How important is WoW to AT&T? Very, says Chris Costello, Vice President of AT&T Hosting and Application Services (and pictured below). She spoke to us to tell us more about AT&T’s relationship with Blizzard, though she prefered to be more general about the importance of the game.
In fact, back in 2004, the same year WoW launched, AT&T’s hosting division created a unit dedicated to the gaming industry. The company’s Core Gaming Practice had already been working with some clients since 2002 (including hosting Blizzard’s Battle.net) and decided to pursue the fledgling market of online games.
|AT&T data centers (U.S.)|
|2||Atlanta, GA (Lithia Springs)|
|3||Atlanta, GA (Atlanta 2)|
|4||Boston, MA ( Watertown)|
|5||Chicago, IL (Lisle)|
|6||Chicago, IL (Oak Brook)|
|7||Dallas, TX (Dallas)|
|8||Dallas, TX (Allen)|
|9||Los Angeles Area (Hawthorne)|
|10||Los Angeles Area (Irvine)|
|13||New York City, NY|
|14||New York Metro Area (Secaucus, NJ)|
|15||New York Metro II (Piscataway NJ)|
|18||San Diego, CA, US (Koll)|
|19||San Francisco, CA(Redwood City)|
|20||San Francisco, CA (San Jose)|
|21||Seattle Area (Lynwood)|
|22||Washington, DC Area (Ashburn, VA)|
Data centers are one of the few areas within the tech industry that is still growing, according to Melanie Posey, research director of Web-hosting services for market researcher IDC. Growth isn’t as much as before — from a low double-digits to single digits — but as businesses seek to offload Web hosting to save money, companies like AT&T’s hosting division benefit.
“The more successful a gaming company, that’s good for AT&T because the company’s hosting requirements is going up and AT&T can charge for that,” Posey said.
While Posey didn’t have a breakdown as to how much room games are taking up at data centers worldwide, she said it’s definitely an area that won’t hurt too much during an economic downturn.
“Across the board, anything that is entertainment-oriented has a better chance of holding up in an economic downturn,” she said. “You still need to be entertained even if you’re unemployed.”
(Blizzard said the same thing. See the earlier story, “Blizzard gets bigger despite economic downturn.”)
Targeting gaming companies has been lucrative for AT&T. The amount of bandwidth gamers have gobbled up grew 200 percent last year, from the prior year, Costello said. And according to this podcast with Costello, AT&T is hosting “most of the largest online gamers in the world today.”
|AT&T Data Centers (World)|
|7||Hong Kong, China|
|13||Asahi, Tokyo, Japan|
Of course, for the gamer, this probably doesn’t mean much. But beyond Tuesday’s weekly maintenance done by Blizzard, has there really been a lot of outages of in recent years?
While you can’t blame AT&T for every outage (there are planned ones for upgrades by Blizzard), AT&T is proactively managing the network 24/7.
“Whether a client is providing their own managed services or leveraging a service provider, customers must look at the criticality of the application, required service levels, engineering the design appropriately (e.g.. load balancing, server clustering, automatic failover) to ensure a high availability application,” Costello said.
Also, has AT&T invested significantly to make sure gamers can connect to servers as fast as possible – meaning less of a delay between thumping keyboard controls and action on the screen.
“Gamers come to AT&T because we offer some of the lowest latency levels in the world,” Costello said.
She wouldn’t be specific as to how low, but added, “A couple hundred milliseconds can make a big difference in the performance of a game.”
And when a significant event, like a major patch or a new game, comes along, AT&T offers the game company “AT&T’s Synaptic Hosting,” which is like a pit crew that steps in to help manage excess traffic. It’s an on-demand utility that gives companies twice as much bandwidth. They pay for it when they need it.
“AT&T continues to see major demand for gaming clients. We serve some of the largest MMOs in the world and continue to see large and small ‘players’ alike looking for AT&T to help power the IT infrastructure of the games platforms,” Costello said.
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