SEGA, the multinational video game developer and publisher behind Sonic the Hedgehog and other iconic titles, has deployed PernixData's FVP storage acceleration software platform to improve performance of its mobile gaming service platform.
The ever-growing uptake of mobile devices has led to a rise in popularity of smartphone and tablet games, something SEGA has looked to tap into with SEGA Networks, a division founded in 2012 to focus entirely on mobile game development.
However, as SEGA's mobile video game department started to grow, it soon found that its previous storage performance solution was beginning to struggle with handling information collected about player habits and their mobile devices, as Kyosuke Watanabe, general manager for SEGA's IT management department, explained.
"Our gaming platform required extraordinary performance, and we had previously been using Fusion-IO cards as a method of storing data on physical servers for our database systems," he told Computing.
"We were unable to support operational efficiency on virtualised platforms, and also experienced excessive use of Fusion-IO cards for a single database. These were consistent issues that we wanted to overcome."
As a result, SEGA Networks decided to look for a new storage performance solution. However, the nature of the data being collected meant that there were very few options on the market that could reduce server bottlenecks in a virtualised environment based around highly complex MS SQL databases.
"Our database receives 80 per cent write traffic, so a read-only solution was unsuitable for our environment. We needed a solution that could accelerate both read and write performance," said Watanabe, who added the main impetus for selecting PernixData FVP came from successful trials of the software before it was eventually deployed.
"We did a performance test both before and after deploying PernixData FVP," he said.
PernixData FVP works by virtualising flash and RAM across servers, then creating a clustered pool of high-speed data resources which accelerates the process of reading and writing data to shared storage. By deploying this technology, SEGA Networks has separated storage performance from performance capacity, allowing faster virtualised applications while significantly reducing storage costs.
Indeed, Watanabe described how deployment of PernixData FVP has already resulted in benefits for SEGA Networks.
"We expect to migrate at least 80 per cent of the MySQL databases from a physical to virtual environment. We also improved our read/write latency and overall database performance by 50 per cent," he said, adding the solution has also enabled SEGA to make other infrastructure improvements.
"Additionally, we now use vSphere HA/vMotion for our databases, and improved our infrastructure operations."
All of this, Watanabe explained, comes with the additional benefit of virtualised, scalable servers cutting SEGA's outgoings on its database storage solution as well as improving its performance.
"Yes. By combining PernixData FVP and low-end storage, we achieved performance that was three to four times better than low-end storage, and better than middle range storage," he responded when asked if PernixData FVP has helped drive down costs.
"Instead of dedicating one database with Fusion-IO, our performance is now shared with the VMs within the PernixData FVP cluster," he added.
Watanabe also told Computing how, with the help of strategic partner Networld Corporation, PernixData's IT infrastructure solution distributor in Japan, the solution was simple to install and get running, with the system set up in a matter of minutes.
"Yes, it was easy to install PernixData FVP. However, our technology partner Networld didn't tell us 'You only have to wait just three minutes'. Networld was very helpful, and the PernixData team also supported Networld throughout the process," he said.
"Networld constructed a similar testing environment at their HQ and helped us carry out some tests with PernixData FVP," Watanabe continued, adding that in the event of issues with the service or the solution, the San Jose, California-based PernixData has been on hand to provide assistance.
"PernixData was also quick to respond when we had any issues," he said.
Looking to the future, Watanabe described how the switch to a virtualised solution has essentially changed SEGA Network's storage purchase strategy, with there no longer being any need to invest in new internal servers to store mobile game data.
"We don't expect to buy high performance storage any more. Since PernixData FVP provides the storage performance, we can now focus on scaling storage capacity and we can control future storage investments," Watanabe concluded.