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Community Blog Learn How PolarDB Is Supporting Business Expansion in the Gaming Industry

Learn How PolarDB Is Supporting Business Expansion in the Gaming Industry

Learn why XD Inc. switched back to Alibaba Cloud to use PolarDB for its database needs.

By Qingyun, IT168.com.

For a company that is well established in its home country, the international market offers huge opportunities for expansion. Company can make more money when they expand into other markets. This is especially true for domestic companies located in Mainland China.

In Mainland China, the demographic dividend is slowly disappearing whereas domestic competition is becoming increasingly intense, so it's not surprising that many tech and Internet giants in China are choosing to expand to overseas markets outside of China. The gaming industry, in particular, where competition is particularly fierce in China, is no exception. Expanding to new markets is still a required course of action for many gaming companies wishing to grow their business.

XD Inc, which started trading on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange on December 12, 2019, is an example of a Chinese gaming company that earned a majority of its gaming operations revenue from the international market. Participating in the international market brings IT challenges as well as business growth opportunities. In order to not adversely affect the player experience of its users, XD Inc migrated its databases to Alibaba Cloud.

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International Business Growth Brings Challenges

Founded in 2002, XD Inc was formerly named VeryCD, and was one of China's earliest Internet sharing websites. In 2009, the company began to build its proprietary brand X.D. Network, enter the gaming field, and devote itself to the R&D and operation of browser and mobile games.

In 2016, XD Inc increased its investment in Shanghai Longcheng Network Technology Co., Ltd., XD Inc's overseas subsidiary that releases online games to markets outside of China. Then, XD Inc founded Yiwan (Shanghai) Network Science and Technology Co., Ltd. to build TapTap, a brand for their gaming community platform. By using TapTap, XD Inc further expanded the publishing and operating channels for their products in Mainland China and elsewhere in the world, and set up a content community platform. In 2019, XD Inc accelerated the pace of global expansion by bringing top games such as Azur Lane, Eternal City, and Identity V to countries and regions outside Mainland China, mainly the Republic of Korea, Southeast Asia, as well as Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan.

According to the Southeast Asian Games Market Report released by the market research firm Newzoo, the population with Internet access in Southeast Asia continues to grow due to the rapid popularization of mobile devices. The Southeast Asian gaming market was expected to reach 4.6 billion US dollars in 2019, an increase of 22% year on year. It may become the world's fastest growing gaming market.

Revenue increases with business growth. In the past two years, the overseas revenue of XD Inc has also been rising continuously. As disclosed in their prospectus, the share of XD Inc's overseas revenue rose from 2.1% in 2016 to 61.5% in 2018.

Generally speaking, business development is closely tied to the robustness of IT support. XD Inc was no exception to this. In order to encourage the rapid growth of the international and overseas gaming business, to release games internationally, and to operate and deliver the TapTap game community globally, XD Inc needed to deploy its global business in a unified manner. When providing services for countries and regions with large populations, such as Southeast Asia, Europe, and North America, where 1 million gamers are online concurrently during peak times, XD Inc needed to withstand high concurrency and ensure low-latency and highly stable cloud services.

Cloud computing features scalability and high concurrency. Previously, most services of XD Inc were deployed in on-premises data centers. To reduce costs and improve efficiency, XD Inc phased in Alibaba Cloud products and services such as Elastic Compute Service (ECS), ApsaraDB RDS for MySQL, and Server Load Balancer (SLB) and migrated its data to the cloud.

In particular, the databases where applications reside are the most important part of the process of cloud migration. For example, during game operations and maintenance as well as publishing, or in the case of server restart caused by software or hardware failure on the game server, the database needs to support faster data reads to quickly recover the services.

However, the original MySQL databases were challenged by XD Inc.'s rapid business growth. In some projects, there could be a large number of reads and writes for a single table, which could not be processed by the MySQL database and resulted in a high latency. In addition, data backup was slow when a new version was released. For many gaming companies, new game versions are typically released in the early morning. However, it usually takes several hours to complete the data backup before the release, which greatly affects the efficiency of the early morning releases.

The Upgrade from MySQL to Apsara PolarDB

Faced with the preceding challenges, XD Inc hoped to continue to use Alibaba Cloud services to upgrade its databases. However, at that time, Alibaba Cloud provided only a small number of overseas nodes so XD Inc decided to try AWS Aurora. But, as Alibaba Cloud continued to invest in the overseas market and provided sufficient overseas nodes for ApsaraDB for PolarDB, its proprietary cloud-native database, XD Inc then came back, turning to PolarDB.

After several rounds of discussion, evaluation, and analysis of various metrics in stress testing, they found that PolarDB was 100% compatible with MySQL, which allowed XD Inc to seamlessly migrate its services between them. ApsaraDB for PolarDB also significantly reduced the read and write loads on a single table, making the services relatively stable. This further enabled XD Inc to spend less time optimizing database and table shards, reducing the costs needed for AWS Aurora. In the end, XD Inc chose PolarDB.

ApsaraDB for PolarDB is a relational distributed database. Using the compute-storage separation architecture that has been successfully implemented across the industry, ApsaraDB for PolarDB is natively compatible with MySQL. It has undergone the tests of high concurrency, high availability, and scalability during the Double 11 Shopping Festival, and is a mature product in the Chinese market. As such, PolarDB has become the database of choice for many enterprises, including XD Inc, to migrate their databases to the cloud.

However, as one of the most difficult technologies to migrate in application software, database migration may result in critical consequences once an error occurs. Before the database migration, XD Inc and Alibaba Cloud teams conducted a risk assessment and backed up data. The only concerns were performance and potential inconsistency in database structure after the migration.

Fortunately, the migration was smooth, because XD Inc had performed full stress testing of the performance of ApsaraDB for PolarDB, and had carried out migration testing. After migration, XD Inc built all business systems by using the distributed cloud-native database PolarDB solution, resolving the challenges it had faced before migration. Specifically, the solution helps XD Inc provide the following features:

  1. Excellent gaming experience: Based on the compute-storage separation architecture, each instance is deployed in redundancy mode with a master instance and a read-only instance. The high-performance read and write capabilities facilitate the provisioning of new servers and elastic application scaling. This can greatly shorten the maintenance time in scenarios such as game version releases and server restarts. In addition, in extreme cases, software and hardware failure on the servers will not cause slow service recovery that affects player experience.
  2. 24/7 high-availability services: Data is stored in three replicas in a consistent manner to ensure data reliability. When the master instance fails, the system can quickly fail over within 30 to 60 seconds. This ensures that online services can be quickly recovered to provide services normally while ensuring data integrity.
  3. Fast backup: The backup time of a traditional database is associated with the data capacity. Backups are slower when the database capacity is larger. In contrast, in the compute-storage separation architecture, ApsaraDB for PolarDB uses distributed storage snapshots to implement lock-free backup. By using copy-on-write technology, PolarDB copies data only when the data is modified, allowing the entire database backup process to be finished within 30 seconds. In this way, the backup duration is independent of the capacity.
  4. Abundant service support: PolarDB is 100% compatible with MySQL 5.6 and MySQL 8.0 and is fully compatible with all types of MySQL ecosystems and open-source middleware tools. This makes it easy to generate historical game achievements, top up game accounts, and carry out operational activities.

3. The Most Suitable Database Is the Best

Developing a suitable physical database is very difficult. Over the past two years, Chinese data technology products have seen success after success. For the gaming industry, the distributed cloud-native database ApsaraDB for PolarDB offers the unique advantages of addressing some common challenges, such as low latency, global server sharing, and high concurrency.

As can be seen in the database migration process of XD Inc, enterprises focus on comprehensive factors when selecting cloud databases. Performance, cost, and services affect the final decision. Each enterprise has its own considerations, and should choose the most suitable database.

According to the first Cloud Database Selection and Satisfaction Survey Report released by IT168.com and ITPUB in China, Chinese enterprises are increasingly using cloud databases. Fully 82% of enterprises said they have already deployed or are planning to deploy cloud databases. In the cloud era, next-generation cloud-native databases such as ApsaraDB for PolarDB have revealed a new future full of opportunities.

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