Founded in 2006 and based in Melbourne, Australia, My Media Gaming Network (MMGN) is a media company with two service lines. MMGN.com combines editorial with user-generated content to serve a growing and vocal online gaming community. The site has experienced tremendous growth through content partnerships with organizations such as AT&T, ninemsn, and Verizon.
Additionally, MMGN consults to corporate clients, offering its robust site framework and integrated social technology as tools for driving traffic and community engagement. Clients such as PwC, DMG Radio, and Australia Post use the tools to increase user engagement and customer loyalty for clients.
As a leading source of gaming content in Australia, MMGN experiences high and extremely variable levels of traffic. Since its launch, the company has grown to host more than 6 million conversations and needs 60 moderators to manage the vast number of interactions between participants.
The organization initially leased up to 12 servers in a managed datacenter to host its websites and technology services, and signed a capped bandwidth contract. However, as MMGN frequently exceeded the bandwidth cap, this arrangement proved to be inflexible and expensive. The company would often have to pay substantial penalties for the extra usage. “On good months, our traffic would almost double, but the benefit was offset by the premium we were paying on bandwidth,” says Roy Hui, Chief Executive Officer, MMGN. “It was almost as though we were being punished for good performance.”
To support community members interacting with each other and to retain a rapidly-growing volume of data, MMGN needed substantial compute power and storage capacity. The organization’s infrastructure costs also rose when traffic levels spiked during peak periods or due to occasional events such as a gaming article going viral.
Running its infrastructure in a managed data center also impeded MMGN’s ability to create products for client demonstrations. “We would have to negotiate on contracts, pricing, and time of implementation; provisioning the servers could take up to two weeks,” says Hui. “This was simply too long when we were marketing near real-time services to our clients.”
MMGN realized this model was not sustainable in the long term. The company started researching ways of accessing infrastructure more cost-effectively while reducing its bandwidth costs.
Why Amazon Web Services
In 2009, MMGN identified cloud computing as providing a model that could meet its needs and began testing the capabilities of Amazon Web Services (AWS) by using the Asia Pacific (Singapore) and US West (Northern California) Regions to run about 20 percent of its client projects. “The on-demand nature and scalability of AWS made it an obvious choice to run MMGN environments,” says Hui. The pay-as-you-go pricing model removed the need for lengthy contracts to lock in lower costs.” The AWS Cloud also gave MMGN’s consulting arm the agility to create minimum viable products for client demonstrations quickly and easily, and at minimal cost.
MMGN shifted all of its operations over to the Asia Pacific (Sydney) Region when the Australian environment went live in 2012.
Two medium instances of Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) sit at the core of the infrastructure. MMGN runs its site applications on the instances and also uses them to process user-generated data, which is then stored in Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3). MMGN’s Amazon S3 setup makes use of Amazon CloudFront to copy site data to various nodes across the world, allowing global customers and users to easily access static files locally.
MMGN uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) to record and index forum data and conversations between users. Amazon ElastiCache sits between Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS to give MMGN scalable caching capacity. This is used to store tens of thousands of ongoing forum threads and user conversations, allowing the site to offer users the critical contextual data required for real-time interaction. Figure 1 demonstrates MMGN’s environment on AWS.
MMGN has reduced its operating costs by 50 percent by running on the AWS Cloud—savings tens of thousands of dollars—and can launch new projects quickly and efficiently. Now that traffic flows to and from the AWS Cloud rather than through a managed services provider’s infrastructure, MMGN has reduced its bandwidth costs by 90 percent.
The AWS Cloud enables MMGN to pay only for the infrastructure it uses, and leverages the environment’s elasticity to support spikes in demand. The organization can also scale to support long-term growth without reaching capacity limits or incurring costs that limit its viability. This scalability has also decreased time-to-market in providing services to corporate clients. “We’re able to provision infrastructure resources to develop minimum products for demonstration to clients in minutes rather than weeks,” says Hui. “This has significantly reduced the cost of winning new business and has given us the confidence to guarantee service level agreements to customers.”Most significantly, the reliability of AWS has alleviated the stress that Hui and his team used to associate with growth. “That’s really important,” says Hui. “Our content partnerships mean the number of visitors to our site can fluctuate from tens of thousands to millions of users in a matter of minutes. We’re no longer afraid of that growth because we know that AWS has the capacity to support us.”