How AIOps Will Help Support Gaming’s Biggest Year Ever
With the ongoing pandemic-induced confinement orders in place and the recent launch of new gaming consoles from both Sony and Microsoft, this holiday season is expected to be the biggest yet for the video game industry, and the momentum should carry well into 2021. Add in a host of cloud-based gaming services from giants, including Google, Amazon and Microsoft, and we’re set up for one of the most eventful calendar years gaming has ever seen.
While the games and content from the world’s biggest publishers will undoubtedly drive the headlines, an often-overlooked aspect is the behind-the-scenes operations it takes to successfully run these games. Particularly in an era when social and online gaming is king, many would be surprised to learn all the moving parts it takes to create a truly seamless experience, whether it’s a two-on-two pickup game of Rocket League or an intense 150-person battle royale match in Call of Duty: Warzone.
To fully understand, it’s important to look at where the industry stands, where it’s headed and how advancements in the reliability and operation of the underlying technology play a vital role in helping the industry’s biggest titles thrive.
Consoles to drive gaming’s big year, but cloud-based services will also thrive.
Current-gen consoles, including Microsoft’s Xbox Series X, Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Nintendo’s Switch, are the mass-market drivers for the time being — particularly as temperatures drop, Covid-19 cases rise and gamers hunker down for what’s sure to be a long winter. The huge investments made in top-quality content help the industry create gaming experiences that often surpass big-budget blockbuster films in both engagement and revenues.
However, there is evidence that the major consoles’ reign may not last as long as previous generations.
Cloud gaming is poised to take a huge leap forward as consumer devices and internet speeds reach critical mass. The big tech giants are going all-in: Google Stadia launched in late 2019, and Amazon Luna and Microsoft’s upcoming xCloud are in the early access phase. Microsoft is in a particularly great position, with a console and a streaming service and multiple IPs to launch across both.
Subscription-based platforms make for a low barrier of entry, similar to the Netflixes and Hulus of the world. And these companies already know how to keep users paying each month — look no further than Amazon Prime or Google’s YouTube TV as examples.
The winners will be those that keep player bases happy. A situation like the gaming hacks of 2014 is a great way to make players disgruntled and move to another service. Those who provide a seamless, low-latency and relatively interruption-free experience will be those who deploy modern AIOps to make the machinery work without hiccups.
What it takes to keep game systems up and running.
In an online social gaming environment, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to keeping these games up and running. To flow smoothly, the server infrastructure, databases, applications and network all need to be maintained for reliability, updated for security and system upgrades and improved over time for efficiency and performance — and there is an entire service stack under each of these elements.
All of this activity has to be monitored for both the detection of problems and capacity management. A significant challenge is there is a chain of businesses that all need to perform — game and platform developers, network ISPs, CDN providers and the server infrastructure across multiple data centers. These businesses don’t often communicate directly with each other about maintenance, patches, updates, incidents or monitoring data. And malicious actors might attack them all periodically as they attempt to make a name for themselves in the hacker universe.
Not surprisingly, this coordination is a time-consuming and tedious process when done manually and can lead to downtime for a given game. That, in turn, creates an angry mob of players, which is simply bad for business.
How gaming companies can implement AIOps.
Many gaming companies don’t have organic AI or ML engineering capabilities and might be reluctant to look at AIOps solutions. However, implementation is more straightforward than it might seem. Most off-the-shelf solutions for AIOps have made integration with existing monitoring, collaboration and change systems a core component of their platform. Integration can be a challenge for homegrown or legacy systems, however, so it can be tough depending on the AIOps solution you choose.
Once event data is flowing, it needs to be normalized and enriched so the AI can correlate related alerts and identify relationships between changes and incidents. A best practice is to avoid forcing standardization across tools; instead, ingest everything into a common hub and then normalize and enrich it there. Also, look for ways to leverage your tribal knowledge for both enrichment and correlation — pure black-box AI is usually difficult to manage and trust.
With input and processing handled, the outputs then need to be thoughtfully directed to mesh with your incident management process and tools. Contextualize every incident with data from across your systems and automate parts of your incident workflow, such as assignment, notification, prioritization and runbook identification. Over time, your data preparation, correlation and automation will evolve and improve. It’s vitally important to measure the results over time. Many gaming companies pay a large “operations tax” across their development teams, IT teams and customer service teams. Improve the way you detect and manage problems and you can see tangible improvements in engineering velocity and a reduction in customer service tickets. However, the core metrics — service availability, incident volume and MTTx — are important to watch over time as processes and tooling are optimized.
Today, the expectation from players is perfection: low latency, instant updates, seamless gameplay, zero downtime. By integrating data sources, consolidating and normalizing inputs from the monitoring, change and topology systems that exist across all the elements that make up a modern gaming service and using AI to analyze and present the outputs, ops teams can have the insight and agility to act quickly to keep their player communities happy.
This article originally appeared on forbes.com To read the full article and see the images, click here.
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