be considered performance bugs. Problems I repeatedly encounter include:

In general, it seems like that what should be a collection of database records is really just a list, parsed each time an update occurs, periodically flushed in its entirety to disk, with all the performance problems you’d expect from that kind of choice.

Read more

April 25, 2013

Analytic application themes

I talk with a lot of companies, and repeatedly hear some of the same application themes. This post is my attempt to collect some of those ideas in one place.

1. So far, the buzzword of the year is “real-time analytics”, generally with “operational” or “big data” included as well. I hear variants of that positioning from NewSQL vendors (e.g. MemSQL), NoSQL vendors (e.g. AeroSpike), BI stack vendors (e.g. Platfora), application-stack vendors (e.g. WibiData), log analysis vendors (led by Splunk), data management vendors (e.g. Cloudera), and of course the CEP industry.

Yeah, yeah, I know — not all the named companies are in exactly the right market category. But that’s hard to avoid.

Why this gold rush? On the demand side, there’s a real or imagined need for speed. On the supply side, I’d say:

2. More generally, most of the applications I hear about are analytic, or have a strong analytic aspect. The three biggest areas — and these overlap — are:

Also arising fairly frequently are:

I’m hearing less about quality, defect tracking, and equipment maintenance than I used to, but those application areas have anyway been ebbing and flowing for decades.

Read more

April 23, 2013

MemSQL scales out

The third of my three MySQL-oriented clients I alluded to yesterday is MemSQL. When I wrote about MemSQL last June, the product was an in-memory single-server MySQL workalike. Now scale-out has been added, with general availability today.

MemSQL’s flagship reference is Zynga, across 100s of servers. Beyond that, the company claims (to quote a late draft of the press release):

Enterprises are already using distributed MemSQL in production for operational analytics, network security, real-time recommendations, and risk management.

All four of those use cases fit MemSQL’s positioning in “real-time analytics”. Besides Zynga, MemSQL cites penetration into traditional low-latency markets — financial services (various subsectors) and ad-tech.

Highlights of MemSQL’s new distributed architecture start: Read more

November 5, 2012

Do you need an analytic RDBMS?

I can think of seven major reasons not to use an analytic RDBMS. One is good; but the other six seem pretty questionable, niche circumstances excepted, especially at this time.

The good reason to not have an analytic RDBMS is that most organizations can run perfectly well on some combination of:

Those enterprises, however, are generally not who I write for or about.

The six bad reasons to not have an analytic RDBMS all take the form “Can’t some other technology do the job better?”, namely:

Read more

November 5, 2012

Real-time confusion

I recently proposed a 2×2 matrix of BI use cases:

Let me now introduce another 2×2 matrix of analytic scenarios:

My point is that there are at least three different cool things people might think about when they want their analytics to be very fast:

There’s also one slightly boring one that however drives a lot of important applications: Read more

July 15, 2012

Memory-centric data management when locality matters

Ron Pressler of Parallel Universe/SpaceBase pinged me about a data grid product he was open sourcing, called Galaxy. The idea is that a distributed RAM grid will allocate data, not randomly or via consistent hashing, but rather via a locality-sensitive approach. Notes include:

The whole thing is discussed in considerable detail in a blog post and a especially in a Hacker News comment thread. There’s also an error-riddled TechCrunch article. Read more

May 1, 2012

Thinking about market segments

It is a reasonable (over)simplification to say that my business boils down to:

One complication that commonly creeps in is that different groups of users have different buying practices and technology needs. Usually, I nod to that point in passing, perhaps by listing different application areas for a company or product. But now let’s address it head on. Whether or not you care about the particulars, I hope the sheer length of this post reminds you that there are many different market segments out there.

Last June I wrote:

In almost any IT decision, there are a number of environmental constraints that need to be acknowledged. Organizations may have standard vendors, favored vendors, or simply vendors who give them particularly deep discounts. Legacy systems are in place, application and system alike, and may or may not be open to replacement. Enterprises may have on-premise or off-premise preferences; SaaS (Software as a Service) vendors probably have multitenancy concerns. Your organization can determine which aspects of your system you’d ideally like to see be tightly integrated with each other, and which you’d prefer to keep only loosely coupled. You may have biases for or against open-source software. You may be pro- or anti-appliance. Some applications have a substantial need for elastic scaling. And some kinds of issues cut across multiple areas, such as budget, timeframe, security, or trained personnel.

I’d further say that it matters whether the buyer:

Now let’s map those considerations (and others) to some specific market segments. Read more

March 21, 2012

DataStax Enterprise 2.0

Edit: Multiple errors in the post below have been corrected in a follow-on post about DataStax Enterprise and Cassandra.

My client DataStax is announcing DataStax Enterprise 2.0. The big point of the release is that there’s a bunch of stuff integrated together, including at least:

DataStax stresses that all this runs on the same cluster, with the same administrative tools and so on. For example, on a single cluster:

Read more

September 5, 2011

Data management at Zynga and LinkedIn

Mike Driscoll and his Metamarkets colleagues organized a bit of a bash Thursday night. Among the many folks I chatted with were Ken Rudin of Zynga, Sam Shah of LinkedIn, and D. J. Patil, late of LinkedIn. I now know more about analytic data management at Zynga and LinkedIn, plus some bonus stuff on LinkedIn’s People You May Know application. :)

It’s blindingly obvious that Zynga is one of Vertica’s petabyte-scale customers, given that Zynga sends 5 TB/day of data into Vertica, and keeps that data for about a year. (Zynga may retain even more data going forward; in particular, Zynga regrets ever having thrown out the first month of data for any game it’s tried to launch.) This is game actions, for the most part, rather than log files; true logs generally go into Splunk.

I don’t know whether the missing data is completely thrown away, or just stashed on inaccessible tapes somewhere.

I found two aspects of the Zynga story particularly interesting. First, those 5 TB/day are going straight into Vertica (from, I presume, memcached/Membase/Couchbase), as Zynga decided that sending the data to some kind of log first was more trouble than it’s worth. Second, there’s Zynga’s approach to analytic database design. Highlights of that include: Read more

August 13, 2011

Couchbase business update

I decided I needed some Couchbase drilldown, on business and technology alike, so I had solid chats with both CEO Bob Wiederhold and Chief Architect Dustin Sallings. Pretty much everything I wrote at the time Membase and CouchOne merged to form Couchbase (the company) still holds up. But I have more detail now. ;)

Context for any comments on customer traction includes:

That said,

Membase sales are concentrated in five kinds of internet-centric companies, which in declining order are: Read more

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