Adding an Affordable CDN to Your Infrastructure

In-house infrastructure can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, but the cloud has given even small businesses the opportunity to harness enterprise equipment. A CDN is a cost-effective way to add availability, integrity and security to infrastructure. Administrators can still support an in-house environment but adding a CDN to public-facing applications will improve speed and availability.

Improving Performance at a Low Cost

A cheap CDN can make a huge difference in the performance of your applications for several reasons. First, the business can leverage advanced infrastructure located within a CDN’s point of presence (PoP) data center locations. It’s expensive to keep hardware and applications up-to-date, but with a CDN performance is a main advantage at a low cost.

CDN infrastructure is maintained by data center employees, so the business doesn’t need to spend thousands in upgrades. Infrastructure in a CDN is some of the fastest equipment on the market, so it’s a speed boost for a business application.

When you choose a CDN, its PoP locations matter. These locations house edge servers where customer data is cached. PoPs are strategically placed on each continent so that the CDN can cater to any users around the globe. Although data transfer speeds are fast, bringing users closer to a content delivery server makes data transfer even faster.

Edge servers cache content from the main origin server. When you incorporate a CDN, the CDN’s edge server pulls data from the main application server located at the business host provider or in-house infrastructure. Content is pulled from main origin servers, stored on local CDN servers and cached. Cached content is delivered faster than if it must be processed and pulled from databases and returned to users.

Content Delivery and User Requests

Any public-facing application suffering from speed issues can benefit from a CDN. It’s simple to configure a CDN to work with a public web server, and the performance boost is immediate after the application is configured to work with the CDN.

When users request content, instead of sending the request to the origin server, the request is sent to the nearest CDN edge server. These edge servers are fast and cache content for quicker delivery. By distributing requests to different data centers, the application doesn’t suffer from performance issues during launch dates. When a new release is deployed, it’s not uncommon for a developer to see a large spike in Internet traffic. With a CDN, these requests are now distributed across several servers that manage traffic spikes using load balancers.

With users closer to edge servers, content delivery is much faster than should they request it from servers thousands of miles away. Combine closer geographic locations to users, cached content and advanced cloud equipment, a CDN always brings better performance to an application.

CDN costs are based on the amount of bandwidth and traffic you need, so costs scale with the popularity of the application. With scalable costs, a developer can improve performance while sticking to a strict IT budget.

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How Boxed Game DLC Content is Faster with a CDN

Although developers such as Steam create an open marketplace for digital downloads, some gamers still enjoy the thrill of having a boxed game delivered. Boxed games are more easily managed if you have space to store them, and you don’t need extra storage space on your computer. Storing games digitally can take terabytes of storage space, so boxed games have their advantages over downloads.

DLC and Boxed Games

Many big gaming developers release content that extends a game’s story. Downloadable content (DLC) can be several gigabytes, and it’s released on a certain date where gamers excited for the release will contact gaming servers immediately when it’s available. MMO gaming developers often have several patches and expansion packs released each year.

DLC content is often a good revenue generator for developers. With boxed games, gamers look for deluxe editions where they can get added extras and collectibles. Games with this kind of userbase often have a strong following, and gamers look for extended DLC content to keep playing. This type of content is what gives a game longevity and keeps gamers coming back for more.

CDNs and DLC Releases

For popular games, having one origin server that delivers DLC to gamers can be problematic. Even with load balancers and a web farm, gaming developers could find their servers crashing when thousands of gamers decide to download new content the day of release. Servers crash and gamers find another one to play. The result is a loss of userbase for the developer.

An alternative to possible release date crashes is to incorporate a CDN into infrastructure. With a CDN, the gaming developer harnesses the power of data centers and state-of-the-art infrastructure that’s fast and secure. A CDN caches content from the gaming developer’s origin server, so a user’s request is quickly processed, and the content sent.

The other major benefit of a CDN is point of presence (PoP) locations strategically placed across every continent. With servers closer to a user, DLC requests are faster compared to forcing users thousands of miles away to request content from one location. When a server and user are close, data transfers are faster.

Having a CDN also provides distributed DLC requests, so data centers across the globe process requests. Should the gaming developer’s origin server fail, the CDN’s edge servers are still available. CDNs also have their own failover infrastructure, so gaming developers have 100% uptime for their DLC.

Boxed games, digital downloads and any content that must be downloaded by gamers will always transfer faster. Providing a good user experience is imperative for a gaming developer, because gamers will easily and quickly turn to another subscription should a game have high ping times and slow performance.

CDN costs also scale with a game’s popularity, so even a gaming developer on a budget can integrate a CDN’s infrastructure. With a CDN, developers will immediately see performance improvements without adding expensive components to network design.

 

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Why a CDN Takes the Guesswork Out of Gaming Server Placement

Gaming developers have the unique responsibility of providing around-the-click lightning quick speed for gamers who will quickly leave a game should performance wane. Gamers don’t stick to a game for long if graphics are poor and ping times are too high. Gaming ping times determine user experience, and it’s one of the only industries in the development market that mean more than most other metrics. To reduce ping times, gaming developers must seriously consider the way they build infrastructure for their game’s launch.

Using CDNs in Gaming Infrastructure

In some infrastructure designs, the first idea is to build a powerhouse of servers and network appliances on-site. While this type of build could be sufficient for a game with small traffic and userbase, it won’t be sufficient for a global, worldwide audience with millions of gaming subscribers.

The alternative – and possibly more cost efficient – option is leveraging infrastructure of a CDN. A good CDN has data centers and point of presence (PoP) locations that cover the globe. These PoPs are strategically placed on each continent so that a CDN’s customers can support users from any country.

With a CDN, the gaming developer no longer needs to design infrastructure or find the right appliances. Finding the right performance infrastructure can be trial-and-error for developers who aren’t experienced with building the right gaming network. A CDN already has infrastructure designed, provisioned and tested so that a gaming developer doesn’t need to spend the money to find the right support.

How a CDN Speeds Up Gaming

A gaming developer starts with an origin server, and a CDN is configured to pull content from cached resources located on edge servers. Since these edge servers are located across the globe, the developer doesn’t need to find the right locations for content delivery.

When a gamer requests content, a CDN’s edge server within the closest geographic location responds. Since the content is cached and the server is closer than the developer’s origin server to the gamer, the content is delivered faster. This provides a good user experience for the gamer, and the developer can avoid complaints of high ping times from frustrated customers.

Ping times rely on the gamer’s network as well. If the gamer uses Wi-Fi or has a slow network connection, high ping times aren’t always avoidable. The gamer’s computer resources could also be the reason for poor game performance. Although the gaming developer can’t avoid these issues, they can ensure gamers that content is delivered as fast as possible from the gaming servers.

CDNs aren’t only for online games either. Boxed games that release downloadable content in the future can leverage CDNs on launch days. Instead of thousands of gamers attempting to download content from one location, you can distribute traffic across global data centers. This reduces the chance of slow downloads and crashed servers due to overworked resources.

Using a CDN for gaming infrastructure has numerous advantages, and it’s relatively inexpensive to get started. CDN costs scale with your game popularity, so a CDN can keep initial costs low during development and beta testing.

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Preventing Player Lag and High-Ping Times with a CDN

A developer’s player base can be a delicate asset especially when competitor games are similar. Gamers are demanding when it comes to their favorite MMO. High-ping times cause lag that then cause frustration. Players need quick response times to win, and they can’t win if they go up against another player with superior resources. It’s the gaming developer’s job to create infrastructure and software that’s optimized for the best player experience, and a CDN can relieve much of the overhead supporting users across the globe.

MMOs and Lag

Massive multi-player online games (MMOs) require infrastructure unlike a traditional public-facing web server. With some luck and marketing, an MMO can go from a userbase of only a few thousand to millions of players across the globe. Take Blizzard’s Warcraft MMO released in 2004.  At its high, Warcraft had 12 million subscribers. The game was a success, but in early years any expansion releases were plagued with extreme lag and long login wait times.

To combat wait times and lag, Blizzard changed its infrastructure including the addition of a CDN. Warcraft has subscribers all over the world, so leveraging data centers at key geographic locations distributed customer authentication and content delivery. Instead of users connecting to one central location, they downloaded content and authenticated with servers closer to their play station.

Fast Content Delivery and Lower Ping Times

Anyone who remembers the old Blizzard launch days knows that it could take hours to log into a server during initial release of an expansion. Mists of Pandaria was especially difficult for players due to the massive popularity of the new release. After spending hours waiting to log into a Warcraft server, players then had massive lag that created frustration. This frustration led to abandoning the game until traffic died down.

Blizzard could retain players even with laggy launch days, but new developers aren’t as lucky. Poor performance and gameplay lead to incredibly bad reviews from all of the popular critics including gamers. When word gets out that gaming performance is poor, a new game’s player base will dwindle. For this reason, good infrastructure is just as important as good code.

Gaming developers can avoid this critical mistake by adding a CD to infrastructure proactively in the design phase. CDNs are incredibly easy to integrate into current infrastructure, and performance is guaranteed to improve.

CDNs aren’t just for MMO developers either. They can improve speeds for boxed games when developers release new downloadable content for gamers to purchase. Instead of downloading from a central server, gamers can download new content from an CDN edge server that caches content. Cached content is pulled from the developer’s main origin server but cached for faster processing and delivery. Gamers get a faster download without waiting for others first.

Whether a gaming developer serves a few hundred users or several million, a CDN is guaranteed to improve performance with faster servers, data center locations, and cached content ready for transfer to gamers.

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How CDNs Make Augmented Reality Games Faster and Reliable

Augmented reality (AR) games are unique from other games due to the amount of dynamic content displayed to the user. Google Ingress and Pokemon Go are two examples of popular AR games that have millions of subscribers. These games display an overly in front of a GPS location view that shows the user game elements. These elements are dynamically created a long with the environment view, and without a CDN they can suffer from performance degradation easily.

Dynamic Content Delivered Across the Globe

AR games are in a class of their own. They aren’t fully virtual reality where the entire environment is computer generated. But they are more than just the GPS location and image from your location. These AR games are a combination of both virtual elements and actual reality elements.

When you look at an AR game, you see the image of your GPS location but a character displays over it. Pokemon Go looks more like the real geographic location image, but Google Ingress has much more digital overlays that make it look like a space environment. AR developers can place as many overlays as they need to make the game interesting.

Because these games are based on the user’s geographic location, content is constantly changing. Input is frequently sent to the main server, and output is sent back to the user’s device. These games also update data to users in the surrounding area.

Another issue AR developers face is that even if a user starts playing in one location does not mean this location is the player’s permanent location. Players move around, sometimes between continents. The game must be able to download content quickly if, for instance, a player got off a plane in a distant geographic location for the original play environment. This can be done with a CDN.

CDNs Speed Up AR Dynamic Downloads

Because of the constant data sent to and from the main AR game server, developers need a way to dynamically update content without ruining performance. With AR games, a cluster of users are found in big cities while fewer data requests would be found in small, rural towns. To distribute the load across servers, an AR game developer can leverage a CDN and its data centers.

CDNs cache data at data centers and deliver content based on the player’s location. The nearest edge server delivers the dynamic content and handles data requests as the user moves in the games augmented reality.

Even with users clustered in one location, a CDN has load balancers and failover to keep performance at its best during spikes in traffic. As the user moves, a CDN sends updated location data and overlays. Because of a CDN’s infrastructure, updates are fast keeping the player environment constantly updated without any skipping or lag.

Integrating a CDN into infrastructure scales with the game. Costs start low when the game is first released, and only increase as more users subscribe to the game. Even when a game is new, AR game developers should implement a CDN to keep performance high and avoid gaming lag.

 

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Questions Gaming Developers Should Ask a CDN Provider

Gaming performance is a primary concern for most developers. New gaming developers can have the best code and gameplay on the market, but without performance a game will lose its subscribers as soon as lag and high ping times are part of the experience. Poor game performance is a killer for any application, but for an online game it can mean the end of success. A CDN can alleviate many of the performance hurdles during launch and gameplay, but developers should do their research and ensure that the CDN can offer what’s needed in a successful, fast online game.

Can the CDN Handle a Traffic Surge?

Online games regularly experience huge traffic spikes during initial release or patch days. A gaming developer could potentially have thousands of subscribers request content from a server at the same time. Not only could there be high traffic spikes, but downloads are usually several gigabytes, which also puts a high load on servers.

A CDN provides infrastructure to handle these spikes in traffic including floods of packets due to a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. Traditional origin servers can buckle when traffic exhausts resources and bandwidth limits.

Will a Traffic Surge Destroy Performance?

Because a CDN is mainly used for performance, gaming developers should look for a CDN that can handle traffic spikes without compromising performance. Online games that suffer performance issues are the first to lose subscribers, and word travels fast in the gaming community.

A CDN with a true global presence will be able to handle traffic spikes, because content is distributed and cached across edge servers. Gaming subscribers request content from the nearest data center within a geographic location. CDNs use data centers at precise locations to preserve performance whether it’s for a gamer close to the developer’s office or thousands of miles on another continent.

How is Pricing?

New gaming developers have a strict budget, and a CDN should provide the right pricing tiers to handle tight IT budgets. These prices should scale with the number of subscribers. Initially, the gaming developer has few subscribers, so pricing is low due to the small amount of bandwidth usage. As the game becomes more popular, a developer will have higher costs, but these costs also scale with the number of paying subscribers.

What about Security?

Any company that has an Internet presence should take cyber security precautions against attackers including gaming developers. To protect resources and customer data privacy, the gaming developer should use only a CDN that has the right security infrastructure in place.

The right CDN can withstand many of the current attacks including a DDoS, which is one of the most common attacks that flood services until servers crash and the game no longer functions. These attacks are difficult to detect, because there is no warning before the flood occurs. Developers that don’t have the right resources can’t stop the attack alone, but a CDN can help with defense and mitigation.

Any gaming developer that needs to support global clients should investigate CDN providers. Just ensure that the one you choose has the right resources, a global presence, and cyber security defenses.

 

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Protecting Your Game Performance with a CDN

What would happen if a game developer had issues with an ISP or lost a server during maintenance? Failover is always necessary for an online gaming developer, but it’s not as easy to ensure that no downtime happens even with the right disaster recovery plan. Gaming developers rely on persistent uptime without any performance issues or server crashes. Although it’s possible to have an internal policy that reduces effects from an unforeseen incident, having a CDN adds to performance, reliability, scalability and even security.

Gaming Content Size Continues to Increase, Affecting Download Performance

In the 1990s, a game could fit on a few floppy disks. Today, a game download can be 30GB or more. This is a huge increase from even just a decade ago. With slow Internet speeds, it can take too long for a user to download large files.

In addition to an initial 30GB or larger downloads, additional content is common for gaming developers to keep gamers interested. Gaming developers add downloadable content (DLC) to extend a games storyline. This content is usually an additional cost where users purchase the content and then download it to their computer. Even console gaming developers use this method to extend a console game, and users must download the content to their consoles.

Gaming developers can’t control a gaming customer’s ISP or internal network performance. They can’t control the speed of the computer where the content is downloaded to, but they can control their end of the downloadable content performance. A CDN resolves performance issues using internal infrastructure and location of data centers.

CDNs and Reliability and Cyber Security

Most gaming developers investigate a content delivery network due to performance issues, but a CDN provides several other benefits aside from faster speeds. Reliability is one of the best benefits of a CDN, and it can mean the difference between losing customers due to downtime and keeping gaming customers happy while IT administrators work to solve server and network issues.

Reliability in a CDN is based on data centers that cache content downloaded from the game developer’s origin server. Should the origin server crash, the game developer network is still reliable and delivers content to players from cached edge server content. This process is completely invisible to the user who won’t know where content is delivered from.

Another aspect of a CDN is protecting from distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). These attacks can crush performance and stop legitimate users from connecting to a server that provides gaming content. These attacks come from hundreds (sometimes thousands) of different IoT devices or desktop computers hacked with an attacker’s malware. This malware gives an attacker the ability to tell a device to flood traffic to a target. Because most origin servers are unable to handle the massive amount of traffic, a DDoS can interrupt service and crash the server.

Reliability and security are benefits to gaming developers who are also concerned about performance. These three benefits are some of the best for gaming developers who need a performance boost, a service that never fails, and protection from common security pitfalls.

 

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Why Online Gaming Companies are Choosing CDNs More and More

Online gaming companies have the unique challenge of keeping global users happy with fast downloads and rich, high quality graphics. These companies have it harder than, for instance, a console gaming distributor that just needs to provide updates when they are needed. Online gaming companies deliver dynamic content constantly as the gamer plays in an online world, so they need a way to send content faster than any other local application.

Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games support millions of users at a time. Companies such as Blizzard often had performance issues and outright server crashes when they initially launched games. Warcraft users knew that patch day or release of a new expansion meant that logging into any Blizzard server would be possibly an hour (or longer) wait. Once you were able to log in, the game would download slowly, and gameplay would be patchy. Images wouldn’t render well, and gameplay had terrible performance issues. During some expansion launches, gamers would be disconnected from a server without warning and thrown back into the wait queue.

How a CDN Reduces Gameplay Delays and Expansion Download Times

When you have millions of users connecting to one location, it’s inevitable that users will see performance issues. Nothing frustrates gamers more than experiencing crashes while trying to download an expansion or major patch.

A CDN reduces the overhead on a game developers origin server by spreading content across data centers strategically placed across each continent. When a game developer chooses a CDN provider, one aspect of a good CDN is a presence in locations where the developer has a majority of gaming customers. This will ensure that most gamers will experience fast download times and limited performance issues.

The way a CDN delivers content is the foundation for its ability to provide fast downloads.  Each data center has edge servers that pull content from the game developer’s origin server. The content transfer speed from the origin server to the data center is dependent on the game developer’s server resources and bandwidth, but once the content gets to the edge server, it’s cached and stored for delivery. When users request content from the gaming developer network, they are redirected to the closest CDN edge server where cached content is transferred to the user.

Boxed Games Can Also Leverage CDN Resources

Even though MMO gaming developers can benefit the most from a CDN, boxed game developers can also improve user experiences during patch days. Boxed developers often release patches including console games installed on a PS4, Xbox or Switch. Downloads delivered to consoles can take hours, but boxed game developers can increase transfer speed of these downloads by providing more server resources and bandwidth physically closer to some users.

Any game developer that delivers content to users should add a CDN to infrastructure. It’s an affordable, faster way to transfer large files that would otherwise take some users hours to receive. It’s one way a game developer can instantly provide faster service to users and gaming enthusiasts.

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Using a Dynamic CDN to Cut Down on Gaming Lag

As gamer computers get faster, gamers look for gaming platforms that provide fast, dynamic content. Although a gaming developer can’t control a customer’s computer resources, network speed and ISP, a developer can provide everything within a gaming environment that gives gamers the speed that they’re looking for. One way to accomplish fast online gaming speed is to incorporate a dynamic CDN into internal infrastructure.

Shortest Path with Lowest Latency

Gaming data is notoriously large files, and even fast Internet and large bandwidth usage isn’t enough for a smooth gaming performance. These large files must be transferred using the shortest path with the lowest latency. A dynamic CDN can help with data transfers.

Finding the shortest path is common on the Internet. Large capacity routers determine the right path for data and transfer it accordingly. The shortest path, however, might not be the best path for data to take. The shortest path could have more latency from congestion. Although more hops could take a longer amount of time, a few more hops could speed up data transfers by avoiding high-traffic paths.

When a gaming developer requires fast file transfers, the best option is a combination of finding the shortest path with the lowest latency. A CDN uses infrastructure that determines the best path using calculations on high-end technology routers and servers. This technology is usually much more efficient than traditional infrastructure that you find with on-premise hosting an upstream ISP.

Better Performance Attracts More Gamers

For a gaming developer, high latency and choppy gameplay are the death of any online game. Using a dynamic CDN, a gaming developer can reduce online game latency by 60%. This is significant for a gaming developer that relies on fast speeds delivered to gamers who will quickly stop playing (and paying) for a game that can’t offer a good experience. Losing a character’s life to gaming lag is the most frustrating experience for an online gamer.

When a game gets laggy and gamers get frustrated, the first thing a gaming developer does is look at what can change within code and internal infrastructure. However, unless the developer has the IT personnel, resources and budget, providing better infrastructure isn’t feasible. With a CDN, the developer has a low-cost, scalable option. This option harnesses the power of data centers located around the globe.

A CDN has data centers across the globe with edge servers. These edge servers pull data from the origin server (the developer’s infrastructure) and cache the data locally. With data cached on a server closer to the gamer, delivery happens much faster. Combine cached, geographically close servers with routers that better determine the shortest path with the lowest latency, a gaming developer instantly improves performance for users as well as their experience.

Gamers buy online games mainly through word-of-mouth from friends and online reviews. Better reviews mean more gamers will flock to a fast, fun game. A CDN can help with performance and make lower latency an affordable option for any game.

 

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Avoid Gaming Lag By Using a CDN

Game lag is a scourge for any developer. Whether it’s an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game, an MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), or an FPS (First Person Shooter) lag is one of the most frustrating issues for a gamer. No one wants to lose at every game, and lag can mean the difference between a win or a loss for an online gamer. Developers should understand their gaming client frustrations to avoid adding them to content, and one way to avoid gamer dissatisfaction is to add a CDN to infrastructure to speed up performance.

Latency Should Be Low

Low latency increases perceived performance in-game. Latency is the term given to the time it takes between sending input to the game and the game’s response. Low latency is especially important in FPS games or any one-on-one battles where gamers are up against other players. PVP combat requires fast response times, and a CDN can reduce latency by serving content geographically closer to the player.

Low Ping Times

The term “ping” is a general networking term that describes the time it takes for data packets to travel to a server and back again. Each operating system has a ping command that tests the time it takes for a small packet to reach a server. Some games provide ping statistics to users, so they can see if their ping time is too high for a good gaming experience. With a CDN, servers are located closer to the player, so the round-trip distance is reduced and so is the player’s ping time.

Rubber Banding is an Effect from High Latency

Most gamers have suffered from “rubber banding.” Rubber banding happens when high latency slows down traffic from the gaming server. A player’s character in-game will lag and jump from one location to another. As the gaming server corrects the location, the player’s character moves back to the correct position. This back and forth behavior in-game is called rubber banding, and this issue makes it impossible to enjoy a game. Since a CDN is closer to the player’s location, the chance of rubber banding is reduced.

Faster Tick Rates

Players can’t control tick rates, but the faster the tick rate, the smoother the game play for the gamer. Tick rate determines how fast a server is updated including the data sent back to players updating character locations and environment variables. This factor is measured in hertz, and the very minimum a developer should aim for is a 64-tick server.

Tick time is affected by server resources but also network speed. CDNs leverage data centers and fast servers that can’t be found in most traditional hosting environments.

CDN Implementation is a Solution

Gaming developers incorporate lag compensation by tweaking and code and testing the environment before launch time. Lag compensation is built into a gaming application to reduce perceived performance issues, but a CDN can speed up any online game considerably.

A CDN caches data on edge servers across the globe, so the gamer has quick access to a low latency, fast ping, no rubber banding experience. Even better, it’s a low-cost solution to current infrastructure.

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