Games and virtual worlds
Analysis of how database and related technologies are used in games and virtual worlds. Related subjects include:
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:
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:
- If you deposit a few items, the bank soon goes into a wait state where you can’t use it for a minute or more.
- Similarly, when you try to access a guild — i.e. group — bank, you often find it in an unresponsive state.
- If you make a series of updates a second apart, the game tells you you’re doing things too quickly, and insists that you slow down a lot.
- Items that are supposed to “stack” appear in 2 or more stacks; i.e., a very simple kind of aggregation is failing. There are also several other related recurring errors, which I conjecture have the same underlying cause.
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.
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:
- There are vast numbers of companies offering data-management-related technology. They need ways to differentiate.
- Doing analytics at short-request speeds is an obvious data-management-related challenge, and not yet comprehensively addressed.
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:
- Customer interaction
- Network and sensor monitoring
- Game and mobile application back-ends
Also arising fairly frequently are:
- Algorithmic trading
- Risk measurement
- Law enforcement/national security
- Stakeholder-facing analytics
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.
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
|Categories: Clustering, Database compression, Emulation, transparency, portability, Games and virtual worlds, Investment research and trading, Log analysis, MemSQL, MySQL, NewSQL, Transparent sharding, Zynga||6 Comments|
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:
- SaaS (Software as a Service).
- A low-volume static website.
- A network focused on office software.
- A single cheap server, likely running a single instance of a general-purpose RDBMS.
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:
- A data warehouse that’s just another instance of your OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing) RDBMS. If your problem is that big, it’s likely that a specialized analytic RDBMS will be more cost-effective and generally easier to deal with.
- MOLAP (Multi-Dimensional OnLine Analytic Processing). That ship has sailed … and foundered … and been towed to drydock.
- In-memory BI. QlikView, SAP HANA, Oracle Exalytics, and Platfora are just four examples of many. But few enterprises will want to confine their analytics to such data as fits affordably in RAM.
- Non-tabular* approaches to investigative analytics. There are many examples in the Hadoop world — including the recent wave of SQL add-ons to Hadoop — and some in the graph area as well. But those choices will rarely suffice for the whole job, as most enterprises will want better analytic SQL performance for (big) parts of their workloads.
- Tighter integration of analytics and OLTP (OnLine Transaction Processing). Workday worklets illustrate that business intelligence/OLTP integration is a really good idea. And it’s an idea that Oracle and SAP can be expected to push heavily, when they finally get their product acts together. But again, that’s hardly all the analytics you’re going to want to do.
- Tighter integration of analytics and other short-request processing. An example would be maintaining a casual game’s leaderboard via a NoSQL write-optimized database. Yet again, that’s hardly all the analytics a typical enterprise will want to do.
|Categories: Business intelligence, Data warehousing, Games and virtual worlds, Hadoop, In-memory DBMS, MOLAP||10 Comments|
I recently proposed a 2×2 matrix of BI use cases:
- Is there an operational business process involved?
- Is there a focus on root cause analysis?
Let me now introduce another 2×2 matrix of analytic scenarios:
- Is there a compelling need for super-fresh data?
- Who’s consuming the results — humans or machines?
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:
- Fast investigative analytics — e.g., business intelligence with great query response.
- Computations on very fresh data, presented to humans — e.g. “heartbeat” graphics monitoring a network.
- Computations on very fresh data, presented back to a machine — e.g., a recommendation engine that includes makes good use of data about a user’s last few seconds of actions.
There’s also one slightly boring one that however drives a lot of important applications: Read more
|Categories: Business intelligence, Complex event processing (CEP), Games and virtual worlds, Log analysis, Predictive modeling and advanced analytics, Splunk, WibiData||4 Comments|
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 original technology was developed to track moving objects on behalf of the Israeli Air Force.
- The commercial product is focused on MMO (Massively MultiPlayer Online) games (or virtual worlds).
- The underpinnings are being open sourced.
- Ron suggests that, among other use cases, Galaxy might work well for graphs.
- Ron argues that one benefit is that when lots of things cluster together — e.g. characters in a game — there’s a natural way to split them elastically (shrink the radius for proximity).
- The design philosophy seems to be to adapt as many ideas as possible from the way CPUs manage (multiple levels of) RAM cache.
|Categories: Cache, Clustering, Complex event processing (CEP), Games and virtual worlds, GIS and geospatial, Open source, RDF and graphs, Scientific research||2 Comments|
It is a reasonable (over)simplification to say that my business boils down to:
- Advising vendors what/how to sell.
- Advising users what/how to buy.
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:
- Is a large central IT organization.
- Is the well-staffed IT organization of a particular business department.
- Is a small, frazzled IT organization.
- Has strong engineering or technical skills, but less in the way of IT specialists.
- Is trying to skate by without much technical knowledge of any kind.
Now let’s map those considerations (and others) to some specific market segments. Read more
|Categories: Data mart outsourcing, Games and virtual worlds, IBM and DB2, Investment research and trading, Microsoft and SQL*Server, Open source, Software as a Service (SaaS), Telecommunications, Web analytics||9 Comments|
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:
- Cassandra — the NoSQL DBMS, which DataStax sometimes calls “DataStax Server”. Edit: That’s not really a fair criticism of DataStax’s messaging.
- Hadoop MapReduce, which DataStax sometimes calls “Hadoop”. Edit: That is indeed fair.
- Sqoop — the general way to connect relational DBMS to Hadoop, which DataStax sometimes calls “RDBMS integration”.
- Solr — the search-centric Apache project, or big parts of it, which DataStax generally calls either “Solr” or “Solr compatibility”.
- log4j – an Apache project that has something or other to do with logging, or parts of it, which DataStax sometimes calls “log file integration”.
- DataStax OpsCenter — some management tools and so on around Cassandra and the rest of the product line.
DataStax stresses that all this runs on the same cluster, with the same administrative tools and so on. For example, on a single cluster:
- You can manage the interactive data for a web site.
- You can store the logs for that website.
- You can analyze all of the above in Hadoop.
|Categories: Cassandra, Clustering, DataStax, EAI, EII, ETL, ELT, ETLT, Games and virtual worlds, Hadoop, Log analysis, Market share and customer counts, NoSQL, Parallelization, Text, Web analytics||5 Comments|
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
|Categories: Aster Data, Couchbase, Data models and architecture, Games and virtual worlds, Greenplum, Hadoop, Petabyte-scale data management, Specific users, Vertica Systems, Zynga||27 Comments|
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:
- Membase went into limited production release in October, and full release in January. Similar things are true of CouchDB.
- Hence, most sales of Couchbase’s products have been made over the past 6 months.
- Couchbase (the merged product) is at this point only in a pre-production developer’s release.
- Couchbase has both a direct sales force and a classic open-source “funnel”-based online selling model. Naturally, Couchbase’s understanding of what its customers are doing is more solid with respect to the direct sales base.
- Most of Couchbase’s revenue to date seems to have come from a limited number of big-ticket “lighthouse” accounts (as opposed to, say, the larger number of smaller deals that come in through the online funnel).
- Most Membase purchases are for new applications, as opposed to memcached migrations. However, customers are the kinds of companies that probably also are using memcached elsewhere.
- Most other Membase purchases are replacements for the Membase/MySQL combination. Bob says those are easy sales with short sales cycles.
- Pure memcached support is a small but non-zero business for Couchbase, and a fine source of upsell opportunities.
- In the pipeline but not so much yet in the customer base are SaaS vendors and the like who use and may want to replace traditional DBMS such as Oracle. Other than among those, Couchbase doesn’t compete much yet with Oracle et al.
- Pure CouchDB isn’t all that much of a business, at least relative to community size, as CouchDB is a single-server product commonly used by people who are content not to pay for support.
Membase sales are concentrated in five kinds of internet-centric companies, which in declining order are: Read more