4-page Case Study
Posted: 4/22/2014
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APEX PLATFORM Open source based-cloud backend platform, A gateway to the global market for new game companies

“Gamming Backend as a Service helps game developers focus on developing the game. The use of a dedicated Windows Azure-based server for its network server means you can take full advantage of IOCP”
Vitor Ko, Vice President, APEX PLATFORM
APEX PLATFORM migrated Gamming Backend as a Service, which used to run on AWS, to Windows Azure. This decision was based on the fact that being able to work in partnership with Microsoft is advantageous when it comes to promoting Pay-as-You-Go. There are further synergies found between Microsoft’s business model and the growth of game companies. Having weighed up the potential advantages, APEX PLATFORM saw that it would be better to go into partnership with Microsoft than have a client-service provider relationship like it did with AWS. Having completed migration of GBaaS, including the many kinds of services developed based on open source, such as Apache Tomcat, Cassandra (NoSQL database software) and Maria (relational database software), APEX PLATFORM plans to launch a beta service in April 2014.




Business Needs
APEX CNS is a company specializing in the cloud and supercomputing. In September 2013, it spun off its cloud backend service development platform division into a separate company - APEX PLATFORM. It then set itself the ambitious task of taking on the cloud backend service, whereby game developers turn their ideas into games quickly and simply.

To be more specific, the cloud backend service is a business model based on the notion of helping new, small-sized game companies lacking experience of running large-scale games to focus on game development, without being unduly distracted by server development and management. The core of this model is to allow them to develop games without worrying about service delays (lag), crashes or the threat of hacking.

The cloud backend service is seen as a market that is about to come into its own in 2014. With the wide spread of the smartphone, the explosive growth in social media and the expansion of large online messengers in the global market, mobile games have become the goose which keeps on laying a golden egg. In the sense that the mobile game market is full of opportunities and that success in this market depends on nothing but an idea, it is no surprise that a great many startups have succeeded in achieving worldwide hits. Riding on the success of startups, the interest in the cloud backend service among small mobile game companies has ballooned. This cloud backend service fulfills the need that game developers have to interact with customers through direct management, rather than entrust a game publisher or social/messenger platform provider with this management task.

To the extent that the market has great growth potential, the competition between cloud backend service providers is intense. As of 2014, companies like MuchDifferent, ShepHertz, scoreoid and PlayerScale have already carved out a solid foothold in the market. Then, what competitive edge does APEX PLATFORM have over its competitors? APEX PLATFORM was late coming into the cloud backend service market, yet looks like a leader when viewed from the standpoint of technological prowess and business strategy. APEX PLATFORM is set to achieve its ambition in April 2014 through its cloud backend service named GBaaS (Gamming Backend as a Service). It is not something that was built in a day; instead, it stemmed from the battled-hardened experience of APEX CNS cloud platform division, who left nothing to chance.

As a matter of fact, GBaaS is different from competitive models in several ways. The most distinguished feature is that it embodied the know-how of the Korean game business that has dominated both online and mobile game industries. The cloud backed service providers are largely divided into two types, the ones focusing on providing game APIs and SDKs, and others that are more oriented towards infrastructure management, such as charging systems and customer management.

GBaaS, though, has a service portfolio that covers both types. It provides not only features like user management, NoSQL Data Store and File Stor, Leader Board, Achievement, Geo Location, Push Notification, Analysis, but also various APIs for game management. From this perspective, GBaaS seems no different than other competitive models, including ShepHertz, which support a broad portfolio of services. To grasp the true value of GBaaS, you need to look at the business ecosystem it is helping to create.

APEX PLATFORM has built a solid partnership with industry specialists on the basis that building an ecosystem that brings experts on-side from various fields, like game engine, customer analysis and marketing, is as important as providing the necessary APIs and SDKs for game development and management, and game server-related infrastructure. In this regard, APEX PLATFORM aligned itself with Nettention, a high-performance game engine developer to run a network game engine named ProudNet on GBaaS. Particularly noteworthy was the practical measures it developed that would help game companies rank higher in app stores through GBaaS with the help of 5Rocks and its service of analyzing the behavior of mobile game users.

APEX PLATFORM intends to create a business ecosystem centered on GBaaS through close partnership with industry experts in Korea, the online gaming mecca, rather than implement GBaaS as a mere service providing an API, SDK and computing resources. In short, it plans to leverage the know-how of the Korean game industry as the competitive edge that distinguishes GBaaS from its competitors.

Solution
APEX PLATFORM’s GBaaS ecosystem strategies are employed in its use of computing resources. The cloud environment that APEX PLATFORM chose for GBaaS is none other than Windows Azure. That is, APEX PLATFORM embraced Microsoft as a member of the GBaaS ecosystem through the use of Windows Azure as the public cloud infrastructure, while the knowledge and technical expertise of the Korean game industry in mobile game development and management are being grafted onto GBaaS.

Its original choice was not, however, Windows Azure. APEX PLATFORM’s first thought was AWS. Yet, it took the decision to go with Windows Azure instead of AWS, a decision which stemmed from its experience preparing a beta of GBaaS. What APEX PLATFORM found was that, given the cost model of GBaaS, AWS could impose an undue burden on the APEX PLATFORM, a burden which was absent from Windows Azure.

The cost model of GBaaS is derived from the Pay-as-You-Go approach. In other words, APEX PLATFORM chose the cost model best suited for small game companies. The approach it has taken allows them to market their ideas without heavy up-front costs. For instance, a game company can use GBaaS free of charge (Free Plan) at first. The cost is only charged when game traffic reaches a certain point and, at this point, the company can change the GBaaS subscription plan depending on demand, for example according to the number of game users.

As APEX PLATFORM adopted a flexible cost model that first offers the service at no cost and then charges and distributes resources according to how game is popular among users, the fixed cost of the public cloud came as a heavy financial burden to it. However, it could not rush headlong into cutting costs. What APEX PLATFORM was concerned about most in designing GBaaS and establishing the management strategies was stability. It is obvious that if GBaaS cannot handle a surge in the number of users, or often causes an error, it will lose customers.

To avoid this problem, APEX PLATFORM wanted to procure adequate public cloud resources. To do so with AWS would cost too much and this increase in AWS-related expenses would impose extra financial burden on GBaaS users. For all these reasons, APEX PLATFORM sought an alternative and, after a thorough investigation, it settled on Windows Azure. With the migration to Windows Azure completed, APEX PLATFORM plans to begin the open beta service of GBaaS in April 2014, and then announce the official launch of the service later this year.

Meanwhile, APEX PLATFORM carried out a little test with BS Games composed of 5 university students before launching the beta version of GBaaS. BS Games has developed and serviced ‘League of Byungster’ through Google Play Games since November 2013. Google Play Games, though, left much to be desired. In one such instance, BS Games could not obtain all the kinds of information and feedback it wanted from game users. This information, if rendered, would serve as a vital source of marketing campaigns. From a game user’s perspective, game data is well synchronized, but from the viewpoint of the game developer, there was very limited amounts of customer-related data available. Starting with BS Games, APEX PLATFORM plans to offer the open beta GBaaS service to many other game companies.

Benefits

Game, open source and cloud in a perfect balance

GBaaS is designed as an ideal service model for game development and management with the right commercial solutions and open source solutions allocated in the right position. “The biggest challenges that small game companies face while building a game server are game data management and network server buildup. As they have little experience in server management, they find it difficult to decide how server infrastructure should be built in order to bring out the best. GBaaS helps game developers focus on developing the game itself as it provides open source solutions like Cassandra and Maria DB for data management. The use of a dedicated Windows Azure-based server for its network server means you can take full advantage of IOCP”, said a member of APEX PLATFORM.

GBaaS is tailor-made for game development and management and goes well with Windows Azure. Though APEX PLATFORM changed the public cloud environment from AWS to Windows Azure, it still had much to do. True, the migration from AWS to Windows Azure went smoothly. Many services of GBaaS were developed using open source solutions such as Apache Tomcat, Cassandra (NoSQL database software) and Maria (relational database software), along with a combination of those running on Windows Server, for example, the network game engine, and Linux-based like middleware service. It took only two days to migrate GBaaS on various operating systems and many different open source solutions to Windows Azure, including data migration.

Increased price competitiveness

Windows Azure made GBaaS cost competitive. APEX PLATFORM weighed Windows Azure and AWS in terms of how they can improve the cost competitiveness of GBaaS. What it found was that the best cost-savings and benefits both parties involved - APEX PLATFORM itself and game companies – were found with Windows Azure. “With Windows Azure, we can cut the prime cost of GBaaS in many different ways. For instance, the BizSpark program that Microsoft provides to nurture young enterprises could reduce GBaaS-related public cloud cost to some degree”, said a member of APEX PLATFORM.

A new win-win partnership model

Windows Azure is the best suited public cloud service for GBaaS in the sense that APEX PLATFORM and Microsoft both aim to create profit through incubating and supporting new ventures. “When we used AWS, paying for computing resources that we lent was all we did”, said a member of APEX PLATFORM. “But, Windows Azure is more than that. It is a stage on which new mobile game companies can present their ideas to the world. APEX PLATFORM will conduct various promotions in partnership with Microsoft to help small-sized game companies enter the global market”, he added.

In the meantime, APEX PLATFORM plans to get behind fledgling companies in the mobile game industry through cooperation with the Korea IT Business Promotion Association. “The ultimate goal of GBaaS is to help each and every person bring a new idea to the market, provided he/she is capable of planning a game and graphic design. Together with the Korea IT Business Promotion Association, we will find better ways to discover and nurture mobile game companies in line with Creative Challenge SW R&D Program”, said a member of APEX PLATFORM.
Solution Overview




Organization Profile

APEX PLATFORM is a company established in September 2013 to provide a cloud backend platform service that supports cloud-based game development and service.


Business Situation
APLEX PLATFORM developed a cloud backend service which helps game developers quickly and easily turn their ideas into games that do well in the worldwide marketplace.

Solution
Before making its debut in the market with a cloud backend service named GBaaS, APEX PLATFORM switched the public cloud-based environment from AWS (Amazon Web Service) to Windows Azure.

Benefits
- Game, open source and cloud in a perfect balance
- Increased price competitiveness
- A new win-win partnership model

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Online Services
  • Microsoft Azure

Vertical Industries
Communications and Network Service Providers

Country/Region
Korea

IT Issue
  • Virtualization
  • Cloud Services

Languages
English

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